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Norbar Torque Tools, a supplier of torque measuring and calibration equipment, is using production control software from Seiki Systems to enhance communication and visibility within the organisation.

The company relies on the advanced production control software to meet the demands of a varied customer base, which includes the power and wind-turbine industry, the Ministry of Defence, the mining sector and the oil-and-gas industry; the International Space Station even uses a Norbar torque multiplier to actuate an emergency-exit hatch.

As Norbar investigated different processes to improve efficiency, it started to work on a Kanban system as well as works orders.

This caused a priority conflict between the works orders generated by the sales and forecasts within the MRP system and the Kanban requests generated by cells consuming stock.

Martin Reynolds, manufacturing manager, said: ‘Working to a forecast can lead to producing parts you don’t require, which uses capacity in the machine shop.

‘This was one of the issues that prompted the change to a Kanban system, which would promote making parts we actually needed,’ he added.

Aside production control issues, Norbar was also dealing with a corrupted transfer NC code on the shop floor.

The company had linked all of its CNC machines via a system that relied on a complex switch box, which was temperamental.

Following a review of the solutions available, Seiki Systems was called upon to install its DNC file transfer software and graphical Planning Board.

‘Since installing the Seiki Systems DNC package, we now have the confidence that NC programs will be transferred to the machines on the shop floor without any data corruption,’ said Neil Bennett, senior cell leader at Norbar.

The Planning Board software provides a real-time dynamic view of the work in progress on the shop floor.

Bennett added: ‘Installing Seiki Systems’ Planning Board has given us a much better insight of what we can do on the shop floor on a daily basis.

‘Jobs are loaded onto the relevant machines and the software provides a predictive graphical view of the capacity status,’ he said.

From its sales forecast data, Norbar’s management team plans production for the shop floor up to two weeks ahead.

Once this has been done, the Planning Board software provides the cell leaders with a visual capacity check and the capability to alter the production sequence within predefined parameters.

Reynolds said: ‘They can drag and drop work from one machine to another to optimise their cell using the visual feedback provided by Seiki Systems’ Planning Board.

‘It gives ownership to the cell leaders within achievable parameters,’ he added.

Bennett continued: ‘One of the most frustrating things from a machine operator/setter’s point of view is spending time setting up a job on a machine and changing to the next job only to find the third job is virtually the same as the first one.

‘Planning Board gives a clear view ahead and lets them manually identify and group together jobs of a similar setup,’ he said.

Until 18 months ago, Norbar also operated a tool room, which has been changed to an engineered-to-order (ETO) cell; this department suffered the same pull on its resources with works orders, Kanban production and the engineering department requesting time for prototype development work.

Reynolds said: ‘From the positive results achieved using Seiki Systems’ Planning Board in production, we decided to enhance the solution by installing the Seiki Scheduler, the company’s comprehensive finite capacity scheduling software, in the ETO cell, as this cell requires the more controlled definition of every resource, such as machines and people.

‘In the production facility, you have jobs passing from one cell to another for different operations to be carried out; in the ETO cell, they tend to be jobs that are done from start to finish.

‘So we had to have the ability to break down each element for every part,’ he added.

Feedback is crucial in measuring the performance of any manufacturing operation and, as such, Seiki Systems’ Machine Tool Monitoring software has been specified for all of Norbar’s newer machine tools as it lets the company see exactly what is happening on the shop floor.

Capturing live manufacturing data provides real-time feedback for the Planning Board and also allows Norbar to make efficiency gains in setups and changeovers, which means that the jobs that are causing the biggest problems can be targeted by continuous improvement activities.

Bennett continued: ‘All new machines are automatically monitored for spindle run, alarms and power-off.

‘If the spindle is not running, it defaults to waiting and the operators have a sub-status within waiting that can be manually updated.

‘This is keyed in at terminals located within each cell.

‘We check and report on our efficiency for setups, time spent waiting and production time, which can then be subdivided into waiting, inspection, no setter available, no raw material and so on.

‘This level of detail captured in the data coming back from the shop-floor resources via Seiki Systems software gives us a real insight as to where the problems are and what we need to do,’ he said.

Work queues can be downloaded from the scheduling server onto the shop-floor terminal as required, informing the operators of what needs to be produced next.

For example, tooling support was introduced to increase efficiencies with a tool offset measurement capability, allowing tools to be preset prior to any changeovers, which has an effect on the setup times.

The tool-stores controller has access to queue data via the Seiki system for all the machines, so the operator can look at whatever job is required next on any machine, see the tooling suite required and pre-kit it, usually two hours before the changeover occurs.

The ability to see a graphical representation of the work in progress, combined with live data collection and feedback, allows the company to plan ahead more efficiently.

Bennett said: ‘Within the ETO cell, the additional functionality within the finite capacity scheduling software that enables the cell leader to test different scenarios and highlight any capacity issues means that it is possible to find windows of opportunity for essential prototype work.

‘Seiki Systems has also allowed us to plan routine maintenance, which, like most manufacturers, we had always tried to do.

‘Now it can be scheduled in, we know that machine will not be available for two or three days and we can see what needs to be done to make sure we deliver on time,’ he added.

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