Bosch Rexroth records major ‘Triumph’ for world-leading motorcycle manufacturer
For afficionados of two-wheeled transport, the name Triumph conjures up images of speed, power and quality – attributes which have seen motorcycles bearing the iconic Triumph name enjoy multiple successes in national and international motorsport events.
A major name in the sector for more than a century, Triumph Motorcycles now operates from a state-of-the-art facility at Hinckley in Leicestershire, with 700 people engaged in the production of a wide range of high-specification motorcycles which are sold worldwide.
By choice, Triumph motorcycles remain hand-built, in order to achieve the precise tolerances and high quality that Triumph owners expect. Much of the specialist assembly is still undertaken manually, in particular the fitting of critical bolts and other components to each motorcycle.
However, the nature of the production process presents a unique set of challenges in delivering continuous improvement. The manufacturing model is small batch production, which means that each motorcycle on the line may be a different model from the last and therefore requires a different combination of components incorporated into it.
To help the operators, different variants were displayed in paper format around individual workstations. In each case the operator had to select the correct component from a rack containing similar parts, then choose the appropriate air tool or torque wrench from a range available at the workstation – all of which led to an increased potential for rework and delays.
Triumph‘s Production Engineer: “The manual assembly systems on the engine assembly line had the potential to increase the risk of production delays due to rework. Our ultimate goal was to reduce this rework time significantly.
“The aesthetics of the factory also needed improvement, with each workstation home to a myriad of air tools and air hoses, presenting a cluttered appearance not entirely in keeping with our desired image of a lean, modern manufacturing facility. There were also issues with the amount of energy used by the compressors to power the air tools.
“What we were seeking was a system which went as far as possible towards eliminating the risk of incorrect part fitting or tool selection, and verified each tightening before stepping the process on.
“We wanted to minimise the volume of tools in the production areas and create an ergonomically optimised working environment. The goal was ‘no fault forward’.”
The Triumph team were already aware of some of the possibilities available through the use of graphic displays on individual workstations. However, it was their visit to Thyssenkrupp’s facility at Heilbronn in Germany, arranged by Bosch Rexroth, that convinced them that this was the way forward.
At Heilbronn, Bosch Rexroth has installed a digitally-based operator guidance system which has drastically reduced the risk of assembly errors in a line assembling body components for Mercedes-Benz. Each workstation is home to a graphic display which demonstrates each process and the items required to complete it.
Triumph’s Production Engineer continues: “When we saw the Thyssenkrupp system in operation it was a ‘light bulb’ moment, in that it gave us some ideas about how we could incorporate similar solutions into our own manufacturing.“
The engine assembly line was chosen as the pilot as this line has the greatest number of bolting operations in which the correct torque is critical to the operation and reliability of the engine.
Bosch Rexroth reviewed every process for each model produced and combined these into a configured solution for Triumph’s engine assembly line. Now, the Operator Guidance System (OGS) ― an on-screen step-by-step guide for every motorcycle engine on the line – guides the operator through the assembly process, ensuring that the correct component and tooling is used in each process.
To do away with the need for multiple tools, Bosch Rexroth recommended the use of its Nexo cordless DC tool range. The Nexo range can incorporate all of the processes previously undertaken by individual air tools, through the use of specialist sockets for each component fitted on the line and their ability to deliver an extensive range of torques on one tool.
The screens, tools and tool trays are all accommodated on a mobile dolly which the operator can move along the line section as required and position in the ideal spot to see the screen information and select the appropriate tool and tool bit. Each individual drive bit is housed in a separate socket nest. The operator is clearly instructed which drive bit to select by flashing LEDs.
This process has done away, at a stroke, with the need for multiple air tools with unsightly dangling hoses on each workstation, and the risk of incorrect tool selection. Across the six work stations modernised so far, just 12 tools are now performing all of the functions for which around 180 tools were needed before.
“An error message automatically appears if the incorrect tool or tool bit is selected, allowing the operator to correct his choice before he can continue with the process”, adds Triumph’s Production Engineer.
Every process is now recorded by the system and any issues highlighted by the system can be addressed immediately. Process accuracy and quality have increased significantly, as each tool process is pre-programmed with the tool’s programmed sequence applied automatically until the required tightening operation is successfully completed. The results are automatically transmitted to a receiving station via a wireless connection, creating a clear audit trail of every process undertaken and completed.
“Most importantly, the goal of ‘no fault forward’ has been completely achieved – and similar systems are now set to be rolled out across other areas of the production line over the next two years”, he says.
“Thesystem introduced by Bosch Rexroth has been integral in guaranteeing the quality of our products. The Operator Guidance System with its automated model ID has made the task of our operators simpler, while clutter on the line has been reduced as we have been able to remove all air tools. We have also seen a welcome reduction in energy and calibration costs.“
His sentiments were echoed by Triumph’s Assembly Supervisor, who added: “Bosch Rexroth’s combination of superior quality products, customer service and technical support has delivered a solution which is proving integral to optimising quality and traceability while simplifying processes and enhancing working conditions for our team. The roll-out of this system is very much part of the future for Triumph.”