NEW HIGH TECNOLOGY! Kalle Heiska science journalist
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invisible.gif (43 bytes) VTT helps boost the efficiency of Stalatube's tube production

VTT has developed software to improve production planning at Stalatube Oy, a tube manufacturer based in Lahti, Finland. The software calculates the key figures for production lines and continuously provides production efficiency recommendations on the basis of rule-based parameters. Precise simulation of the factory's production has enabled the development of fine scheduling software, which has raised factory output and made life significantly easier for the production planner. The fine scheduling software also co-ordinates the manufacture of tube products for a customer deliveries, thereby providing faster load start-ups.

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A simulation technique developed by VTT has made life easier for Stalatube Oy's logistics assistant Sami Packalén
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Photo: PT-kuva

Stalatube's tube production is wide-ranging: there are 11 welding lines, 570 raw material items and over a thousand active products. When changing production the machinery set-up times are long: 1-6 hours. Production involves complex routings, numerous process stages in different machines, variable sizes of production series, and the fabrication of individual products.

- Over several months of using both the new and old production systems in parallel, we have almost always been able to approve the production arrangements proposed by the fine scheduling software. The software gathers constantly changing production and raw material data which the production planner used to have to handle manually. This new software processes the data and graphically displays the information in a time frame varying from one minute to several weeks. The old system's time window was just one day to one week, says Stalatube Oy's Logistics Assistant Sami Packalén.

Stalatube does not manufacture products to stock. The company's new order delivery week is still organised using the old rough scheduling system. The new fine scheduling system optimises the different production alternatives among the current orders to be filled, taking all the delivery dates into consideration. The system also organises the production so that different products of a particular delivery load are manufactured as simultaneously as possible to reduce freight costs.

- Delivery reliability is crucially important for us. This new fine scheduling technique has made our operations much more efficient. It only takes us a couple of minutes to work out how to re-optimise our entire production when a raw material delivery is late or there is a machine breakdown or some other line interruption. Similarly, in bottleneck situations we can easily simulate the effect of an additional weekend shift or perhaps subcontracting out further processing work. Another benefit is that the amount of raw material wastage arising from machinery set-up changes can also be taken into account.

The production management system developed for Stalatube Oy was part of a project funded by the the National Technology Agency (Tekes) and a number of companies. In this project VTT together with the companies involved developed a customer-driven production management system based on modern information technology. Other outcomes of the project included new methods and tools for Wärtsilä Finland Oy's Turku factory as well as the development of production logistics for Pilkington Automotive Finland Oy's Ylöjärvi factory.

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Juhani Heilala
Erkki Makkonen
Additional information:
VTT Industrial Systems
Juhani Heilala, Senior Research Scientist
Tel. +358 400 417 873
Stalatube Oy,
Sami Packalén, Logistics Assistant
Tel. +358 50 554 6564


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