In automotive manufacturing operations, unaddressed risks can lead to missed production targets, safety incidents and vehicle recalls. Safety hazards, aging assets and security threats can impact many areas of ones business negatively, including ones employees, revenue, plants, intellectual property, vehicle quality and customers. They also risk tarnishing his/her company’s brand and reputation — potentially to the point at which they erode customer trust or loyalty. To prevent hazards from reaching this point, ones risk-management efforts should focus on what can be controlled: ones industrial automation infrastructure. One can help improve risk management by setting their sights on four key areas: safety, quality, obsolescence and security.
Safety: Focus on the three Cs
While industrial safety is vital in any automotive operation, it is often viewed as a costly burden, at odds with productivity. But that doesn’t need to be the case. Best-in-class manufacturers, defined as the top 20% of aggregate performance scorers, have been found to achieve higher Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and less unscheduled downtime while experiencing less than half the injury rate of average performers, according to Aberdeen Group research. Top performers also experience far fewer workplace accidents than average performers — to the tune of one in 2000 employees versus one in 111 employees.
So, what are best-in-class manufacturers doing to excel in operational excellence and safety? They share a common set of best practices that can be grouped into three core pillars — or the three Cs of an industrial safety program:
Of course, it is not enough to merely focus on these pillars. One should strive for peak performance in each of them. From a capital standpoint, for example, too many automakers are forced to shut down machines for safety reasons if a problem occurs on the line. But in certain instances, safety technologies can be used to keep a machine running at a designated safe speed even when the safety door is open.
To see where ones automotive manufacturing operations stand in each of the three safety pillars, consider taking a self-guided assessment using the free Safety Maturity Index™ tool from Rockwell Automation. It measures ones current performance and provides recommendations for improvement, if needed.
Quality: Get better visibility with MES
Quality can never be sacrificed, even as production targets increase and workforces turn over. Amid these changes, real-time information visibility is one of the best ways to maintain quality. Modern Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software can harness the data that has long been buried in ones operations to help one improve quality management and reduce process variability. For example, it can capture data on process results, defects and attributes to help one support key requirements, such as visual defect tracking, statistical process control and root cause analysis.
Genealogy and track-and-trace applications in an MES also can give one new insights into their processes, production events and quality information. The applications offer forward and backward traceability to identify upstream or downstream quality issues. And they can provide product-location and as-built data to help limit the scope of recalls.
Beyond data collection, an MES with an error-proofing application allows one to create enforceable workflows. This can help verify workers to consistently build vehicle assemblies and subassemblies to the specification and help improve ones first-pass quality.
Should errors occur on the production line, MES hold-and-quarantine capabilities can be used to manage affected vehicles. This supports the ISO 9001 and TS 16949 automotive quality initiatives. Ultimately, it could help prevent defective and potentially dangerous vehicles from leaving ones production facilities and reaching customers. Manufacturing process quality control was a priority for Guangzhou Automobile Group, one of China’s leading automakers, when it implemented a modern MES. The company uses its MES to perform defect control and to carry out inspections & verification of quality issues. The MES also collects key component numbers and binds them with vehicle numbers, forming a genealogy record for all vehicles to help confirm they are produced up to standard.
Obsolescence: Assess assets and identify risks
Equipment and software obsolescence can result in downtime and lost productivity. The best way to tackle obsolescence is with proactive life cycle management. This includes working to identify existing obsolescence risks and planning to facilitate easier maintainability of legacy equipment and access to spare parts.
The best place to begin is with an asset assessment. Many companies attempt to do this on their own, only to discover the cost. They sacrifice an experienced engineer for several months simply to collect a baseline of hardware and software information for a single plant. An Installed Base Evaluation (IBE) service often is more efficient. It can collect and aggregate hardware and software data across multiple plants in just a few weeks. IBE services also provide reports that offer guidance on where critical risks exist. A software inventory, for example, could help uncover potential compatibility risks between firmware and software versions as one connects systems or updates devices.
The findings from these activities then can be shared across multiple functions. Maintenance personnel, for example, could receive a report comparing installed equipment versus storeroom inventory to improve spare-parts management.
Security: Go in-depth
Being more connected requires the ability to get data to and from machines and people — at every level, in any location and in the right context — in a secure manner. One can achieve this with three key steps:
Conduct a security assessment to understand the risks and vulnerabilities and to identify the mitigation techniques needed to help bring ones operations to an acceptable risk state.
Adopt a Defence-in-Depth (DiD) security approach. DiD security establishes multiple layers of protection by addressing security at six levels: policy, physical, network, computer, application and device.
One should work with trusted vendors that share ones security goals. Before selecting vendors, one should request disclosure of their security policies and practices. Vendors should be taking steps to address security within their own operations, such as providing security training to employees and in the products they supply.
As one goes through these steps, one should not forget to tap into the industry resources for help. Daimler Trucks North America, for example, used aspects of the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) validated design guides from Rockwell Automation and its strategic alliance partner, Cisco®, for its network architecture design and deployment. This helped the company create a converged, plant-to-business network that provides secure and reliable connectivity across the shop floor and in office areas.
The power of prevention
One may not be able to stop every problem in their automotive operations, but one can reduce the likelihood of it occurring and disrupting the automotive operations by focusing the risk-management efforts to where those risks originate. Proactively leveraging existing investments and infrastructure will help one better protect their people, brand and business performance.
Courtesy: Rockwell Automation