The welding line's lean best practices separate the leaders from the followers. The stars of such manufacturing excellence are often found in the automotive industry, where you'll see welding lines in any facility you visit. Plants in all industries looking for inspiration may refer to Toyota’s well-documented lean principles. Perhaps they model Chrysler for their adoption of Fiat’s World Class Manufacturing (WCM) techniques. Whether they look to these or any of the other auto giants, all manufacturers want to come as close to perfection as these leaders have. That entails achieving zero waste, zero defects, zero breakdowns and zero inventory.
The welding line's 5 links to lean
The welding line's connection to lean may surprise the C-level presiding over the followers in automotive, but a welding cell can have extended periods of unscheduled downtime related to weld dust, spatter and other sources of contamination.
There are five ways the welding line can make a huge difference for manufacturers implementing or improving their own lean best practices:
Stay true to strict maintenance schedules and inspections to uncover equipment fatigue and wear.
Balance the lean philosophy by keeping a ready supply of spare parts on site and nearby, particularly for damage-prone parts subject to high levels of corrosion. For automated weld lines, replacements should be stocked according to the levels of their criticality, their failure rates, shipping and handling time and the time and skill required for replacements. Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers’ ability to maintain and supply stock should also be considered; if not already sourced, a list of alternate suppliers should be maintained.
As the “Internet of Things” and the human/machine interface become more prominent on an automated weld line, make sure Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are updated to ensure the quality of data collected.
As technology advances on the weld line, make sure knowledge of that technology also improves. Operators of weld robots and weld automation systems must adopt a “life-long learning” approach to their jobs. This will ensure equipment is used correctly and downtime is minimized. Cross-training can also keep employees engaged, creating opportunities for additional hours and line flexibility.
Eliminate as many causes of power failure as possible. Some of these in a weld cell are underappreciated, including ingress of chemically treated water used to cool the welding guns or disruption of electrical connectivity due to corrosion. The symptoms of impending power failure can be seen when sparks come from under the electrode or between the parts being welded.
Manage water expulsion reliably
Regarding point number five, plant MRO (Maintenance-Repair-Operations) teams are clever, and often improvise workarounds and other ways of retrofitting components not designed for welding line applications. They may even try to make components more water resistant to protect them against water expulsion or welding spatter. But as with most workarounds, those solutions typically fail to produce sustainable and reliable performance improvements.
When it comes to lean best practices on the weld line, most manufacturers have focused on preventing expulsion of metal. Now, it is time for them to spend the same effort on preventing water expulsion. In part 2 of this blog, we will address a new way to reduce water expulsion and spatter, and therefore reduce weld line downtime—and therefore, waste. You will learn how the Parker Water Weld Actuator prevents water expulsion during weld gun tip changes.
To get more information immediately, download our new whitepaper “Four Solutions for Preventing Resistance Welding Line Downtime ,” or contact a Parker specialist to learn more about these and other weld cell solutions.
Article contributed by Parker Automotive Team. See more on our In-Plant Automotive website. Contact a Parker Specialist to learn more about these and other weld cell solutions.
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