In automotive manufacturing, a traditional problem area is at the end of a press line. (A press line is a progressive stamping process where parts are stamped into shape from flat steel blanks.) The challenge is to continuously remove parts from the moving conveyor and load them into racks for transport to the welding facility.
Parts come out of the press line on a flat-belt conveyor at a rate of 1 to 2 seconds per piece. Unloading and racking is a difficult and dangerous manual process and historically difficult to automate (part variability, cost, etc).
In 2006, a major automotive manufacturer released a bid package to five integrators to solicit concepts and pricing for an end of line press automation solution. (Because AMT is an engineering company, not design and build, we were not part of the bid process.)
What the automotive company received were five very different concepts and very different prices. This unnerved them because when these same integrators quote traditional body shop systems, the prices and concepts are generally similar. The auto maker stopped the process and approached AMT for consulting.
Because of our history of designing processes for other areas in this automotive company, they engaged us to review and validate the different process concepts they had received. Through design analysis and simulation, we showed that each design concept would fail. We were then contracted to design the process given certain assumptions and component criteria (i.e. robot brand, gantry vendor, etc.)
We developed a process for the automotive company and they initiated a new round of system bids based on this spec. As expected, they received five similar quotations. They selected an integrator for the complete system and AMT was then commissioned by the integrator to provide various pieces of the engineering content.
AMT was brought in as a consultant, not from the beginning, but fortunately prior to the crisis occurring. The project was deemed a success. According to the automotive company, our involvement saved them approximately $3,000,000 and probably prevented one of the initial bidding companies from going out of business.