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Steps to improve profitability

Increase production line flexibility

The existing truck production line can be restructured to a more flexible process by changing to transducerized electric tools. The best option is to use traceable tools, which support multi set-ups. One traceable electric tool can replace several air tools and less advanced electric tools, reducing service costs and at the same time contributing to a more lean production.
Prepare the production line for shorter tact times in order to handle increasing demand in the future. Changing to electric tools is a way of optimizing production since they enable production time to be reduced to a minimum

Advantages of electric tools

Lean tooling One electric tool replaces several air tools
Quality improvement in production Transducerized electric tools are more accurate, delivering traceable data to the data repository, preparing for Industry 4.0
Quality improvement for the truck – consequences in the aftersales market Building in more quality from the beginning will improve the quality to the customer with the reduction of warranty costs
Ergonomic improvements Fewer hoses or cables decrease trip hazards. Electric tools are quieter and vibrations are at a minimum. Oil in the air is decreased with a positive effect for lungs and trucks being produced. Click wrenches can be removed
Energy cost reduction The cost for energy will decrease to a minimum and the environmental footprint will be considerably improved
Productivity Many impact tools are used on soft joints letting the tool pulse too long – electric tools often perform tightenings faster even if they have a slower tightening speed. Using click wrenches together with impact wrenches is a time-consuming two-step operation and can be eliminated
Accuracy of the tightening It can often be seen that click wrenches are not moving when operators check the tightening. In such cases, bolts might be destroyed, with the result that the correct clamp force for the parts being assembled is not delivered. Quality issues such as loosening joints are often the cause

Quality Assurance – build in quality from the beginning

Electric tools combined with smart solutions guide users through the assembly process of a specific truck and support the operator in choosing the correct tool for the application. Transducerized electric tools deliver traceable results to a data repository.

If errors cannot be fixed directly in-station, connected rework stations can
automatically provide information about a rework, indicating to the operator which tool should be used for which application. In a quality gate at the end of the line the truck can be randomly checked and critical parts can be checked in changing cycles. Monitors with connected tools support operators in the quality gate with the correct quality test procedures

Quality data the key to Industry 4.0

State-of-the-art Quality Assurance systems are available to support the complete truck production process in defining cyclical production equipment test routines linked to norms like VDI/VDE 2645-2, ISO 5393 and ISO 6789, etc

Today’s QA operating systems generate reports according to norms and standards required by plant management to optimize the production processes. Data needs to be stored for traceability and for the alignment of production equipment set-ups. Data is analyzed from production equipment connected to data-driven smart connected software solutions that deliver status reports or suggestions for production process improvements. In today’s truck production, quality data is the key to moving forward to an Industry 4.0 production environment.

Create a Lean work environment

Productivity can be increased by applying Lean principles to truck building. This involves reducing production equipment to the minimum required to produce a wide variety of truck variants.

Lean tooling: One electric tool can often replace several air tools by using different torque set-ups. Many transducerized electric tools are available in wireless battery versions, eliminating air hoses and associated trip hazards as well as the need for cable management. The cost of installation in a station thus decreases, the work area is cleaner and tidier, and operators will have a better overview with less stress when building trucks.

Lean logistics: Operators should not need to walk excessive distances to get tools
or to fetch parts for the truck assembly process. Parts should be delivered to the
station where they are assembled on the truck and thus be within easy reach of
the operator when needed. Many consulting companies, including Atlas Copco,
provide plant audits that indicate how to make a production operation leaner by
reducing superfluous operations

Aim for good ergonomics in the plant

Good tool, workstation and plant ergonomics are essential to increasing productivity. Noise and vibrations are typical stressors in a vehicle assembly situation. EU legislation stipulates a limit of 85 dB(A) to protect operators from long-term hearing damage. Production equipment must by law have vibration levels below 2.5 m/s2, accumulated during an 8-hour shift, to protect operators from long-term disorders.

Trip hazards, oil in the air and the use of long, heavy click wrenches add to operator stress and, in some cases, cause long-term skeletal or lung damage. Replacing air tools with electric tools helps avoid these problems. Healthy operators are more focused and positive at work and deliver higher quality.

When experienced operators are injured or sick due to poor ergonomics in the workplace they must be replaced by new people who need training, and this involves additional costs. In cases of long-term disorders and health problems of this nature, the employer may be required to pay compensation as well as find a new, safer work environment for those concerned. Those operators are often moved to supporting tasks which would normally be outsourced to companies who can handle the work more cost-effectively.

Consider hybrid joining – riveting/gluing/tightening

Electrification of trucks will increase during the coming years with changes in truck structure design. Petrol or diesel engines will be replaced by electric motors mounted in the truck wheel. Batteries weighing 800 kg and more will be placed in the frame. Fuel cells will be attached to the frame or in the cabin area.

An increasing amount of composite materials will be used in order to reduce the weight of the trucks and, in turn, reduce energy consumption. Combined joining methods need to be developed, using robots with exchange systems for riveting, gluing and tightening operations.

Building batteries requires specialized knowledge

To build a battery requires gluing, riveting and controlled tightening, as well as flow drill operations using screw feeding systems. Also specialized knowledge about uniform pressing of gap fillers or heat-conducting fillers to ensure the complete removal of bubbles under battery stacks

Customized methods need to be developed together with customers, combining their knowledge with that of the solutions provider. Atlas Copco, for example, is working with major companies to develop specific and automated production sequences for battery production and other processes

Tools need servicing

To maintain production and ensure the availability of tooling in a production line, tools need to be serviced. A production stop caused by an insufficiently maintained tool is expensive since it can halt the entire production flow. Many truck manufacturers are cooperating with companies who supply a planned service schedule on site.

Well maintained and frequently tested tools deliver the desired quality. Truck manufacturers should concentrate on the production of trucks and equipment service providers should maintain the tooling at optimum performance. Talking to the service provider, bus and truck manufacturers can define specific KPI’s to be monitored. These should provide additional savings which can be compared to the maintenance costs prior to implementing the service program.

The technical assistance and solutions you need

We can help you with state-of-the-art assembly solutions, quality assurance software, and workflow solutions which take all aspects of your production into consideration, with ergonomics in focus. So prepare to increase your market share with highest quality products, an enhanced brand image and a long list of satisfied customers.