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Parcels going through a scanner
Written by Edin Osmanovic

Turning Industry 4.0 into reality

Some of the world’s leading manufacturers are turning the concept of Industry 4.0 into reality. In the Automotive sector, Continental is pioneering the way.

It seems the challenges of the past year have only hardened manufacturers’ resolve to digitally transform their organisations. Recent research from the Aberdeen Group indicates that digital transformation has become more of a priority for 67% of manufacturers. These organisations have recognised the importance of using technology to improve time-to-market, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and advance innovation and are accelerating their efforts. They are putting Industry 4.0 into action.

One Automotive manufacturing giant, Continental, is already some considerable way down this pathway after setting out its own plan to turn Industry 4.0 into reality across its global operation. The company has always been focused on improving production processes and its vision is to have a fully automated supply chain by 2030, called 'Fast Forward 2030'. It’s aim is to combine people and automation technology with the goal to provide efficient processes for the end customers – while also aiming to increase safety and improving the work environment for the employees.

As part of this wider move towards industry 4.0, and a transition from lean management to digitisation, Panasonic was tasked with delivering a process upgrade for Continental's automotive factory in Regensburg, Germany, to streamline operations and improve efficiency on deliveries received at the site. The Regensburg site is one of two global model factories for Industry 4.0 strategy implementation. At the Bavarian site and in Zvolen, Slovakia, innovative processes and technologies are developed and tested before being rolled out company-wide.

The aim of the project was to shorten the time between goods receipt and booking so that goods were available for production more quickly. After booking the parts, the ERP system shows whether materials are in stock.

Deliveries often arrived on mixed pallets, sometimes with up to 10 individual goods from different manufacturers on one pallet or a shipment from one manufacturer spread over several mixed pallets. Before booking in the warehouse management system, all shipments that belong to a single order must be found. This process was losing valuable time.

Panasonic delivered a turnkey system combining two technologies - object recognition, and projection mapping. The central element is a conveyor belt on which two operators can simultaneously place packages when they have been unloaded from the truck. The parcels are loaded onto the 7- metre-long conveyor belt where the Visual Sort Assist solution scans the barcodes and projects the suppliers' name and priority onto the parcels, which are transported over the belt at 0.8 metres per second.

To create the solution, Panasonic monitored and evaluated the material flow, the data streams and the manual working process over six weeks with a team of experts from Europe and Japan consisting of business analysts, system engineers and software specialists. During the course of the project, central key technologies such as image processing software were developed further in collaboration with the customer. The results were a read rate of 99.6%, this means that the system processes 300 parcels in 20 minutes, or 15 parcels per minute - almost regardless of placement, font size, font, or possible previous damage. The search times have now been eliminated by 40% - and will be reduced by 90% with the next update of the Warehouse Management Software.

It’s a great practical example of how Panasonic’s Gemba Process innovation approach of understanding the business challenge and deploying manufacturing know-how and smart technology solutions can deliver practical Industry 4.0 solutions. For the full Continental story, visit: https://business.panasonic.co.uk/solutions/continental-automotive-drives-towards-supply-chain-evolution

 

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Find out more about how we can help you optimise manual sorting processes