Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Automotive Lighting is a leading supplier for the automotive industry. The company was founded in 1999 as a joint venture from Robert Bosch GmbH and Magneti Marelli. Today the company is owned exclusively by Magneti Marelli, a part of the FCA Group. The core business of Automotive Lighting is the development and production of vehicle headlights and rear lights.
Automotive Lighting is a leading provider of lights for the car industry. The company was founded in 1999 as a joint venture between Robert Bosch GmbH and Magneti Marelli. Since 2003 the company has been owned exclusively by Magneti Marelli, a part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Group.
The development center in Jihlava is the second largest Automotive Lighting center in the Czech Republic and produces state-of-the-art car lights. Its top products and system solutions are appreciated by a large number of major clients. Lights developed in Jihlava can be found in cars from Porsche, BMW, Daimler, Skoda, Volkswagen, Renault, Honda and Peugeot.
Siemens Digital Industries Software solutions are used not only to design products, but also to optimize working conditions in manufacturing. The manufacturing solutions are well-known to Automotive Lighting, where the JackTM software in the Tecnomatix® portfolio was used to design a standardized ergonomic workplace that makes it possible to achieve higher levels of productivity and work efficiency.
Automotive Lighting operates two plants in the Czech Republic, in Pávov and Střítež. The Pávov plant deployed the Plant Simulation solution in the Tecnomatix portfolio along with Jack human modeling and simulation software in 2010; the Střítež plant recently used Jack to realize significant benefits. Associates at the Střítež plant approached their management to adapt the manual assembly workplace, and the management team opted for a radical solution: to develop a new workplace with the use of leading-edge simulation technology, improving ergonomics to make more efficient work possible.
“It all began with the request to standardize the height of trolley paths in racks for the material, and to simplify the use of assembly lines,” says designer Lukáš Bratránek, adding that initially the request came from the logistics department. When fulfilling this request, Automotive Lighting analyzed the workplace in accordance with the Czech Republic’s government regulation Nařízení Vlády (NV) 361 occupational safety and health standard and determined that the assembly workplace, which was based on the headlight assembly workplace at the plant Pávov, was not suitable for the assembly of light-emitting diode (LED) modules, because they are much smaller than conventional headlights.
On the basis of these requirements, Automotive Lighting decided to develop a new design for the workplace. “We spoke to our colleagues, made statistical analyses and used the information to set up the optimum height of the assembly workplace and the height of the material trolley paths behind the workplace,” says Bratránek. The digital human figures of the Jack software helped to validate the workplace design for multiple human factors such as user comfort, reachability, line of sight, energy expenditure and injury risk.
In the prior design, most of the material was stored behind the workplace, which introduced problems due to the increasing complexity of the products. “The new assembly workplace solves these problems by placing some of the materials behind the assembly parts, and some under the adjustable-level portal in small boxes,” says Bratránek, explaining that in the original setup it was not possible to place the material under the working desk, and the company had to use side racks that are not ergonomically suitable. “The trolley paths under the portal were designed to be flexible. The trolley paths and the portal table that contains the assembly parts can be adjusted to the height of the individual operator. It is similar to the driver’s seat memory in a car,” Bratránek adds. “The system has memory, so when operators arrive at work, they simply press a button and the workplace is set up according to their preferences.”
The main benefits of the new workplace are quite clear. Because the workplace is standardized and tables and trolley paths are adjustable, assembly workers have greater comfort and can complete tasks more efficiently. More benefits are provided by standardized gravitational racks for material (four-line racks include two lines for the input of assembly material and two lines for collection of empty packaging) and connectivity with the assembly parts via the IO-Link communication standard.
The benefits are not limited to the comfort and efficiency of employees, but also include economic benefits, as Bratránek confirms: “These standards help maintain our competitiveness when calculating the costs of new projects. We can integrate the new product into the running line, and re-use the workplace and racks once the manufacturing is finished. We calculate only assembly parts, not the whole workplace and the rack system as we did in the past.”
Bratránek highly appreciates both the functionality and user-friendliness of the Siemens solutions. “I got to know the software really quickly,” he says. “About two and a half years ago I was transferred, because of capacity reasons, from Pávov to Střítež. A colleague who used Jack trained me within just four days, and I could begin working. I started with simple moving of computer-aided design objects. As far as functionality is concerned, I believe the digital human models of the software − Jack and Jill – are more capable than those of competitors.”
One of the key insights gained from the redesign is that it is possible to optimize the operator workplace before serial production. “Currently we are working on a 3D assembly line model that we will introduce to the operators, and they will have the opportunity to provide feedback about the design and the layout of materials,” says Bratránek, explaining that this approach is beneficial not only from the viewpoint of work efficiency but also economically, as it prevents additional costs related to reworking the assembly line. “Without Jack software, we would prepare assembly lines blindly, and this approach led to additional costs in the past,” says Bratránek.
Automotive Lighting also used the Jack software to analyze similarities among products. “It was on the basis of these analyses that we decided whether a planned LED module could be integrated into the production line alongside another module so that they have common clamping points and identical locations for the laser inscription of the product,” Bratránek says. “We changed the design of the planned LED module, so that its integration into the current assembly line was as simple and cost-effective as possible.”
Automotive Lighting’s successes with Jack software sparked a growing interest in other Siemens software products. “We use the software on a very intensive basis,” explains Bratránek. “At the moment we are working on ergonomic and time statistical analyses, and then we will be using 100 percent of Jack functionality. In the future we would like to implement the Process Simulate solution in the Tecnomatix portfolio. This software offers more opportunities for use, has a powerful graphic engine, and we hope that we could use it to develop the so-called ‘digital twin’ of our production area – a 3D layout that would serve for spatial studies with the aim of getting more assembly lines into our production. We are currently negotiating with Siemens concerning the installation of a monthly pilot version, as we want to check benefits that this product could bring to us.”