What began as a redesign of a particular fixture at a local cutting tools manufacturing shop quickly evolved into a complete overhaul of the plant’s layout in order to improve its efficiency. And it all happened thanks to a federal government program aimed at helping small businesses, and the know-how of a group of UWindsor engineering researchers.
“We need a more flexible layout that will allow more flow through the shop,” said Jon Huckle, plant manager at Ramstar, a local company that makes diamond and carbide cutting tools for the automotive and aerospace industries. “This shop was laid out about 20 years ago, and things just weren’t very strategically placed. At the end of the day, it’s all about speed and delivering your product faster than the other guy.”
Ramstar was assisted by a team of researchers in the lab of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering professor Ahmed Azab, who received a grant from the FedDev Ontario Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative. Aimed at addressing the gap between research and commercialization by encouraging collaboration between post-secondary institutions and small- and medium-sized enterprises with pre-market needs, the initiative’s goal is to improve productivity and competitiveness for businesses located in southern Ontario. UWindsor faculty and student researchers worked on 18 companies on a variety of projects.
Dr. Azab’s group – which included master’s students Maral Zafar Allahyari and Khalid Nawaz, PhD candidate Aiman Ziout, and Jeremie Palas, a diploma engineer from France – began by working on redesigning a fixture that makes tools used for cutting rubber o-rings for an aerospace customer. The group was looking for ways to reduce the amount of set-up time between making each part, and for the time required to “dress” the wheel which cuts the carbide tool.
Before long, the project evolved into analyzing the entire plant’s operations, looking for ways to work more efficiently by finding methods to reduce the travel time of each part as it makes its way from raw material through to final inspection at the Blackacre Drive facility. Much of that work was handled by Zafar Allahyari.
“I really enjoyed it because it was like a puzzle for me,” she said. “I had to spend a lot of time trying to understand the process and the relationships between the machines. There are a lot of products, so we had to group them in to families.”
Time and resource management helps every member of the department, said Dr. Azab, who noted that the plant would soon be implementing many of the changes his team has suggested.
“So far it’s been great,” Huckle said of his first experience working with the university. “They bring a lot of know-how to the table, and they all have expertise in a lot of different areas.”
An event to celebrate all of the university’s partnerships through the FedDev program will be held today from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation. Tours of the building are being offered beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Tarek AlGeddawy, left, and Hoda ElMaraghy hold up a copy of the Best Paper certificate they won from the Journal of Engineering Design.
Hoda ElMaraghy and Tarek AlGeddawy figured they needn’t look any further than an ordinary household appliance like a washing machine to demonstrate how manufacturers can respond to growing consumer demand for increased product variety but still remain profitable.
“It made sense to use a washing machine as a model because it’s realistic, it’s a good size, and it’s typical of many consumer products” said Dr. AlGeddawy, a post-doctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. ElMaraghy, an engineering professor, Canada Research Chair and director of the University’s Intelligent Manufacturing Systems Centre.
The pair recently developed a model that uses a cladogram – a diagram normally used by biologists to illustrate relationships between species – to demonstrate how a manufacturer can identify the best product component architecture, satisfy different market requirements, and minimize the costs associated with the proliferation of product variety, by promoting modular product family and platform design.
Their model is described in a paper that was published last November in the academic Journal of Engineering Design, and the publication’s editors selected it as the Best Paper for 2012, based on the “scientific and professional value of the ideas presented, the comprehensiveness of investigations, significance and societal impacts of the findings, and the quality of conclusions.”
ElMaraghy said the paper is significant because it provides a generic model manufacturers can use to group the components of their own products and map out ways they can produce them efficiently and inexpensively, while still offering the consumer product choice and value in an economy of mass production.
“Product variety is a burden for manufacturers, but it also presents an opportunity to increase market share by offering a wide scope of products,” she said. “Just look at the variety of options in an automobile. Managing that variety is a must in order to be successful.”
AlGeddawy, who based his PhD on the co-evolution of design of various products and the systems used to manufacture them, said the model builds on the concept of commonality of components that can perform the same function in many product variants.
“It defines product structure, but still offers variety, by grouping various components,” he explained. “The steps for applying the model are very clear, and it’s generic enough to apply if you’re making washing machines, auto parts or airplanes.”
ElMaraghy and AlGeddawy were both thrilled with the best paper award.
“It’s a top tier journal,” said ElMaraghy, who noted she has received lots of positive feedback on it at conferences she’s recently attended. “It’s very difficult to get published in.”
— Published on Mar 05, 2013
A seminar, “Lean Manufacturing”, presented by Mr. Massimo Rissi (Global Head of Small Vehicle Programs, Chrysler Group) was held at the University of Windsor on February 1, 2013, in which Mr. Rissi and Mr. Asif Khan were Keynote Speakers. Mr. Khan is also the Chair of the Lean Committee (PEO?Windsor). A tour of our Learning iFactory in the IMS Centre, Centre of followed (Photo below).
The WCM Academy has been honored with the Industry Leadership award. WCM is a methodology that focuses on reducing waste, increasing productivity, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way. The academy was recognized in the New Workforce category, which identifies companies that involve education and training, knowledge management and transfer, and collaboration with educational institutions.