As part of its ongoing commitment to maximizing quality, Elkhart, IN-based Crown International, a manufacturer of products for the professional audio market, implemented GainSeeker Suite, data aggregating software from Hertzler Systems Inc. (Goshen, IN), a provider of real-time data acquisition and analytics software.
With the success of recent product launches, Crown’s production throughput increased; therefore, it became critical that the factory continue to make improvements in its processes. As a result of the implementation of GainSeeker Suite, as well as the conversion to being lead-free (RoHS complaint), Crown transformed itself from a batch and queue system of assembly to a continuous flow process with a constant examination of quality and a focus on improving it.
Crown Quality Support Manager Rupa Shanmugam explains the software implementation: “Whereas most companies simply use GainSeeker for defect management, Crown has gone beyond this basic use and is utilizing GainSeeker in three different areas: real-time data collection of test results at board level and finished product; real-time display of yield and efficiency data; and at document delivery stations that provide work instructions, set-up sheets, defect Pareto information and other pertinent documents such as engineering deviation or quality alerts if required at each work station.”
The document control portion has moved the work instructions from the paper domain to the electronic domain. This modification means that users can make a change to the work instruction in real time and distribute it to all workstations simultaneously. Previously, the only way to modify work instructions was to create new paper instructions, which resulted in a time lag as well as the possibility of out-of-date instruction. The key to matching this with GainSeeker is that Crown can immediately react as problems are found and issue revised work instructions in minutes.
Coupling the electronic work instructions with the defect tracking information also allows for the highlighting of key trouble points in the process. If a particular process is causing problems, it is possible to track it down to a specific workstation, modify the work instruction and easily add in a second check step if needed. GainSeeker Suite also couples these instructions with employee tracking so that Crown can determine if a problem with a particular process is an operator training issue, dexterity or workstation configuration issue. Shanmugam adds, “Being able to do data analysis in real time means that we are able to take a proactive approach by catching issues as soon as they begin to vary from control levels rather than waiting for an alarm condition to occur.”
Prior to implementing GainSeeker, Crown would have had to wait for failures to become apparent later in the process. By that time, it was difficult to know what workstation and operator combination might have been the problem. Changing to this process allows Crown to look at the interaction of people, workstations, process and products cumulatively.
The human element is key in the GainSeeker process. In addition to defect tracking, Crown also is tracking its successes in real time. There are now LCD projection screens on the factory floor that show production information in real time. Refreshing every five minutes, the displays allow workers to see at a glance how much each line is producing, their work rate, testing results and packing information.
Furthermore, GainSeeker is not just being used in the production environment; it also is being used for service and repair portion at Crown. Previously the challenge was coalescing the data from the different repairs being made in factory service and the data seen from the factory floor. The GainSeeker system was designed to allow for this information to be looked at together. If a product comes in for repair, everything from how it is tested to when it is shipped is considered and viewed in the examination of trends. Previously, this information could only be examined through a manual process of collating the two different systems. These systems are now tied together to allow for an overall view of the quality of Crown products-not just how the quality is at the end of the assembly line, but how it is in the field for Crown’s customers, where it is ultimately the most important.
- Hertzler Systems Inc.