In the highly competitive field of tire production, manufacturers are constantly striving not only to achieve high levels of productivity but also agility, traceability and availability. This is where logistics automation – powered by intelligent software – secures huge benefits.
Why does agility matter? Well, it has become increasingly important because of SKU proliferation, which has resulted from tires being one of the tools that OEMs use to adjust vehicle performance and differentiate their models. And – with the volume of electric cars rising and demand for autonomous vehicles on the horizon – SKU proliferation is set to continue. How does software help tire factories to achieve agility? It enables manufacturers to organize their complex production schedules in a more efficient way – in fact, to be just in time, avoiding the need for large buffers between the process steps in a tire plant. Cimcorp’s software – part of the Dream Factory solution – was developed specifically for the tire industry. It manages all automated intralogistics equipment and key functions while maintaining FIFO (first in, first out) inventory management.
The software manages the green tire buffer and optimizes the material flow between the building and curing lines – all in real time, giving full visibility of work in progress. This can reduce the typical green tire inventory from several thousand to several hundred units. Similar inventory savings can be made in the finishing area, where finished tires are buffered before and after uniformity testing. The result is a more compact footprint and a seamless flow through the factory that maximizes asset utilization and minimizes scrap.
Software does more than control material handling equipment. It also provides control of recipe management in the raw materials and components area, and records all manufacturing, warehousing and shipping data. It can ensure complete traceability for every tire from goods-in to the shipping dock. And full traceability is another factor that is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers, due to the number of counterfeit tires on the market today and the ensuing safety issues. In addition, as the market for autonomous vehicles becomes established, the insurance implications will undoubtedly increase the need for tire traceability across global supply chains.
Having high production capacity is only an advantage if there is also high system availability. For tire plants that are operating 24/7, any output lost due to downtime is lost forever. This is where control systems bring significant benefits, and where big data offers huge potential. Having automated systems controlled by intelligent software means that any issues can often be resolved remotely. Of course, avoiding the need for a site visit by an engineer dramatically minimizes downtime.
Tire manufacturers want the reassurance that the software driving their plants is proven and reliable, and that their systems will be supported quickly and reliably in the event of a problem. It makes sense, therefore, to procure automation from a supplier that can provide both the hardware and the software as their core competency. Every plant is unique, but you could read more about the benefits of reliable software and see automation in action.
Author Jukka-Pekka Akola