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Lear Realizes Material Handling Efficiency And Ergonomic Benefits

By Expert Author: Fratte Jenkins

Wixom, MI – July 27, 2013 –When Lear’s Montgomery, AL an assembly line facility for producing motor vehicle seating looked for ways to increase its material handling efficiency, quality assurance and ergonomics for a 100 percent on-time delivery schedule, a number of automated material handling equipment, systems and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) were considered and was implemented by Integrated Systems Design (ISD).

At peak production, Lear builds approximately 1,000 seat sets per day or 73 sets per hour in 56 distinct combinations of colors and options for the Hyundai Sonata sedan and Santa Fe SUV built at Hyundai’s Alabama plant. The seats are assembled on pallets with fixtures that can rotate and tilt for worker accessibility, providing an ergonomically sound procedure that improves efficiency. The assembly lines use a non-synchronous looping conveyor system, with an automated, timed release at each workstation that can be overridden by the operator when necessary.

The focus is on just-in-time delivery. The Lear plant receives an estimate each day of which seat models will need to be built for Hyundai’s scheduled production. About two hours before the seats need to be installed into the cars, Lear receives a live broadcast of the exact production sequence and seat model requirements from Hyundai.

Assuring Quality Assembly

The entire assembly process is managed by an Integrated Systems Design (ISD) PC-based quality assurance system that improves overall seat quality by monitoring the seat assembly and sequencing process. The quality assurance system is interlocked to the Integrated Systems Design (ISD) conveyor system to prevent seat movement before each assembly and inspection step is properly completed at a particular workstation.

Read-only RFID tags index the conveyor system’s product tracking. RFID antennas located at each quality assurance station read RFID chips embedded in the seat build fixtures. The quality assurance system electronically displays instructions at critical workstations working in conjunction with the RFID system to provide positive seat identification and data tracking. Once a “work complete” message appears on the workstation display screen, operators can release the part they’re working on and allow it to move to the next process.

The system allows Lear operators to simultaneously assemble several different types of seats on the same production line. Build sequence numbers and specific work instructions for each seat are displayed at the assembly line workstations. Critical data, such as torque and angle, are recorded and associated with each seat build sequence number and maintained for years, along with each seat’s build record/birth certificate.

Tracking Quality and Delivery Parameters

As the seats move down the assembly conveyors, the quality assurance system receives various tool, equipment and operator inputs and determines whether a seat assembly or component is a “pass” or “fail.” This information is used to route defective seats to a repair station, provide notification of defects found at inspection to the operation that caused the defect and provide a means for tracking internal defects. The quality assurance system automatically sends information to Lear’s ERP system at several points in the assembly process.

After a set of seats is assembled and placed on a shipping pallet at the Lear plant, they’re wrapped in a plastic bag and bar code labeled. An Integrated Systems Design (ISD) UltraStore mid-load automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) determines where to store the seats based on the bar code. The system also selects and retrieves seats in the order they're to be shipped, based upon the live broadcast from the Hyundai plant.

Passive read-write RFID tags are also used in the outbound shipping sequence control system. A chip is mounted to the rear of each of Lear’s fleet of conveyorized semitrailers. RFID antennas are located on Lear’s shipping dock and Hyundai’s receiving dock. Each semitrailer holds 54 seat pallets, which are automatically loaded onto a truck in less than one minute by an Integrated Systems Design (ISD) shipping conveyor system. When a truck is loaded, trailer sequence information is written to the trailer’s RFID chip. The chip’s information is then checked to ensure that the write was successful. The sequence control system won’t allow the trailer’s dock lock to be unlocked unless the correct data has been written successfully to the chip.

When the trailer is backed into Hyundai’s dock, the RF chip on the semitrailer is read. If the trailer sequence information is correct, the Hyundai conveyor control system allows workers to initiate the trailer unload sequence.

Lear prides itself on achieving 100 percent on-time delivery to the Hyundai plant. The Integrated Systems Design (ISD) material handling equipment and quality assurance system are an integral part of ensuring they maintain their record.

Integrated Systems Design- ISD is a manufacturer, systems consultant, designer and material handling systems integrator. For more information on ISD, call 248-668-8250 or contact Ed Romaine at 215-431-4524 or email eromaine@isddd.com. Visit the ISD web site at www.ISDDD.com/

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