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Component and materials handling system

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article image No lift trucks or racking.

MATERIALS handling specialist ICA has manufactured a versatile, easy-to-handle component and materials handling system for one of Australia's major automotive components manufacturers.

Australian Automotive Air (AAA) required a materials handling system that would allow it to operate without lift trucks and fixed racking while increasing OH&S standards for employees, reducing inventory, and maximising open space.

Achievement of these objectives assists AAA to meet the expectations of its Japanese parent for completely visible component and product transfer requiring no heavy handling.

This lightweight, logical system obviates dependence on lift trucks as it operates at ground level and requires no racking whatsoever.

Creform is an adaptive materials handling system for improving efficiency and maximising workspace. The technology includes a broad line of plastic-coated steel tubes, fittings and accessories that allow building and modification of versatile materials handling structures that can be changed again and again to match ongoing needs

It is well suited to production systems where the product is continuously pulled by customer orders making it ideal for AAA's KanBan manufacturing philosophy (a manufacturing philosophy originating in Japan).

Creform physically links the company's manufacturing and assembly stations by moving parts and assemblies all the way along the process line.

AAA's TIE specialist Andrew Coulson said ICA had manufactured the Creform system to seamlessly link all parts of the production plant.

"It is made for complete visibility so if one of the lines in any of the sections is short of components or parts then we instantly know something needs to be addressed.”

Creform systems have been developed on the principle of moving stock (invisible conveyor) so nothing is stored because everything is moving.

AAA refers to this as 'one piece flow', as opposed to the more common 'batch manufacturing' where parts would sit in stillages until the rest of the order is complete.

The operator of each section owns the space. Because Creform is completely non-mechanical it gives the operator a better confidence and requires no maintenance.

"We are not a warehouse; we operate a system of shipping and receiving so that it is controlled by the customer through an electronic information stream," Andrew said.

"The whole system is configured so that it is very visible, and we can make targets to reduce the level of stock.

"Rather than hide problems, Creform allows instant and early-stage exposure of potential snags in the rare times we have problems.

"A lot of detail goes into the customisation. Where necessary, our Creform system has been designed so individual containers can be stacked on it but they remain very visible.

"Even the smallest aspects are optimised, such as hinges on the midpoint of shelves so they can be flipped over to make it easier to load as it gives more clearance for the head of the operator. It also makes it easy to see each part of the shelf.

"The system is easy modified to suit different products, larger sizes, etc as orders come on board."

A further benefit achieved by AAA has been operator satisfaction. The visual nature of the workflow has provided a greater sense of ownership within the process People can identify concerns as they arise and actions can be quickly initiated to resolve the problem before it becomes a major issue.

AAA is part of the Denso Group Company and in Australia is a major designer, manufacturer and supplier of high quality automotive components including HVAC units, evaporators, condensers, radiators, instrument clusters and SIFS.

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