In automotive manufacturing, a traditional problem area is at the end of a press line. This is a progressive process where parts are stamped into shape from flat steel blanks. The challenge, however, is to continuously remove the parts, which are moving at a rate of 1 to 2 seconds per piece, from the swiftly running conveyor belt and load them onto racks for transport to the welding facility. This is a difficult and dangerous manual process. Also, it is historically difficult to automate due to part variability, cost, and other factors.
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 for their operation. Unfortunately, the automotive company received five very different concepts and prices. This unnerved them because typically when these same integrators quoted traditional body shop systems, the prices and concepts were relatively similar.
Because AMT is an engineering company, not design and build, we were not part of the bid process. However, following the struggle to obtain a more comparable set of quotes, the automotive company decided to bring in additional help. Instead of choosing from the concepts themselves, 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. Initially, it was necessary to design simulations based on the concepts and analyze all possible results. Unfortunately, the simulations showed that each design concept provided by the five integrators would ultimately fail. Therefore, the automotive company contracted AMT to design the process given certain assumptions and component criteria such as robot brand, gantry vendor, and other preferences.
We developed a practical and efficient process for the automotive company. Based on this new spec, they initiated a new round of system bids. As we expected, they now received five similar quotations and they selected an integrator from among these for the complete system. 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 occurred. Both the automotive company’s team and our own deemed this project a success. According to the automotive company, our involvement saved them approximately $3 million dollars and likely prevented one of the initial bidding companies from going out of business due to the previously impractical concepts.