Overhead Conveyor Streamlines Instrument Panel Production

by | Articles, Assembly Lines, Parts Accumulation and WIP

Nearly 1 mile of overhead, enclosed conveyor track at Guelph Products links sequential manufacturing steps and provides transport of parts to a just-in-time (JIT) staging area prior to shipment.

The track is installed at Geulph Products’ 200,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant in Guelph Products, Ontario, located 45 miles from Chrysler’s main assembly plant in Bramalea, Ontario. Guelph, a division of Chrysler, manufactures instrument panels, door panels and steering columns for the Chrysler Eagle Premier.

To streamline the productions process, the plant partially assembles 350 instrument panels daily. The 25 lb. panels are maintained up to 1-1/2 days prior to final assembly and shipment to the main vehicle assembly line.

Overhead conveyor system for instrument panels.

Providing continuous flow

The PAC-LINE™ conveyor system provides continuous flow of parts from a preliminary manufacturing area, through processing and subassembly stages, to the storage and accumulation area. Maximum conveyor travel speed is 24 feet per minute.

The system consists of four individual conveyor lines for paint, wash storage accumulation, and storage and delivery. Each line performs an important function in the manufacturing process, explains Dick Carter, maintenance superintendent.

The 700 sq. ft. long paint line transports panel components through a spray booth where a protective coating is applied to the parts. Special fixtures mounted on 24″ centers carry the vinyl instrument panel skins along the line. A separate 130 ft. long line processes smaller parts. The enclosed track design prevents the coating from reaching the conveyor chain or bearings.

The 700 ft. long wash line conveys the panels through a ceiling mounted wash tunnel. The automated line keeps the parts clean by minimizing manual handling.

The three-tier storage accumulation line provides temporary storage for up to 500 panels, or about 1-1/2 days production. Floor area for the space-saving storage bank is only 85 ft. by 30 ft. “The track’s tight turning radius, and the multi-level design enabled us to save space,” says Carter.

The lower level of the bank provides a buffer zone for panel components between manufacturing operations. The upper level, known as the “storage and delivery line”, serves as a JIT staging area.

Computers in Bramalea update vehicle build schedules continuously, advising Guelph what parts are needed and when. “When the vehicle build order (VBO) comes through,” says Carter, “we have 4 hours to get the parts to the main vehicle assembly line in Bramalea.” Once a panel is assigned to a specific VBO, it is removed from the staging line and taken to the finishing area for final assembly and shipment to Bramalea.

Published in Modern Materials Handling, December 1988

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