PROCESSIMPROVEMENT – FIRST PROOF, THEN INVESTMENT

Providing clients with proof is at the heart of what the simulation consultancy team at international engineering firm VIRO does; proof that an investment concept for factory logistics is the best choice, taking into account all of the client’s conditions, according to project manager Wim Klinkien.

BY MARTIN VAN ZAALEN

The knowledge and ideas of the client and the VIRO team are condensed into the top three or four logistics concepts. Those concepts are then tested against the baseline model to determine the effect, according to Wim Klinkien (left) and Mart Bruggink. Photo: Arjan Reef

As an international engineering firm specializing in engineering and project management, VIRO offers a wide range of factory and plant optimization services: from analyses and advice to the management of investment projects. As a specialized service, VIRO also offers clients proof of how best to improve their internal logistics.

A crucial step in this process is to determine the client’s objectives. ‘Most clients set a general objective,’ says Klinkien. ‘They want to expand their production capacity while reducing their FTEs, for instance. In this case, automation is the first solution that comes to mind; however, the company’s management board doesn’t always have an evidence-based view of whether adding machines or using automatic vehicles will help them achieve the desired result. They want proof of this before they start investing.’

DATA COLLECTION

In addition to the actual client, which is often the company’s management board, the people who represent the client in the project team are important stakeholders and sparring partners for Klinkien and his colleagues. ‘These are the people who are directly involved in the production process. Most of them are process engineers who understand the intricate interaction between people, machines, inventory systems, and internal transport systems. They also have the relevant process data and can use the figures to demonstrate how many products per hour a machine can make, how many technical problems there are, and how long a particular activity will last.’

Klinkien’s colleague and simulation consultant Mart Bruggink uses this information to programme the existing situation into a baseline model using Tecnomatix Plant Simulation, a software package developed by Siemens PLM. According to Klinkien, obtaining the right input is not always easy. ‘This can be caused by a lack of data or because some stakeholders aren’t convinced of the relevance of simulating the actual situation. They know the current situation and want to know how to do it better in the future. We only share certain data once we’ve used the baseline model to prove that without that data, the simulation model would not reflect reality and that, for instance, the total yield would be far too low.’

BROAD PERSPECTIVE

The team then discusses the logistics concepts that could improve the situation during a comprehensive brainstorming session with the client. This session combines the client’s detailed knowledge of the process and ideas on how to improve it with the helicopter view, broad experience, and pragmatism of the VIRO team.

If you work with the same machines every day, you’re bound to miss things

‘Our simulations show the cohesive and integrated whole. We visit different factories in sectors ranging from food and packaging to metalworking and automotive; some plants have high volumes and others have low volumes with a lot of logistics flows. As a result, we take an out-of-the-box approach and have a broad perspective that makes it easier for us to offer practical solutions that are well-known in one sector and completely unheard of in another.’

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

VIRO’s simulation consultancy team was set up three years ago at the initiative of Mart Bruggink. With an affinity for Tecnomatix and a degree in mechanical engineering, Bruggink modelled a ‘frozen’ production process for a client and discovered that cutting thirty percent of the client’s transport systems and using a different route could increase capacity. Six months later the simulation consultancy team was born. ‘That’s the beauty of working at VIRO: having the time and the room for out-of-the-box initiatives.’

HIGHEST CAPACITY OR SAVINGS

The knowledge and ideas of the client’s management and staff and that of the VIRO team are condensed into the top three or four logistics concepts. These are then tested against the baseline model to determine the effect of the logistical changes a concept inspires. ‘Some concepts will require more logistical transport to prevent logistical bottlenecks,’ says Bruggink, ‘while others may require a larger buffer system or an extra inventory system that allows for eight hours of unmanned production. The first concept aims to generate the highest production capacity, the second aims to create the highest FTE savings, and the third will be the easiest to expand later on.’ Bruggink presents the results of each concept in a way that makes it easy for the client to compare them. ‘We always determine whether all of our top concepts are relevant for the client in terms of budget and payback period,’ adds Klinkien.

NEW EVIDENCE

‘With our experience, we usually have a good idea of what our client will choose,’ says Klinkien. One option may generate such high savings that the client opts for an entirely different layout than their current factory. ‘This marks the end of suboptimization. Many production processes have been gradually expanded over the years, with new elements being added without an eye for the bigger picture.’ Bruggink sometimes visits a client who redesigned the entire factory building based on the new logistics. ‘If you haven’t been there for two years you won’t recognize it.’ Once the client has made a choice from the simulated options, it’s time to build them. ‘The client has full control over this.’ Nevertheless, VIRO is often asked to design the new automation and logistics systems, given the company’s engineering capacity and supply base.

Now, after ten cases with clients in various markets, Klinkien’s team is expanding its services. Manufacturers of conveyor systems and palletizing robots can now create digital generic models of their systems with a pre-programmed user interface. These manufacturers can set their own virtual parameters. ‘They can use these to prove to potential clients that a specific configuration can help them achieve the desired capacity,’ says Bruggink, illustrating his point by having a palletizing robot turn in virtual circles on a screen.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

VIRO’s simulation consultancy team was set up three years ago at the initiative of Mart Bruggink. With an affinity for Tecnomatix and a degree in mechanical engineering, Bruggink modelled a ‘frozen’ production process for a client and discovered that cutting thirty percent of the client’s transport systems and using a different route could increase capacity. Six months later the simulation consultancy team was born. ‘That’s the beauty of working at VIRO: having the time and the room for out-of-the-box initiatives.’

Source: Link Magazine, edition September 2017 www.linkmagazine.nl

Interested in what VIRO can do for you? Please contact:

Wim Klinkien (+31 6 238 920 87, w.klinkien@viro.nl)
Project Manager
Hengelo

Mart Bruggink (+31 6 297 249 07,  m.bruggink@viro.nl)
Specialist Process Engineering
Hengelo