The FACTS4WORKERS solution at Thermolympic S.L.
The FACTS4WORKERS solutions provide employees with all information relevant to the production of plastic components, quality management, further education of machine operators, and machine maintenance.
- Many parts have their own components that are assembled using various automatically and manually operated tools.
- The further education of employees is essential for guaranteed perfect quality.
Thermolympic S.L. manufactures complete units or processes prefabricated materials, parts, as well as components. The components are assembled into intermediate or end products before delivery to the customer. The Thermolympic client base ranges from automotive OEMs to companies that provide consumer goods to supermarkets. Thermolympic strives to offer the best-possible production quality; to this end, they collaborate closely with their customers – in simulation and design, the production process, up to quality assurance and delivery. Their largest challenge lies in the lack of online availability of relevant information, which means that information quickly becomes outdated. To remedy this, Thermolympic primarily strives to improve their real-time data collection and analysis.
Malfunctions and solutions
The system provides access to various solutions that help remedy problems that occur during production. Employees supply it with information, and it serves as a knowledge management system for employees to share this information with each other. In this way, the system is conductive to the development of a collaborative work environment in which employees support each other through the development of a communal knowledge database. With integrated role management, employees are protected from unfair treatment by being requested to perform tasks that lie outside of their scope of skills and competences. Employees can add media content to comment on malfunctions (texts, videos, audio files), describe them, and suggest solutions.
The process monitoring functionalities allow employees to receive continuous feedback on the current process status. They can counteract negative developments by initiating improvement measures. The process monitoring is based on a direct connection between the F4W solution and the injection moulding machines’ SPS. The monitored parameters include injection temperature, injection time, and the like.
With immediate access to shared documents, employees enjoy more autonomy as well as experience less stress caused by missing information. The online document library contains instruction manuals, quality control checklists, and the necessary documents for the maintenance of all individual components of the assembly line.
The solution offers support on further trainings and offers employees the opportunity to build their skills and competences. The further training model is based on the results of employees’ activities and adapts itself automatically to employee errors and deficits.
Benefits of the FACTS4WORKERS solution
Correcting the production of erroneous parts
Carla is working on a machine and performs measurements as usual. Many parts deviate from the specifications. Carla realises that the machine is producing erroneous parts. This is an emergency. Carla immediately informs her team leader, Eduardo, as she is not capable of remedying the issue herself. Eduardo stops the machine. Together, they analyse the erroneous parts and try to identify the reason behind the production problems. Meanwhile, the machine downtime costs Thermolympic valuable production time. If the machine failure repeats itself, Eduardo knows how to respond and configure the machine accordingly; however, with less common errors, Eduardo must first assess various machine settings to remedy the malfunction. In both cases, Eduardo must first manually consult and analyse the documentation on the most-current components. He must rely on both his engineering instincts and skills to solve the issue.
Carla is working on a machine and realises that the machine is producing a large number of erroneous parts. This is an emergency. Carla consults an overview of current system malfunctions on her tablet, which is connected to the Thermolympic quality control cloud that analyses errors in real-time. The tablet also has access to data on system settings and troubleshooting information for this type of malfunction. It can thus provide Carla with instructions on how to adjust machine settings. This way, Carla can resolve the malfunction herself without halting machine production. With more serious malfunctions, she can contact the employee previously operating the machine or a supervisor through the tablet. They can then provide her with more information or come to her assistance. The error notifications and all machine changes are documented automatically and transferred to quality management in real-time. They are aware of the problem and take action if necessary. Moreover, the continuous documentation process allows for quality management improvements as well as better malfunction analysis and solving in future.
Self-determination in further training at the workspace
Carla is working on a machine and performs measurements. She checks parts for errors on a sample basis. Today, her work on the machine is faster than usual and she wishes to use the time she “saves” to further develop her knowledge of the machine she’s working on. The only information available at the workspace is printed on a large, unwieldy poster hanging on a nearby wall. The poster is no longer up to date and includes neither the newest injection moulding module nor the machine settings. Moreover, the print is starting to fade, and Carla can barely read the text. Adding insult to injury, the poster is affixed onto a wall away from Carla’s current production line, so she can’t read the poster and monitor the process at the same time. This nips Carla’s motivation to learn something new in the bud.
Carla is working on the machine as usual. She regularly has some time “left”, and she wishes to use this time to further develop her knowledge of the machine she’s working on. She grabs her F4W tablet and looks up information on the machine in front of her. The application offers information on each machine and the associated production process. There are various levels of detail at her disposal, and the information is supplemented by comprehensive media files such as descriptions, images, and interactive videos. She now increasingly seizes this opportunity to learn – at convenient hours and at her own pace. Moreover, she can use the tablet directly on the production line and keep an eye on all important processes, because the tablet informs her of erroneous parts if necessary. Carla is particularly interested in the last steps of the production process; the steps she is directly involved with. With her years of experience, she notices that two minor changes to the process would make her work a bit easier and expedite the production process. She would like to suggest an improvement but doesn’t have the time to write everything down; therefore, she marks the last machine part as “capable of improvement”. At the end of her shift, her manager notices this and asks Carla what type of improvement she has in mind.
Evaluating real-time data
Jose is a quality manager. He is currently in a meeting with management, presenting all current data from the production hall; however, the data are already a week old. All data are measured manually, recorded by hand, and subsequently entered into various Excel files. A process that involves several different employees. These data offer management a rough overview of last week’s processes. At the same time, everyone is aware that this data set is prone to errors and not completely reliable or up to date. That’s why management is quite conservative when scheduling the next production line; they do not make any promises on delivery quantities. This performance weakness will negatively influence annual turnover.
Jose is a quality manager. He is currently in a meeting with management, proudly presenting all current data from the production hall. He is delighted to be able to demonstrate comprehensive statistics as well as real-time data gathered by various F4W solutions such as the automatic malfunction reports. With this great data accuracy, clear presentation, as well as various analysis options, management can quickly recognise a pattern in mechanical malfunctions, which increasingly occur in the summer. This inspires them to invest in a better air-conditioning system. A simple, simulated production process at improved temperatures also demonstrates significantly better results.
Detailed guidelines improve reassembly speeds
A change is made to the production line. This requires the reassembly of Eduardo’s injection moulding machine. Thermolympic introduced a new project, which means that Eduardo is not familiar with the injection moulding module. He must first consult the technical illustrations and specifications of each components; however, these are very comprehensive as well as unwieldy, and to make matters worse the important sections are always hard to read because of folds. Moreover, the plans don’t contain the custom machine components. It therefore takes various tries to properly assemble everything. On top of this, he needed to make various adjustments that were not described in the technical illustrations. At the moment, Eduardo is the only one with knowledge of these adjustments as there is no way for him to document them properly. All this resulted in a machine and overall production line downtime of at least thirty minutes.
A change is made to the production line. This requires the reassembly of Eduardo’s injection moulding machine. Eduardo consults his F4W tablet for all information necessary for assembly. In addition to the technical illustrations, he can consult two short videos that describe the difficult assembly steps for the new injection moulding module. Moreover, the reassembly is described in detail with colleagues’ and other team leaders’ comments on the procedure. If a comment provides insufficient information, Eduardo can contact the person directly through the chat function or request his or her personal assistance. In addition, Eduardo can now document every process step with a checklist and add photos and comments if necessary. This allows him to reassemble the machine in a jiffy. As an added benefit, he improved the machine documentation, expediting reassembly even further in future.