Within the Cheraw facility, four operators feed 24/7 manufacturing lines to build a variable cam timer (VCT) component that improves performance and reduces emissions in internal combustion engines. The work is repetitive and boring, making it hard to staff. In addition, because these lines are far from other equipment, workers can’t easily be utilized in other areas, and if they leave the line for breaks or other reasons, production halts.
Schaeffler’s special machinery group, called Sondermaschinenbau (SMB), develops and builds special equipment to extend automation within Schaeffler facilities, as well as for outside customers. The production line asked SMB for a solution that would improve employee utilization, efficiency, and costs.
Automating the machine loading on the line proved challenging, however. The component is produced by an outside supplier and delivered in bulk, and the complex geometries of the component must be accurately oriented onto a conveyor for the next process. Having the parts delivered in oriented trays for traditional automated machine tending would have added too much cost.