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Production challenges for truck and bus manufacturers

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More alternative drive train variants demand flexibility

Integrating electric trucks into existing conventional production lines is a challenge that demands greater flexibility and increases the complexity of the truck building process. More production equipment makes life more complex for operators, increasing the stress involved in choosing the correct equipment for different truck variants.

In this situation, operators may choose the wrong tools or screws may get missed or wrongly tightened. Quality needs to be in focus – major quality issues involving recalls with unnecessarily high warranty or repair costs have a negative impact on the company's reputation.

Quality impacts brand image

A strong brand image based on high product quality improves customer loyalty, resulting in increased sales and, in turn, improving the company’s bottom line. Accordingly, quality related issues need to be identified during the production phase with an intelligent production equipment system. Wrongly assembled parts in a production line increase reworking costs the further the truck moves down the line and the later the problem is identified.

More truck variants produced on the same production line also means that line productivity needs to increase while retaining high levels of flexibility and accuracy

Ergonomics play an important role

Good workstation, tool and plant ergonomics are important in modern production situations. Local legislation increasingly does not permit excessively noisy equipment and tool vibration levels are limited. Impact tools transmit vibrations to the hand-arm system which can damage veins, muscles and skeleton in the long term, resulting in future health issues for the operators. Using heavy click wrenches can result in muscle strain and disorders in shoulders and arms. All these factors increase the stress level for operators, and can give rise to quality issues in the vehicles being produced.

Compressed air is costly

Using compressed air as the energy source for production equipment such as impact wrenches is expensive. The compressed air is produced in compressors using electricity and then distributed in air lines to the installed pneumatic tooling. If production is expanded without adapting the air lines to increase the efficiency of the air distribution systems, tools used at the end of the air line do not get the correct dynamic working pressure of 6.3 bar, and lose their accuracy.
Many plants just increase the pressure of the used air above the optimal pressure of 7.3 bar outgoing from the compressor station and this requires more electricity for the compressors. On average, almost all production operations have leakages up to and over 30%, increasing electricity costs and resulting indirectly in higher CO2 emissions. As a rule of thumb, losses can be calculated by considering that, in monetary terms, a hole of 1 cm in diameter causes a loss of 10,000€ in energy per year. Maintenance costs for compressors and compressor motors add to the total cost of using compressed air, and air tools operated with the wrong air pressure need more maintenance, which increases service costs compared to electric tooling