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Lean line layouts in highly automated machining environments: ensuring consideration to important aspects when designing line layouts
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering.
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In order to create a machining line layout that supports the principles of lean a systematic approach is needed to ensure that a wide range of factors are taken into consideration. Despite this, many companies today design new layouts mainly considering delivery times of machines and equipment, and available space in the factory. A combined literature and case study has aimed to identify the most important factors in a lean line layout and a supporting structure to apply these in the design or redesign of automated machining lines.

Highly automated machining environments mainly distinguish themselves from the more thoroughly studied area of assembly line layouts in two ways. Primarily, automated machining lines separate the operator from the actual processing, making line balancing and productivity less dependent on the workstation design around the operator. Secondly, automated machining lines often involve a higher level of complexity, leading to a more comprehensive work load, requiring longer training times but also offering less repetitive assignments. Automation offers improved productivity, quality and ergonomics, but if the acquisition and allocation of automation is not substantiated by a well-developed strategy, automation risks contradicting lean principles by creating a more complex, rigid layout that places the machines in the center instead of the workers.

Factors that are important in the design of the typically less automated assembly lines, such as minimizing the walking distance of the operator and rotating stations to provide meaningful work assignments, must in an automated machining environment give way to factors like visualization, material flow and maintenance. Visualizing a factory helps operators and managers learn and understand the factory better. Problems can be detected and corrected faster and disturbances in production can thus be reduced. A good material flow is straight with no intersecting flows, triggered by downstream demand and reduces unnecessary buffers and WIP that bind up capital and consume space. Finally, since the machines rather than the operators produce, a good maintenance is required to avoid unplanned stops.

The value of teamwork and humans in production which are strongly advocated within lean remain important also in automated machining lines but acquires a new content compared to assembly lines. Teamwork in automated machining environments occur within a group of lines rather than in a single line and it is a major factor when it comes to competence development, production planning and worker satisfaction. While teamwork in assembly lines works to balance the production flow within the line, teamwork in automated machining lines has little or no effect on the line balancing. However, joint efforts in setups and in case of machine failures or worker absence help increasing productivity, and potentially smooth the production at the plant in its entirety.

The empirical studies showed that there is no standardized way of working with machining line layout design and redesign, and factors considered were often coincidental and dependent on the functions and priorities of the participants at different layout meeting. To ensure that all factors are taken into consideration a supporting tool where the most important factors were divided into ten categories was developed. Layouts are evaluated and rated on one category at a time to support a systematic way of working. Ongoing discussions, adjustments and improvements to better comply with the factors are encouraged.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 132 p.
Keyword [en]
Lean, machining line layout, teamwork, visualization, automation
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-25862OAI: diva2:742874
External cooperation
Volvo Powertrain Köping
Subject / course
Product and Process Development
Available from: 2014-09-03 Created: 2014-09-02 Last updated: 2014-09-03Bibliographically approved

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