Feasibility of an assembly line for a high variety and low volume product
Volmer, Axel (2014)
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ABBs Transformers business unit in Vaasa commenced this thesis to investigate the overall feasibility of an assembly line (AL) for their current team based transformer assembly. The transformer manufacturing strategy ABB has is engineer to order (ETO) and the transformers match the definition of high variety and low volume (HVLV) products. These factors create an unique challenge when investigating if an AL can be implemented because an AL is by definition an unflexible way of assembly. ETO manufacturing however is build with flexibility and agility in mind with usually no part or process standardization possibilities. Investigating the feasibility of an AL and the possible advantages that could be gained are the main interest for ABB. The key questions which will be answered in this thesis are: How are current assembly work steps divided into AL work stations? Which assembly line model suits best HVLV products and product mixes? How could an AL look like for the case companys HVLV transformer product and what would be the main benefits? After the feasibility is analyzed and the benefits investigated a preliminary AL implementation plan is presented according to the related theories and empirical observations. The feasibility is analyzed by reviewing past product mixes and the individual work steps and step times. A SWOT-analysis is used to identify what are the strengths and weaknesses of an AL. The advantages of an AL depend heavily on the currently at used assembly method. In ABBs case the AL is implementable, offering clear advantages over the current assembly, however only with the conditions and limitations agreed previous to this thesis. The overall feasibility of an AL depends on the product mix the company is producing. AL strengths include easy measurability, improvability and view management. Changing to an AL would benefit most significantly ABB assemblys information flow throughout the supply chain (SC) because using an AL means gaining knowledge of the separate steps, allowing more accurate process times. More accurate process times also allow all previous upstream processes to be managed, planned and adjusted more accurately. Also methods like e.g. just in time (JIT) could be employed.
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