Throughout the world, Flex operates facilities that specialize in high-mix, low-volume manufacturing. These sites produce relatively small quantities of wide-ranging products for medical, automotive, and industrial applications that tend to be complex with specific quality requirements. As the broad product mix translates to frequent production changeovers, there is inevitable downtime along with the potential for introducing errors whenever programs, processes, materials, and tooling need to be changed to accommodate production shifts.
Flex Althofen in Austria is a high-mix, low-volume facility that serves more than 25 customers with a portfolio of 500+ highly complex products in lot sizes ranging from 100 to three million units. Building more than 600 different products that range from automotive GPS systems to Class III medical devices in any given month, Flex Althofen sees a monthly average of 900 product changeovers.
As the site’s frequent, complex changeovers were part of its daily routine, the team sought to improve how these processes were managed. Inspired by the poka-yoke lean manufacturing method, or “mistake-proofing” in Japanese, the team began developing a line stop assistant to minimize changeover errors in January 2019.
The result was LISA, a 24/7 Line Stop Assistant that has real-time access to all the data sources related to the production lines.
This visibility enables LISA to perform two tasks:
- Halt mis-configured production lines, triggering the shop floor team to resolve the error
- Prevent untrained operators from configuring lines they have not been trained to handle
See LISA in action:
Prior to LISA, team members relied on checklists to set up the assembly lines and this manual process introduced the potential for errors that could drive up costs, waste, and other inefficiencies. If someone loads the wrong recipe for an assembly, for instance, the output had to be scrapped.
Since LISA’s initial rollout in 2019, the Althofen site has seen improvements in changeover metrics by reducing:
- Changeover time by 10 percent
- Line clearance time by 85 percent
- Quality related downtime by 56 percent
Other improvements include:
- 18 percent increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
- Potential errors fell from ~900 to 0 per month
- Reduced stress on operators
- Reduced tedious and repetitive work, freeing staff to focus on higher value work
LISA has been an indispensable resource to help us improve our change-over processes by leaps and relieve pressure from our employees. Since rolling out LISA, we have continued to iterate and make improvements to it, so that our factory can be made even smarter and more efficient.
— Martin Stefan, Director of factory integration, Flex Althofen