The Problem: Vertical integration at GKN Driveline had resulted in multiple traceability systems that were hard to use and manage, A black box MES solution didn’t offer the flexibility they wanted.
The RedViking Solution: Gradual rollout of Argonaut Track & Trace with Pack Out, with future capability for OEE. Complete project management and machine integration.
Vertical Integration Creates Traceability Challenges
Like many successful companies, GKN Driveline had outgrown their tracking and traceability systems. As they acquired other companies and grew more vertically integrated, they needed a new traceability system that could grow as they grew.
The GKN facility in Sanford, NC operates an in-house forge, machining center, and assembly operations. Paths and processes vary by product. A set of parts might share common welding and hardening operations, then branch off to different assembly cells.
It’s a complex production process, made more complicated by the fact that many of the processes had arrived with their own approach to traceability.
Different Quality Systems Needed to Come Together
Before introducing Argonaut, GKN used multiple tracking systems that varied by location, from internally created software applications to check sheets on paper.
In each process, the drivetrain assembly is tracked with a go-no go determination made at strategically positioned test stations throughout the facility. Nothing can be pallet loaded for shipment to the customer until the product is inspected, checked for conformity with all performance specs, and validated by an operator.
Because a variety of systems were in place, this process differed from cell to cell and plant to plant, making it difficult to train operators and to compare metrics across the organization.
Part Tracking and Test Data Creates Quality Record
With Argonaut Track & Trace, assemblies are identified in each operation using bar code or RFID scanning equipment. Quality checking operations are performed at each step, ensuring that faulty parts are quickly identified and stopped before additional costs can be incurred.
Every cell validates the correct assembly of the drive shaft components, with tests performed inline to check dimension, seal integrity and other parameters. Each machine controller is connected to Argonaut, so if a part fails at any step in the cell, a quality alert is logged. If the specific machine test is showing an error, that fact is immediately evident, allowing proper corrective action to be taken.
System Stops Bad Parts
At the completion of each assembly, operators scan the part to a shipping container, and the part’s traceability record is checked with Pack Out to ensure that all operations have successfully completed before the part can be loaded to the skid. According to GKN, “Each machine has its own data traces and the system, simply stated, won’t let us make a bad part.”
Machine Data Integration is Critical
RedViking took all the GKN specs and machine builder data to create a “smart packing sheet” for all operations. Data is collected and tracked in a similar fashion to a conventional SPC system, but since the system is cloud-hosted, the data is instantly accessible from remote locations and remedial actions can be initiated virtually instantaneously.
Implementation was a coordinated effort between GKN, RedViking, and other suppliers in order to accurately integrate tooling changes, PLC communication capabilities and, most critically, the complex handshaking involved with machine control.
Store-and-Forward Ensures Data is Always Available
At GKN, Argonaut Track & Trace utilizes store-and-forward technology at each production cell, ensuring that production can continue to operate without losing data in the event of an interruption to data transfer.
If the internet or corporate intranet should go down, GKN cells run in an “offline” mode. When communications resume, data is quickly uploaded to the main server, and available for reporting and historical metrics analysis.
Data is saved to cloud-hosted servers through a secure SSL encrypted and token-based authorization chain. The security of the system is extremely tight, with operators and line managers having precise but limited data access.
Cycle Time and Machine Fault Tracking for OEE
Beyond process and part validation, Argonaut collects cycle time and machine fault codes with each cycle. This data allows GKN to query for a subset of OEE information and can be gathered for cells throughout the facility.
Since errors are infrequent, being able to query a large set of data across many product families helps identify parameters at fault. They’re using their big data to identify and analyze rare events that would have been difficult to analyze in the past.
Gradual Rollout Ensures Consistency
GKN started with an initial implementation of two cells in mid-2016. By year end, they had launched Argonaut on an additional seven cells, and are continuing with ten more cells in 2017.
They’ve been able to build gradually, from a core group of data points through complete connection of an entire work cell, with all production and machine performance values being tracked. Because Argonaut is designed to be horizontally scalable, this has been a smooth implementation with consistent outcomes.
Long-term, the goal is to implement Argonaut plant-wide in Sanford, as well as other production facilities in the GKN family.
Argonaut is IIoT Ready
As parts, assemblies, and skids are produced, all system data and status information tracked through the Track and Trace and Pack Out apps is IIoT-ready. In the future, information can be published to an MQTT gateway, where other authorized subscribers may subscribe to and analyze the data. In this way, the same data that Accounting uses to track completed assemblies can be used by other parts of the company, like shipping and purchasing.
Read More about this Project
The GKN traceability project is covered in more detail, including quotes from GKN employees, in Automation.com.
Room to Grow
Argonaut apps are offered individually or as part of an entire MES suite. Additional apps are currently available, with more under development:
- OEE/Factory Information Systemfor process management and reporting
- Error/Mistake Proofing: Quality check for gated operations
- IIoT Gateway: Securely broadcast PLC data to subscribers
- Part Kitting and Sequencingfor assembly line optimization
- Automated Work Instructionsfor each operation
- Media Castingfor delivering websites, videos, and images to remote locations