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“We can test changes in our operations in two minutes instead of two weeks.” - Continental Trutnov


Continental Trutnov produces fuel pumps for most well-known car brands. They are such experts in this kind of pump, that the factory in Trutnov often takes over projects of other European companies. The company management gradually filled its factory, which was finished in 2008, with almost 30 new assembly lines. The production is demanding both with regards to the cleanness of the working environment and the parts. Assembling therefore takes place in a closed area, and most of the parts are washed in special washing machines prior to their usage.

Our cooperation with the Trutnov factory started in 2008, when we assisted with setting the proper takt time of a newly delivered French assembly line. The performance of the line was highly influenced by the number and positioning of workers. Even though the planning department tried really hard, it was not possible to try out all possible arrangements of the workers. Each such trial lasted for at least a week, as the workers needed to get used to the new positions in order to be able to perform in a balanced manner. Several experiments were conducted, nevertheless, an optimal setting of the production was not found and the line couldn’t produce the planned amount of products.

SIMULATION OF ONE VARIANT TAKES TWO MINUTES, REAL-LIFE MEASURMENT TAKES ONE WEEK

With a simple simulation model we were able to test several scenarios of worker positioning, and within minutes we had the results without having to wait till the staff “gets used to the new position.” After two days we selected an optimal variant and started with real-life testing.

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THE PROBLEM LIES IN THE HIGH FAILURE RATE OF THE LINE

Our model produced better results than the real workers. Once we entered the failure rate of the assembly line into the model, we revealed that repeated failures of one key element caused a 20% decline in productivity. The extended model outputs corresponded accurately to the real-life results, making it clear that further improvement in the line’s performance is possible only if the failure rate of the line is reduced.

HOW MANY WASHING MACHINES SHOULD THE FACTORY BUY?

Because our dynamic simulation turned out beneficial, we were approached by the planning department with the requirement to determine the required washing capacity for planned projects in the new factory.

Workload of the washing machines is dependent on the production program of assembly lines, and during individual shifts, the machines are often used simultaneously. For this reason, the problem cannot be solved by common static calculations in Excel.

Therefore we designed a dynamic model which enables production simulation and logistics in the new factory with regards to the changing customer demands.

With the model we answered the following questions:
  • How many washing lines and pieces of manipulation equipment will be needed for the launch of the production and how many for reaching the full capacity?
  • How many and of which shelving units will be needed in the clean area?
  • How much weight will be transported by the workers in the clean area? (This is important because of the risk of exceeding the norms for occupational safety)
  • What are the parts levels to be kept in front of the washing lines and what will be the signal values for replenishing the inventory?
  • What impact will the breakdown of a storage and retrieval unit have on production in the clean production?
  • What is the maximal failure period that doesn’t put the production in jeopardy?

THE SOLUTION IS A SIMULATION MODEL OF MATERIAL FLOWS IN THE NEW FACTORY.

The model is based on detailed information on 21 bills of material of the manufactured products, and it tracks in detail inventory levels of each from more than 600 assembly parts and materials in four different locations. For each part, the type of it's container, the method of washing, and potential demagnetization are considered. A weekly production plan that can be changed in MS Excel is entered into the model which enables verification of new scenarios of customer demands development. A part of the project was preparation of a plan of gradual development of the washing and logistic capacities within two years, so that it would be possible to plan investments and orders on time – including machines and equipment with long delivery times.

You can find more information on possibilities of dynamic simulations here.

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