A new assembly area has been commissioned at Danfoss’s global manufacturing and R&D facility in Edinburgh, Scotland to bring a new approach to precision assembly.
The fully flexible area has been custom designed from the ground up to assemble a new generation of Digital Displacement® pumps aimed at the off-highway, mining and industrial sectors.
Production has already begun, with the first customer build pilot pumps rolling off the line last August.
“This new area is unique in Danfoss,” says Dominika Babalska, Head of Operations, Digital Displacement, at the Edinburgh site.
“Rather than investing in a large, fixed production line, we took a modular approach allowing the shop floor to grow naturally together with customers’ needs and pull from the market.
“Every pump that rolls off will have been quality assured at each step and is fully traceable from start to finish,” Dominika says.
Working closely with colleagues John Paterson and Gordon Paterson, the team designed and selected the latest solutions to enable a team of semi-skilled workers to assemble the latest generation of Digital Displacement pumps with minimal training and a ‘zero PPM’ approach to errors.
“Our strategy has been to identify what problems might occur, and then design our process to avoid these altogether,” Dominika says.
Central to this is a step-by-step production process built around five modular workstations.
These have been developed to ensure the system has an unambiguous and clear process which can be followed easily – yet can be modified and changed as customer demand increases and volume ramps up.
“Because Digital Displacement pumps are an entirely new commercial product it makes sense to develop the product line that we require at present, but with the capacity to follow market pull and increase or change production as volume grows,” John says.
The process begins by downloading software onto a pump’s controller (CPU).
Once this is confirmed the controller is laser marked with a unique serial number. The laser workstation is integrated with two benches. The first bench prepares the controller for download and has a screen to convey work instructions to the operator.
The controller download then takes place within the laser marker which is mounted on the second bench. Laser marking only takes place once the download is complete – ensuring that none of the operations can be missed by transferring between stations.
The valve assembly area utilises a light guide system which gives the operator a precise instruction on what to do next. Instructions are projected onto the workbench and the operator cannot progress to the next step until the current step has been completed correctly.
“The whole process will always require human operator, and our intention is to ensure that a semi-skilled operator can perform any of the tasks required with negligible opportunities to go wrong,” John explains.
“By making every task a simple step in a fully-planned process we can reduce the time to train staff, increase productivity and ensure quality throughout.”
The bearing pressing station has been designed so each element will only fit on the correct way and the rotating table is equipped with a collaborative robot camera (COBOT) to check the inside parts of the pump.
Overall the new assembly area has been a major investment in Digital Displacement and underlines the company’s confidence in the technology.
In the current set up, Gordon estimates a single team could roll out more than 2000 pumps per annum, with a capacity to run three shifts and bring in more lines as required.
The whole process is fully integrated within the firm’s SAP delivery model and a number of completed pumps have already been shipped to their pilot customer.
“This whole area epitomises our approach to organising a production facility, where selected Industry 4.0 solutions are mixed with simple best practices in process engineering. By taking the best solutions from both approaches this creates tremendous synergy within our assembly area,” says Dominika.
“It is flexible and scalable – and by reducing the scope for human error we can always follow changing customer needs while making sure our processes are efficient,” Dominika concludes.