The Six-Sigma approach has become a cornerstone throughout the automotive industry, and in-process measurement is a requirement for an efficient implementation. Six-sigma engineers utilize “DMAIC” phase models: Define the process; Measure key quality characteristics; Analyze process capability; Improve and correct the causes of deviation; Control actions. The trend towards 24/7/365 operation of production lines means the traditional night-shift measurements are no longer possible.
Automotive Industries (AI) discussed this dilemma with Øyvind Røtvold, CEO of Metronor – a measurement systems company with most of the world’s automotive manufacturers on the customer list.
AI: How do you retain a solid measurement component in the DMAIC model even with 24/7/365 production line operation and essentially no production line down-time?
Røtvold: The traditional scenario was to run in-process geometry assurance activities during the night-shift and on week-ends. The emphasis was therefore on systems that could support geometry assurance programs that systematically measured all aspects of the complex tooling installations. These activities were typically run by highly skilled specialists with time available to conduct in-depth investigative measurements when issues were detected.
Now, industry increasingly requires systems that will also function well inside the current operations. Measurements must take place during short breaks. We have designed a new type of system to support these seemingly conflicting requirements. Our new light-weight SoloTwin system sets up in seconds and works effectively also in very tight spaces. By going in close, we achieve high accuracy even on large tools while avoiding the time penalty of conventional dual-camera based systems. The SoloTwin has been shown to set-up, tie-in to the coordinate system, perform measurements of all critical features of the assembly tools, verify measurement data relative CAD nominal, correct alignment issues of the tool, and get out of the station without interfering with the production cycle – in less than 20 minutes.
AI: Why are measurements of the production tooling and process required in the first place?
Røtvold: The DMAIC measurement component must include measurement of the production tooling and its capabilities for truly efficient “cause-and-effect” analysis. In-line and end-of-line inspection systems detect product drift and process instability, but cannot determine precisely where in the line it is occurring or what misalignment is causing it. As soon as drifts are detected, corrections need to be carried out without impacting production flow.
AI: How has the feedback from industry been?
Røtvold: The SoloTwin is seen to set a new benchmark in meeting current industry requirements. The market seems to like the price, too.
AI: Tell us about the relationship Metronor has with its customers.
Røtvold: A key factor in Metronor getting where we are today, is the focus we have always had on interaction with our customers. We do not merely supplying measurement machines – we provide metrology solutions that provide our customers with critical information about the improvement potential of their processes.
AI: Are there any particular markets where you are experiencing growth?
Røtvold: We are experiencing growth in all markets, but the strongest growth right now is in North America and Asia. In particular the Chinese and Korean markets are important for us, which is why we have an office in Beijing with our own staff supporting our many Asian distributors.
AI: Metronor has recently expanded into military systems. Tell us about that.
Røtvold: Metronor has expanded into military systems based on the core technology developed for the industrial measurement systems. The Harmolign product line is a dedicated system for aligning the navigation, targeting and weapons systems of military aircraft in the field. We have learned lessons that we can apply to our industrial systems, as all the key components of the industrial systems are also used in the military systems.