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By Nigel R Greenwood

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Almost immediately, it was concluded that a traditional 'piecemeal' approach to the automation would be unlikely to yield the required results. Instead a 'total systems approach' was needed. Hence a multi-discipline, inter-department team was formed to develop a long-term automation strategy. The ultimate objective was to improve productivity, product design and quality. Essentially, the scope of the project was to modernise ten facilities within two separate plants (Erie and Grove City). The total cost of the program was to be in the region of $300 million.

15). In the machining section, 50 cells are automatically loaded and unloaded by robot. During the third shift, the facility is operated unmanned. 15 Inside Fanuc's robot factory (courtesy of Fanuc Ltd) Work transfer throughout is by Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV), with two automatic warehouses being used for buffering the supply of raw materials and subassemblies respectively. In the wire-cut machine factory, only 30 operators are needed to manufacture in excess of 100 machines per month. While in the CNC factory, testing of integrated circuits and other components, parts insertion, printed circuit board (PCB) inspection, assembly and final testing are all carried out automatically.

In addition to this, there have been substantial component quality improvements which have exerted a significant beneficial influence on many other stages of the locomotive production cycle. The number of machines required to manufacture these parts was substantially reduced. It decreased from 29 to 9. Similarly, the number of operators required was reduced from 78 to 13 (5 being needed to run the first shift, and 4 on each of the other two shifts). There was also a 40 per cent saving in factory floor-space requirements and considerable inventory reductions.

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