Striving for a balanced production line

I always relished my short and uneventful drive from my home in Canton to my office in Livonia Michigan. A short ten-mile drive along the I-275 freeway and voila I’m at work. With the gas prices skyrocketing (at least until recently), I couldn’t ask for a better office location but then this spring, they decided to work on one of the bridges and close two of the available three lanes. Now my short drive turned into a construction nightmare. I’m often late for my early morning meeting, tired of giving the same excuse to my colleagues about Michigan constructions. After hours, I’m late for my kids’ activities, and it isn’t funny to them when I give the same construction excuse.

I have to endure all these suffering because when they turned the three-lane highway into one-lane they created a huge bottleneck. A smooth and predictable flow of traffic has been disrupted by restricting the amount of resources (lanes) available.

For industrial and manufacturing engineers, such optimization issues are presented to them every day at the assembly lines. However, I’m sure they will say that comparing production flow issues in assembly lines to traffic flow is an over simplification of what they have to deal with in managing their assembly lines. Assembly lines that are designed to build complex products such as cars, earth movers, planes and so on.

In an assembly line, engineers have to manage multiple product variants where the rate of flow between stations can vary significantly and on top of that they have to take into consideration availability of resources between shifts. Manufacturing engineers have to work through these variables and still ensure that assembly lines are designed to achieve a leveled production flow. This is necessary to make sure that manufacturers can meet their customer demands while utilizing the available resources in the most efficient way.

This task of achieving a smooth production flow in an assembly line is called the “line balancing” and it has been an optimization issue for engineers ever since modern assembly lines were invented. The idea is when you achieve a leveled production flow your assembly stations and resources are efficiently utilized, and you prevent building of bottlenecks.

With Teamcenter 9, you can now perform line balancing and ensure that you can meet your Takt time goals for your new products or mid-cycle changes to your existing products at the early stages of manufacturing planning.

Check this short video that illustrates how easily and intuitively you can balance your assembly lines in Teamcenter.

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