GETRAG Ford Transmissions
Wireless Replenishment Supports Lean Manufacturing Processes
An automated implementation at the GETRAG Ford Transmissions plant in Cologne, Germany, is a prime example of how the Zebra Location Solutions Material Flow Wireless Parts Replenishment solution can bring a sense of order to even the most complex manufacturing environments.
An automated implementation at the GETRAG Ford Transmissions plant in Cologne, Germany, is a prime example of how the Zebra Enterprise Solutions Material Flow Wireless Parts Replenishment solution can bring a sense of order to even the most complex manufacturing environments.
This plant makes six varieties of transmissions for global automotive brands including Ford, Mazda, and Volvo. Total production volume exceeds one million transmissions a year, with units shipped to car manufacturers in Argentina, China, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, the Philippines, and the U.S. Serving this broadly dispersed—and diverse—customer base requires the constant movement of many different parts to the assembly area. That movement must be well orchestrated to avoid the delays associated with excess movement, or the cost associated with storing excess work-in-process inventory.
That's where the Zebra Material Flow Replenishment solution comes in.
This 'intelligent' automated system supports our lean manufacturing processes as we benefit from real-time inventory consumption and can execute replenishment orders just in time.
The entire solution at GETRAG Ford consists of:
- A wireless messaging infrastructure of 220 active RFID WhereCall buttons, each of which is associated with a specific part number
- A network of 12 wireless location sensors (antennas)
- Five ruggedized, mobile PCs mounted on forklifts
- The Material Flow Replenishment software application
The software application, which is available in 15 languages, runs in German at this facility. GETRAG Ford also has adopted the Supplier Portal so its suppliers can be promptly notified of when they should deliver more parts to the plant.
When an assembly worker presses a WhereCall button to request parts, the exact time of the request is recorded and it is then prioritized according to the rules that GETRAG Ford established. When forklift drivers review requests, they are told exactly where to go to pick up the appropriate parts and exactly where to deliver them.
This setup helps maintain a synchronous flow of material across the GETRAG Ford supply chain, resulting in reduced inventory and higher productivity, according to Ralf Vierkotten, supervisor of logistics and material handling, GETRAG Ford Transmissions.
"We are operating leaner than ever before," Vierkotten says. "Production-line employees no longer need to leave their workstations to help search for parts or to help material control determine the correct part; all they have to do is push a WhereCall active RFID button, and the system notifies all the required parties—from the line side to the forklift driver to the internal warehouse—that more parts are needed.
This 'intelligent' automated system supports our lean manufacturing processes as we benefit from real-time inventory consumption and can execute replenishment orders just in time."
In terms of actual performance metrics, Vierkotten says the Material Replenishment Flow solution has delivered the following benefits:
- Up to 20% improvement in labor productivity
- A 1/3 reduction in daily forklift trips
- A decrease in on-hand inventory from local suppliers from seven days to two days, resulting in a $750,000 savings in inventory carrying costs
- Improved utilization of floor space for storing parts
- Better visibility of plant floor demand
- A near complete elimination of downtime due to parts shortages
Based on the success of this initial implementation, GETRAG FORD Transmissions plans to expand the use of the Zebra Material Flow Wireless Parts Replenishment solution to other facilities.