Lineside Flexibility Takes the Wheel at Automotive Production Facility
Johnson Controls’ multiple facilities include a 125,000-square-foot plant in Suwanee, Georgia, where seats, door panels and other interior parts are assembled for the Kia® Sorento.In the automotive industry, things can change at a moment’s notice.“Customers are always reconfiguring – adding new products and updating standards. To keep up and stay competitive, our plants must be flexible and efficient,” says Todd Emmons, an engineer in the automotive business unit for Johnson Controls.Flexibility and efficiency were top of mind in 2009 when Johnson Controls began building a new plant in Suwanee, Georgia. Engineers set out to unveil a state-of-the-art automobile production facility that could accommodate the ever-evolving demands of the automobile industry.“Our plan was to equip the plant with the most reliable, functional, cost-effective and reusable technology possible,” says Emmons.“The Flow Cell® workstations helped us deliver on that plan.”
Gearing Up for the Future
At the Georgia plant, employees assemble seats, door panels and other interior parts for the new Kia® Sorento. Nearly 500 cars a day move through the facility. “This is a high-volume plant. We’re completing 55 jobs an hour, and the goal is to step that up to 60 jobs an hour,”says Emmons. “Every minute counts, and every inch of work space does too.”In designing the plant, Emmons worked with John Maicki, president of DR Storage, to identify the line-side assembly technology that would best fit current and future production needs. “The Johnson Controls team had very specific requirements. They wanted something durable, ergonomically soundand capable of accommodating the various product sizes on the production line,” says Maicki. “Most important, they needed an assembly line product that could be moved, adjusted and reused as production demands changed.”
Exploring the Options
In the past, tubular pipe structures had been used on assembly lines in some plants, but Emmons and Maicki agreed they would not be effective solutions for the Georgia plant. “Tube and joint structures are highly customized and difficult to move from station to station. So, if the materials change on the assembly line, you have to order completely new racks and install them. This takes time and money,” says Maicki. A better solution came from UNEX. “We did a thorough analysis of the line-side racks available, got quotes from several vendors and had prototypes developed. Our decision was based on what was best in terms of reliability, cost-effectiveness, functionality and reusability. Flow Cell was the obvious choice,” says Emmons.