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Seiki Systems’ Networked Manufacturing System (NMS) is supporting the manufacture of ABS’s wastewater-technology portfolio.

ABS’s workshop is equipped with an array of CNC machine tools and operates around-the-clock.

The CNC machines are arranged as 12 manufacturing cells, with most cells containing a lathe and machining centre, as well as component-washing plant.

Operating a cellular system means that material flow is very efficient as all parts are completed within the cell.

Production-support engineer Sean Mahoney said: ‘For example a main component such as the cast-iron motor housing is produced in a dedicated cell, while the oil chamber, which is also machined from cast iron, would be produced in another dedicated cell.

‘This allows us to invest in the best machine-tool technology to suit the part being produced.’ The cellular manufacturing method also allows one skilled operator to run all the machines within the cell to gain the maximum labour efficiency.

Daily production meetings set the targets for the machine shop based on the global sales forecast by the company.

Works orders are then issued to the cells.

Each operator has a PC in the cell running the Seiki NMS, where all the NC programs required for that particular cell are stored.

Each program has associated operation notes, including tool types and positions, fixturing required and raw material.

The operator can also call down the part drawing via the Seiki software so that visual and dimensional checks can be made during set up.

Mahoney added: ‘This is a great aid to operators and gives them the confidence to produce the parts correctly.’ Any NC program changes are automatically logged via the NMS software so that engineering changes can be monitored and controlled.

Mahoney added: ‘Seiki Systems software ensures we have the correct revision drawing automatically available for each operation, eliminating the risk of setting up and machining to an outdated drawing, which would waste production time and, in the worst case, scrap parts.’ Updates are authorised in the engineering office so any changes, new drawings, or new components issued to the shopfloor will be carried out through the company’s central server via Seiki software, so the only version that will be available to the shopfloor on the screen is the correct one.

Recent investment in the new impeller cell means parts are completed by just one multi-tasking machine tool.

There are two machines in the new cell and each is configured to suit a range of parts, controlled predominantly by the size of the finished component.

The variety of impellers – there are 205 different impeller designs – requires different jaws and back stops, so the cell operator can call up the setting drawing through the NMS software, which will contain a jaw and back-stop number.

Sean Mahoney has constructed a spreadsheet that is viewed by the operator through Seiki software.

It contains details of the raw-material type, the pump model it is fitted to, first- and second-operation jaw numbers, availability and storage positions for each of the first and second operation jaws and the back-stop required.

The Seiki software also highlights if the component has been proven.

James Fletchmoore, director of JCNC, Seiki Systems’ agent in Ireland, said: ‘The Seiki software provides all the set-up information.

‘If it is a proven program it is literally a case of loading the jaws and back stops, setting the datum points and pressing cycle-start, so efficiencies have been dramatically improved.’ Because the company works on a daily production basis to match order fluctuation, the shopfloor needs to be able to change from one part to another very quickly.

Mahoney said: ‘The production batches are very small and there could be eight different impellers going through the cell in a day.

‘Before using the cellular manufacturing system, a change over might have taken 1.5 to two hours by the time the operator retrieves the parts required from the tool store and the fixture store.

‘Now everything is contained within the cell, including the prepared raw material blanks, and all the necessary data is available thanks to Seiki Systems.

‘This is one of the reasons changeovers can now be completed within 30 minutes.

‘However, the part-to-part target with the new impeller cell is just 15 minutes.’ Pumps produced by ABS cover a range of performance characteristics to suit various applications.

The variety could easily lead to mistakes so the information available from Seiki Systems becomes a vital part of the quality-assurance system.

New product introduction is also a lot more efficient and will keep improving.

Mahoney added: ‘Any new products designed are done with single machining operation in mind.’ As well as sending information to the shop-floor, the Seiki Systems monitoring software gathers data on the machines’ performance, with relays wired into the machines’ controllers to log run-time, waiting and stoppages.

From the engineering office, Sean Mahoney can see a graphical plan view of the machine shop with the status of each machine shown in real-time.

He added: ‘Live data provides feedback from the shop-floor with the machine tools shown in green if the machine is running in production, amber for a maintenance/waiting condition and red for switched off.’ Periodic analysis can be carried out on each cell to show production time, down time and waiting time in a chart form for the management team to monitor the actual resource utilisation.

James Fletchmoore added: ‘ABS Production has migrated away from a produce for stock operation towards a much more efficient make-to-order business, but to achieve this it has needed to cut the changeover times and introduce the flexibility required to be able to efficiently produce a batch of one.

‘Seiki Systems NMS has been fundamental in aiding this transition.’ Mahoney concluded: ‘The key is to keep the spindles running and that’s what Seiki Systems helps us achieve.

‘The back-up has been first class with local support from JCNC.

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