Production expansion in volatile times: location planning with vision

Heidelberg - 23.5.2019

Conversion and expansion projects as a long-term and more cost-effective alternative to newbuilds was the focus of the event “Expansion of existing production facilities. Efficient. Flexible. Future-proof.” On 16 May 2019, participants met at industrial consulting and planning expert io-consultants’ headquarters in Heidelberg for the series of events, which this year was held in cooperation with the German Economic Council.

Senior representatives of renowned manufacturing companies gave detailed insights into their projects. Moderated by Prof. Dr. Michael Hauth, Chairman of the Intralogistics Network Baden-Württemberg, they highlighted specific problems, challenges and solutions in connection with the expansion of their production. A virtual reality live demo from io-consultants backed up these high-end presentations. Many participants took the opportunity to tour a warehouse and a production site virtually and experience first-hand the potential of VR in a range of industrial planning scenarios.

Production-specific challenges

Approximately 60 participants were welcomed by Dr. Christian Barysch, Partner at io-consultants and Head of Factory Design, and Beate Bahner, Executive Board member of the German Economic Council’s Rhine-Neckar Chapter. “I was particularly pleased about how very open the speakers were, and their frankness when describing the real challenges they faced in their projects,” said Barysch. Expansions in existing production facilities are not necessarily sure-fire successes because, although they do often offer a cost-effective alternative to a new construction, they are highly complex, for example due to building limitations and fixed measurements. In addition, current operations have to continue as far as possible without disruption.

Optimizing material flows and resources while guaranteeing the same quality levels must therefore be a priority in the layout planning phase. Dr. Karl-Heinz Jung of ArianeGroup demonstrated in his presentation how this was successfully implemented in a factory with high-tech products. The success factors for the realignment of the Ariane 6 launcher engine production were a process mining-based value stream analysis and design as well as lean and transparent material supply with order-specific production supply and disposal. In Prof. Dr. Hauth’s own words: “There were many production-specific challenges to overcome.”

Importance of long-term value-added location planning

“Growing existing facilities” was the topic that Steffen Kraft, Head of Technology Center, and Jan Oellers, Managing Director at Elektror airsystems gmbh expanded upon. Founded in 1923, the foundation-owned company produces highly customized motors and fans. The market not only demands individual components, but also complete solutions for air regenerated systems to increase energy efficiency. The design of modules integrated into the customers’ product components is particularly important. In addition to the value stream analysis carried out by io-consultants for the further development of Elektror Group’s production network and the growth of its systems division, further aspects needed to be considered. It became necessary, for example, to integrate a sheet metal processing company. As continuous flow manufacturing was already in place, expansion of the existing production was required. Elektror therefore invested in two independent locations at Waghäusel in Germany and Chorzow in Poland.

Long-term location planning and capacity expansion were the aspects addressed by Bernhard Pawlik, CEO of Ubbink Centrotherm Group and Board Member of CENTROTEC Sustainable AG. Ventilation systems with heat exchange, sealing of building envelopes and energy efficiency of buildings play a key role here. Using three practical examples, he showed how diverse the requirements and the resulting solutions and approaches can be. While a greenfield project was required in China to select, plan and establish a new production site, a brownfield project had to be tackled at the Mainburg plant. With the support of io-consultants, capacities were expanded using plant framework planning, while at the same time necessary construction measures were minimized. In the third example, Pawlik described the optimization of an existing site in the Netherlands in terms of material and process flows, which was necessary as a structural extension of the plant was not feasible.

Leading edge digital planning approaches

Industry 4.0 and digitization are important topics. But what do they mean in terms of production expansion? What is the potential resulting from optimizing the processes? The panel discussion following the presentations made one aspect very clear: There are already many activities around industry 4.0 and digitization, such as the use of Kobots on assembly lines for a wide range of process steps. Participants emphasized that industry 4.0 or digitization also include activities and topics that have been on the corporate agenda for a while. Nevertheless, they are aware that an immense potential lies dormant here. It is important to identify and implement the right technology and approach in order to release this potential. However, any resulting action would need to take into account the individual and industry-specific challenges and prerequisites of each company. Company-specific strategies need to be developed.

After the panel discussion, participants had time to talk to the speakers on a more personal level. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Uwe Mayer, Key Account Manager Industry Pedestrian Door Solutions at ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems GmbH, summed up: “Top-class speakers, extremely interesting presentations and congenial discussions during the breaks made the event a complete success”.

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