With over 35 years of experience in industrial service, Plåtson has constantly cultivated new approaches and developed new practices to provide its clients with ingenuity and expertise.
Located in Oskarshamn, Sweden, the company specializes in creating and streamlining solutions for its customers' production flows and processes. Plåtson’s industrial service is actually born through extensive collaboration with a leading Swedish manufacturer of trucks, buses, coaches, and power solutions, and the company's neighbor and largest customer.
Recently, Plåtson acquired a world-leading automated 3D measurement system in order to secure the accurate measurements required for precision-demanding parts in a very time-efficient way. Thus, the company can now provide its customers with real-time follow-ups and measurement data that is available 24/7.
This article highlights what challenges led Plåtson to look for a new solution for measuring transport stands, what turning point motivated the industrial service manager to look for an automated system, what main requirements were specified in their technical request, and why their search finally ended with Creaform’s newest technology, the MetraSCAN 3D-R.
Plåtson’s major customer has several production plants in Europe. The cabs, which are the driver's compartment, are produced in Oskarshamn, and the vehicle chassis are manufactured in other plants located in the Stockholm area, as well as in Holland and France. Therefore, the cabs have to be transported from Oskarshamn to the other production plants around Europe. To do this in a safe way and in an automatic loop, the client uses transport skids in which the cabs are locked for transport.
The client also uses other types of production stands. They have assembly stands used to move the cabs on the assembly line, and they have paint skids on which the cabs are painted. In each configuration (transport, assembly, and paint), the cabs are mounted on the skids and held by four anchor points.
High precision is required for both the cabs and the stands in order to hold and maintain the parts securely. Every standing point must be at the right position and must have the right dimension. The quality of the vehicles depends on it. Nevertheless, the stands are handled manually by forklifts at the factory and can be damaged easily.
Once on the production line, if problems are detected, an automated line detects and changes the faulty skids, which impacts the production workflow. To limit the scrap rate and maximize production, Plåtson was mandated to check every stand once in every loop and make sure all of the stands meet the specifications. When defaults are detected, Plåtson proceeds with a repair. In short, no stand leaves Plåtson before the measuring solution has green-lighted it.
Challenges with Manual Station
Before using the automated measuring line, the inspection was performed at a manual station on a checking fixture with a ±2mm tolerance. The skid needed to fit in the fixture. If it did not fit, it was considered to be out of tolerance, but it was impossible to know by how much. Knowing with precision what the real problem was and which side was faulty was almost impossible. In addition, the old measuring method could not indicate the actual position of the four critical standing points.
Before working as the Site Manager of Industrial Service at Plåtson, Pär Henriksson was in charge of logistics at the Swedish manufacturer’s facility. The innovative idea of having an automated inspection solution was already evolving while he was working there. “I had this vision of a solution with which we could measure the skids in an automated way and have a database where we would keep the quality information about every skid, we could see the deviation between measurements, and we could compare the results with the CAD drawing,“ says Pär Henriksson. Once at Plåtson, Mr. Henriksson’s new associates considered the initiative to be an excellent idea that aligned with their mission to excel in everything they are doing.
“If you can supply your customers with a solution they didn’t know they needed, then you become a great supplier.”
Site Manager of Industrial Service at Plåtson
Plåtson decided to invest in an automated quality control solution in order to raise the quality of their work and obtain higher precision on their measurements.
To do so, they wanted digital documentation and automatic reading of the skid measurement results. With automatic reading, they could stop writing data on paper by hand and, thus, limit errors related to human fatigue or distraction. With digital documentation, the deviation report could be stored in a cloud service that is available to customers in real time.
This way, the industrial service team could shorten their lead time and lower their inspection costs for customers.
Creaform’s Automated Quality Control Solution
Together with MLT Maskin & Laserteknik AB, Plåtson took the step to test Creaform’s new technology, the MetraSCAN 3D-R.
By testing the new control line, Plåtson realized how they could increase the quality of their measurements. Not only could they know that they had a deviation, but also they could know how big the error was in order to conduct the proper repair and correction.
At this point, they knew that investing in Creaform’s automated quality control solution would make them very competitive.
Benefits Gained with Automated 3D Scanning
Because deviation reports are stored in a cloud service, they are available for customers in real time. The benefits of this feature are enormous.
For instance, imagine that the manufacturing company faces a problem during production. They conduct a verification and realize that something is wrong with the skids, as they do not match the CAD drawing. Repair must then be made on all the skids on the production line. From there, they could end up blaming the skids, or they could also look at the complete lot’s inspection report. The repair decision will differ depending on whether there are only a few faulty skids or a complete lot of 2000 skids with a deviation of ±3mm in one direction. They can either calculate how much it would cost to repair all of the skids or verify if it is possible to adjust the assembly line in order to handle this deviation.
”With this equipment, we can choose the right repair method.”
When all the data about each and every skid are available, it is possible to make a better decision by calculating the cost of different solutions. Plåtson is now in a better position to handle this kind of situation.
Comparison to the Competition
Plåtson found that in addition to its metrology-grade accuracy and operational simplicity, Creaform’s 3D scanning technology is also more versatile than other solutions offered on the market because the MetraSCAN 3D-R can be used to measure many different skids with various sizes and shapes. “Whatever our robot can reach, we can scan,“ affirms Pär Henriksson.
Plåtson can now measure up to 350 skids per day, while other scanning equipment could only measure 3 to 5 skids per day. Therefore, they have shorter lead time.
Now, the customer has access to quality information regarding the skids. Moreover, Plåtson can be very transparent in their inspection and repair services. Indeed, when a company is paid to make repairs to issues that they find through their own inspection, there could appear to be a conflict of interest: The more defects that are listed, the more repairs that must be performed. The service company could be asked for justification, and the customer can question if the damages are really that bad and if they really require repair. Therefore, there is no better way to show what is being measured and what is being repaired in real time. With Creaform’s automated quality control solution, everything is now transparent.
For now, Plåtson only inspects the transport skids with the automated 3D scanning solution. However, the situation could evolve in the future. Plåtson’s client is interested in including the paint skids and assembly skids in the automated measuring station. After seeing the benefits of 3D scanning on the inspection and repair of the transport skids, they are very interested in getting the same measuring system and database for their other skids.
The goal, of course, is to eliminate skid problems during production. The solution has attracted a lot of attention because the customer sees the benefits as soon as they log into the system. They see what Plåtson can deliver for the transport skids, and they know that they could get the same results and benefits for the paint and assembly skids. For sure, as soon as another line is requested, Plåtson will be ready to make the investment, as they know they will get a valuable return on it.