Decentralized Control Lends Flexibility to GM Plant
Below are the first few paragraphs from this article, with links at the end to read the full article. Please Note: The article discusses how eFlex Assembly (they reference it as FACS) was used by GM to make their assembly system flexible.
Published in Assembly Magazine
Written by Jim Remski
Published Date: February 3, 2015
"Thinking outside the box” is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. To think outside the box is to look farther—to avoid thinking of the obvious solutions to a problem and to try to come up with new alternatives.
During a recent retooling project at the General Motors power train assembly plant in Toledo, OH, that business cliché took on a literal, as well as a figural, meaning.
Founded in 1916 and employing some 1,900 people, the factory assembles both rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive transmissions. Since February 2006, GM has invested more than $1.2 billion in the facility.
In 2010, the automaker embarked on a project to boost production of six-speed transmissions, particularly the new, fuel-efficient GF6 product, which was designed for small cars like the Chevrolet Malibu and Cruze. The goal was to produce more than 2,200 units per day.
In revamping the GF6 production line, GM engineers wanted to improve workflows, improve changeovers, reduce reprogramming, and prevent the curse of all automated manufacturing lines—situations in which one malfunctioning machine causes the entire line to shut down. GM engineers also wanted to minimize maintenance time by installing PLCs, drives and pallet-recognition devices outside of the conventional cabinetry found on traditional assembly lines. And, they wanted to distribute controllers throughout the line and thereby substantially increase system flexibility.
GM completed the project with the help of Siemens Industry and software provider eFlex Systems Inc. Siemens provided the PLC, CNC system, human-machine interfaces, radio frequency identification (RFID) system, and its high-level Ethernet protocol, Profinet, to run on the GM network. Overlaying this hardware and communications topology was the Flexible Assembly Configuration System (FACS) from eFlex Systems." FACS is also more widely known as eFlex Assembly.
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