A mistake by an operator can affect the good functioning of a machine or even damage it permanently. We asked ourselves how innovation can counter this and optimise the production phase.
Not long ago I was in a town by the sea as a guest at a friend’s whose grandfather is one of the few active fishermen in that town.
Vincenzo is 82 years old and still going out to sea. Not every morning, though – he gives in with a little embarrassment.
I meet him in the veranda where he is sitting mending a net.
I am in awe in front of this white-haired, curved and very trim man who is still busy with the same activity he was carrying out 40 years ago, the thing he’s been doing all his life: mending the nets.
I congratulate him: only a seaman can keep that strong. He laughs. He says that it is more difficult now, what with old age, reduced eyesight and the humidity that has gone into the bones.
Up until a few years ago, his brother used to go out to fish with him. They used to do everything together, so when it was calm, one could rest and the other one would guard the boat; if one had not seen a rip in the net, the other one would. The sea was less big together.
I am telling you about this because it has to do with our outlook at SAPA and I am sure that you have read about it before.
As you know, the automotive sector has changed a lot over the years. Maybe because of it being projected into the future (at the end of day, what’s a car if not an arrow projected forward?), but also due to consumers’ requirements, the automotive sector is one of the sectors where the drive towards change is most visible. I am talking about new materials, gadgets and of the car’s performances.
But I am also talking about the innovation that pertains us car makers, the innovation linked with production.
You will agree that the way a car is built today is much leaner than it was fifty years ago. If I think of Vincenzo and his net, I realise that in our sector only few finishings are still linked to the production model of the past, or maybe not even them.
Innovation was fundamental, and it still is, to optimise the production processes that determine delivery times and, therefore, all the other phases.
Thinking back to my experience, I can see that SAPA made process optimisation to one of its main strengths: The One-Shot® Method, which is patented pending and is the world’s fastest method to produce car parts, rests precisely on the reduction of the number of phases. At the heart of this method is the simplification of the production chain: if we can eliminate even just one phase in comparison with the traditional method, then we can already talk of “One-Shot® Method”. The crazy thing is that this method brought us results that, believe me, were unimaginable for me at the beginning.
In practice: many parts that are produced with the One-Shot Method® are produced in just one press stroke. This means that we achieved the maximum level of optimisation. Would you like me to quote some examples?
The One-Shot® Bicolor A-Pillar, which is even moulded in two colours already.
But also our Engine Beauty Cover, for which productivity increased by 300%.
Innovation has another positive consequence, that is to say, it reduces human error to the minimum.
Over the past few years, Vincenzo has been mending his fishing nets without his brother’s help: I realise how much our daily circumstances can influence our work.
It is true that the specialised workers that work in our plants every day are highly qualified and carefully selected.
But it is also true that everyone can have a bad day, or not feel well and make a mistake.
At SAPA we asked ourselves how much human error can impact on our work and what these errors are concretely. And more than that: we found a solution, a sort of guardian angel for all our operators who can reduce errors to zero.
Let me explain myself better. I start from this premise: most of the errors that people make are caused by external factors, such as:
- The chosen work method may not be effective for the objectives to be reached;
- Sometimes environmental conditions do not favour success or a job well done;
- The person’s training is not always adequate for the role.
There is, however, another kind of error that pertains individual behaviour. I’m talking about:
- Lack of knowledge of the machine;
- Incorrect habits;
- Wrong behaviours;
- Lack of attention;
- Issues caused by personal situations.
But SAPA came up with and adopted a solution, rather than solving the problem after disaster stroke.
Exactly, I’m talking about something different than the traditional control machines.
It’s called H.I.M. Human Interface Mate and it is a system capable of informing about an error during the work cycle.
What is its effect?
- It results in a dramatic reduction in the number of operator’s errors, thus avoiding waste and malfunctions
- It avoids all chances that the problem lands with you, because we were able to intercept it;
- It guarantees top-notch quality standards.
In short, it is “the guardian angel” for operators in the production plants. Not only does it inform the operator of the operations to be carried out, but it tracks the operator’s movements and sends a message immediately, in case the operator did anything incorrectly. This way, the operator can correct their actions immediately.
What did we apply it to?
At SAPA we use HIM on a whole product family, the Engine Beauty Covers.
What result did we achieve?
Zero human errors and always guaranteed superior car parts.
When I think back of Vincenzo, I wonder if our world, the automotive world, has lost the romantic that he instead kept alive.
On the one hand, I think so. On the other hand, I have to say that there is a hidden beauty in this world of ever more complex machines, capable of foreseeing and solving issues: the beauty is that behind all this there are human beings.
Executive Director and Member of the Board of Directors at SAPA