At first, the integration of a new vehicle model into an existing assembly line sounds like the everyday project life of an engineering service partner such as EDAG Production Solutions (EDAG PS). However, if only half of the time the conversion would actually require is available, then the planning team faces a very real challenge.
The Mercedes-Benz works in Ludwigsfelde have been manufacturing the open-type Sprinter version since 2006. 12 years after start of production, the existing system is to be extended, and a new vehicle series added. To guarantee future flexibility in the production of all vehicle variants, the process for joining the drive train and the vehicle body, also known as "marriage", is to be adapted. EDAG PS is responsible for the integration of the new production series, and is to handle the coordination of the conversion phases.
One special feature of this project is the fully integrated support that is being provided from the concept phase to commissioning and start of production. So far, concept, layout and design studies have been carried out for the integration of the new series, and conversion scenarios set up. Following a detailed planning phase, EDAG PS supervised the bidding process (preparation of product specifications, comparison of bids and placing orders with suppliers) and held design meetings with the appointed suppliers. The handling of the project has called for the interdisciplinary cooperation of a number of different departments. Apart from coordination and planning activities, the team is also responsible for the design of the joining cycle, automatic bolting operations, the suspension gear positioning unit and handling system. In addition, the Safety Engineering Services department is also involved in the project throughout the concept and realisation phases.
The people working on the project also face a further difficulty: to bring about the planned integration without bringing the production line to a halt.
The great challenge to overcome in this project will be meeting the target deadline. Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde intends to fully complete the system conversion and start of production within a six-week break in the summer of 2017. On the first day after this break, the system is then expected to be 100 % available. A large number of different suppliers and tradesmen are involved in the realisation phase. The time restrictions, however, call for the simultaneous performance of the work contents, to ensure adherence to the requirement for start of production at the end of the break. The difficulty therefore lies in the coordination of all the traders and companies involved.
On top of this, a period of approx. 12 weeks is generally required to set up a marriage. In the role of the coordinator, then, EDAG PS faces a particularly stiff challenge: how is it possible to reduce the necessary conversion time by half?
Such an enormous reduction of the conversion period cannot be effected just like that. Instead, integration of the new marriage will be completed in three stages, so as to be able to adhere to the given schedule. The system components will be partially set up during a three-week break over Easter. Testing and commissioning will then be carried out when the production is up and running again. Finally, the six-week summer break will be used to set up the remaining system components and complete the overall system. This will then be followed by a comprehensive commissioning of the entire factory and start of production.
This type of procedure will allow the new marriage station to be set up without shutting down the production line - an enormous benefit for the vehicle manufacturer, as every hour that the production is at a standstill costs immense sums of money.