Operating at 98% efficiency, it might be the most efficient car manufacturing plant in Europe but Kaizen engineers at Nissan in Sunderland are not complacent. In keeping with the eastern philosophy behind their job titles they are looking for, continuous improvements on a virtual daily basis.
On the trim and chassis production line 1 a team of four Kaizen engineers, lead by Colin Carr, have increased productivity by 0.16 minutes per vehicle and reduced line-side space by 70% after designing a computerised up-and-over carousel that automatically delivers vehicle parts to the production operator working on the line. Previously the operator would have had to step over to a racking system containing a variety of components and manually select the right one for the next vehicle.
This process of an operator leaving the production line to step over to a racking system was viewed by the Kaizen team as inefficient. Carr explained: “We measure human operations in hundredths of a second and we could see that the current system was not only inefficient but it also involved unnecessary stresses for the operator involved. Imagine saving an operator from having to take three or four steps per car and then extrapolate that small saving over thousands of vehicles.”
Working in partnership with Renold Chain’s regional sales engineer, Mike Nicholson, Carr’s team designed an up-and-over carousel that automatically delivers the right part to the engineer working on the line. The carousel consists of a computerised drive system that moves a box of components, over the shortest distance, to an operator on the assembly line. Each box is suspended in-between two strands of a specially designed hollow-pin conveyor chain, and is monitored by sensors so that the correct box of parts can be quickly brought to the front when required. The carousel is positioned directly behind the operator who simply presses a foot pedal when the next part is required.
The previous racking system took up 16 square meters of line-side floor space and the new system has reduced this by over 70%. As Nissan cost out floor space at over £400 per square meter, the savings, particularly when combined with the efficiency gains, are obvious.