Patrick Meyer is Group Leader for Design Manufacturing and Process Analyses. He and his team have raised the new production line for the Excellence Line to a new level.
“It’s going very well”, Patrick Meyer reports happily, shortly after the start of production of the Excellence Line. In the beginning, everyone was excited and full of anticipation; the production facilities were newly built, after all. The production line was taken to the next level: the Excellence Line was rounded out with various additional special facilities. Guideless transportation systems bring each of the workpiece carriers back to the start of the process. Clever assistance systems support employees on the line.
The complete platform concept
Why is a new generation of production facilities required for the latest generation of appliances? “The complete platform concept is behind this”, explains the Group Leader for Design Manufacturing. The many types of appliances in the Excellence and Advanced Lines have different designs and functionality, but a uniform structure. This allows the variance and complexity to be standardized. All appliances can go through the same processes on the same production line. This standardization and large quantities increase the opportunity for a higher degree of automation.
As such, the Industrial Engineering area was involved in the Excellence Line project very early on. It was important to create synergies with other disciplines in order to decide from the very beginning where automation makes sense, and also how the appliances should be constructed so as to ensure as few errors as possible and guarantee the consistently high quality of the appliances. “We structured the production line in an efficient way with smart automation”, says Patrick Meyer. The facility brings together robotics, conveyor technology, assistance systems and manual labour: from the enamelling plant, the appliance goes through the frame facility, where the frame is screwed together. It is then constructed almost in its entirety in the assembly cell, and completely finished in the finalization stage. 75 percent of the screw fastenings are automated, as is the insulation. “The wiring, on the other hand, is very challenging – we cannot yet reliably automate this.” As such, top/bottom heating, trays and lights are all inserted manually, and the doors are installed by hand. Following this, the appliances receive a software download and are then extensively tested in the final inspection. It takes around one hour to completely assemble an appliance.
“We structured the production line in an efficient way with smart automation”
Patrick Meyer is Group Leader for Design Manufacturing and Process Analyses
The challenging automation of insulation
“The automation of insulation is an innovation”, explains the qualified mechanical and industrial engineer. In ovens, insulation ensures that the heat remains inside. “The insulation is not dimensionally stable, so it was particularly challenging to automate this at all.” This makes things easier for employees, because they previously had to wear a protective suit when installing insulation. People didn’t really want to work with the material, either.
Safety of employees
At V-ZUG AG, Patrick Meyer is the master of automation. Outside of work, he enjoys a spot of DIY: there is always something to do around his home in Buonas, where he lives with his wife and two children. In his free time, he spends a lot of time with his family and also enjoys riding his bike. “To balance things out, because I work on so much technical stuff at the office”, he smiles.
With design manufacturing, the 39-year-old also thinks about the well-being and the safety of employees – the ergonomics. The higher degree of automation makes work a little more challenging for the assembly employees. They now have more contact with the facilities, so they were involved at an early stage and were able to contribute suggestions for improvement. Assistance systems help them with the assembly process: such as the special camera at the workstation that checks in real time whether each component has been installed. A new process also helps staff find the correct production item by means of a light indicator, without them having to search.
Economic efficiency and sustainability at the Zug site
Of course, in addition to quality assurance, efficiency and economic viability are also important reasons for a higher degree of automation. Patrick Meyer always looks for the most economical solution. Producing to “Swiss Made” standards must also pay off. V-ZUG AG is committed to its Zug site and continues to invest. The ground-breaking ceremony for the Tech Cluster Zug has taken place. This low-CO2 innovation district will be supplied with local, renewable energy. The plan is for the Excellence Line’s production facilities to move into a new hall on the sustainable site in 2024. So the next exciting challenge is already on the horizon.
Patrick Meyer is looking to the future with positivity.