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Publication Date: 03/1/2009
Archive >  March 2009 Issue >  Production > 

Improving Production Logistics with Proper Planning

Smaller, faster, better, cheaper is becoming the mantra of the electronics supply chain. Simply put, the industry's focus is: improve technology while reducing costs.

Customer quality demands, as well as quality regulations, pose great challenges to the electronics manufacturer. Delivering inferior products can be very damaging to company image and lead to substantial waste. At the same time, these products must be cheaper than before. While technological breakthroughs can provide great leaps forward, improved production logistics solutions will drive the productivity development.

A well-designed and flexible assembly line can achieve major cost reduction, while being robust enough for its job and withstanding non-stop production with the longest possible MTBF. Maintenance is minimal, predictable and easy to perform. A high-performance conveyor system is the platform for an efficient logistics solution. The solution offers high flexibility, a rigid installation, smooth runs, a low noise level and low power consumption. High efficiency is gained using a pallet system to handle each product or cluster of products individually, thus offering a fast throughput time, a product identity carrier for tracking and tracing, protection of the product, and minimal machine and equipment re-setting.

Smart Pallet Is Key
The pallet is a standardized carrier for the product, and enables the handling to remain the same irrespective of what product is distributed through the line. Pallets come in different configurations depending on the application. There are conductive, ESD-approved versions for the handling of products sensitive to electrostatic shocks, variants with low friction, pallets for clean environments, and those for tough environments where contaminant particles appear.

Pallet handling functions such as locating modules, tunnel locating modules, merge/divert modules, and elevators all have readers for identifying the pallet and communicating with the line control, which can be linked to the overall manufacturing software. Tunnel locating modules introduce the possibility of creating parallel processes in a sequential layout, making it easy to balance capacity when operations have a long cycle time, or to introduce a complementary machine for product variations. It is also possible to have two working positions — one per tunnel locating station — for one machine or robot, thus drastically increasing the utilization of the equipment involved. For operations where a cycle time of less than 1 second is required, there are locating modules with fast loaders. For small and repetitive operations on one product or for multiple small products on one pallet, there are locating modules with indexing, which allows two to three positions per pallet, depending on the pallet size.

The manufacturing lines allow for flexible routing, as well as minimal and simple re-setting. With flexible routing, the product is directed to rework stations to remedy problems. Flexible routing also allows the line to be well balanced despite different BOMs and/or operations involved. Fast throughput is achieved by controlled flow of individual products through the manufacturing process, with a minimum of losses and waiting time. This enables controllability of the manufacturing line process, a short throughput time and minimum of WIP. The logic is managed through production logistics software, controlling the complete process for each individual product, the machines, and the support functions. It communicates with the pallets carrying the products through the production process by RFID technology, offering a dynamic identification method for communicating in real time between the product, the process and the production logistics software.

Real-Time Tracking
Keeping track of every single item in real time, combined with routing flexibility, allows the line to be balanced with the lowest possible throughput time and matching the demand rate. Products are kept separate during transport and assembly, minimizing potential damage to the product. Since products are uniquely identifiable, machines can perform different operations on different products without the need to reset the line.

Controlling a manufacturing process efficiently requires sophisticated software solutions that allow product configuration, operator instructions and creation of the production order directly, as well as the ability to import directly from the factory ERP system. It can handle the planning, the processes, the routing, and the order execution, including communication between the product and the manufacturing control system: it includes automatic Quality Assurance, and closes the order after completion. This enables easy standardization of operations and creates a basis for ongoing improvement.

When preparing to implement a new production logistics solution, a thorough mapping and analysis will provide the basis for the production line layout. Parameters to consider are the time and the flexibility required, identifying the machine set-up and line layout requirements. Performing a value stream analysis and mapping the material and information flow, covering all logistics from dock to dock to identify bottlenecks, throughput time, and productivity — all form the basis of the new production line.

Controllability of the process is a must, so production line overview and communication with operators and machines must be easy and precise. These solutions are found at FlexLink, which has developed and sold production logistics solutions for the electronics industry that meet the rising challenges in the best possible way. The new X85 conveyor, pallet system and line control makes a solid platform for highly efficient logistic solutions for products that weigh up to 10 kg.

Contact: FlexLink Systems, Inc., 6580 Snowdrift Road, Allentown, PA 18106 877-266-2249 or 610-973-8200 fax: 610-973-8345 E-mail: Web:

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