According to current market trends there is increasing demand for ever more complex filter geometries in order to make optimum use of the installation space inside vehicles. In order to meet these requirements, having completed a lengthy planning phase, we have taken an innovative leap forward in terms of the process technology in use at the Marklkofen location.
With vertical and horizontal processes carried out simultaneously, a new assembly line (line 3) was built over ‘just’ 41 metres and put into operation in September 2016. The line was developed for the production of engine flat air filter elements with polyurethane seals and almost all processing steps are automated. Due to the high level of automation and the short cycle times, the assembly line is ideal for simple and complex filter contours with high volumes in accordance with the specified customer requirements. The production time does, of course, vary depending on the geometry of the filter element, but I can tell you that there is no other flat air filter production system that even comes close to achieving a similar output at MANN+HUMMEL. This also enables us to counteract the limited capacities in the European production network in this growing product segment.
All processes are carried out automatically, with the exception of just two process steps. This means that around 50 electrical motors are working in sync with one another. Admittedly, this doesn’t seem that impressive to begin with, but this process can be compared with the drive systems used in underground trains; these have a similar number of integrated electrical motors that are driven together. This presented us with some significant challenges during planning and implementation and, of course, during everyday use.
The use of robots has increased the level of flexibility in the production process with regard to a wide range of parameters. This alters what is possible in terms of speed and acceleration, for example. Lengthy downtimes when replacing wearing parts are now a thing of the past. Thanks to structurally identical robots, the devices can be replaced quickly and easily – the robots disconnect and unscrew the old devices, assemble the new ones, connect them up and it’s good to go! Now we’re up and running …
Furthermore, our employees previously set up the equipment themselves. This involved removing tools from containers and putting them on a designated platform. This work pushed the worker’s endurance to its very limits – after all, we are talking about a weight of 20 kg here. However, the new assembly line has a fully automated setup cycle which carries out the task on behalf of our colleagues on the production line. The equipment combines the latest technology with innovative special machinery and is one of a kind.
Previous equipment designs were analysed and optimised, resulting in an assembly line which focuses both on employees’ health and on efficiency. At this point, I would also like to mention the enthusiasm shown by the purchasing team. From the initial considerations in 2009 through to the final implementation in 2016, countless solutions have been devised, rejected and reworked. At no time during these years, however, were we given cause to doubt the success of the project. Ultimately, the key to success lay in the dedication of countless employees who were behind these brilliant solutions.