Magna: Transfer of production planning experience from the Czech plant to Germany

Petra Troblová Aimtec
30. 11. 2016 | 6 minutes reading

Magna is a leader in the automotive industry for the production and supply of components. Every year it places in the higher ranks of the top 100 global automotive industry suppliers. In 2015 it was ranked third by Automotive News magazine. Magna is known worldwide. We talked to Angella Kozak Benedek about introducing an advanced production planning system (APS) to the German Magna plant in Sulzbach. The Decoma company selected the Japanese solution called Asprova not only because it plans production effectively in the Czech locations of Liberec and Nymburk.

Can you describe the Decoma company? What is your core production, who are your customers, and which are the most important production processes?

The Decoma GmbH company, registered office in Sulzbach, is a part of the global Magna organisation, a globally recognised manufacturer and supplier of components and systems for the automotive industry. The Magna plants are located in more than 25 countries all over the world. The total number of employees exceeds 139 thousand. The turnover in 2015 was 32.1 billion dollars. The majority of customers are leading car manufacturers such as; General Motors, Ford, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler, BMW, VW, and others. Decoma is focused on technological processes for plastics processing, such as injection moulding, pressing, painting exterior and interior parts, and assembly. 70% of products are delivered to the customers in JIS – Just in Sequence mode.

You made a decision to use the APS Asprova system for injection press planning. What were the reasons for selecting this particular solution and the Aimtec company as the supplier?

We wanted a good planning tool, to meet specific requirements in our production. We searched for a supplier and considered various available solutions in the present market of APS systems. We found inspiration in the Japanese system for advanced production planning called Asprova, which was successfully implemented by Aimtec in our sister company in the Czech Republic. We used their experience and know-how from the Liberec plant. The advantage of the Asprova system is that it can be integrated with all internally used systems and this makes it  a desirable option for niche production processes.

Are you anticipating the expansion of the Asprova system to other production processes, such as painting?

We evaluated the Asprova solution within the whole organisation as the best tool for the optimisation of the plastics injection process. For now, the follow-up planning for the painting shop is done in a different system, which is currently satisfactory, and we will not change it. However, we are considering the expansion of the application for planning assembly lines, process-based sequencing and JIT deliveries, aiming at among other things to minimise inventory.

What are the expected benefits of planning with Asprova?

I believe, the implementation of Asprova in our company will cause many changes for the better, and we will be able to respond flexibly to our customers´ ever changing needs. At present, production planning is based around a scheduler, who alone knows in detail the production process and all the know-how associated with it.  In the case of a scheduler’s illness or absence, there is a risk that nobody else would be able to plan production which may cause consequential process breakdown and the lack of appropriate parts to be ready on time.  Our initial idea was to have a tool that would be able to replace the existing work of schedulers and transfer their knowledge into an algorithm and program process.

We are now planning production once a day, at 6-8 hour intervals. By implementing Asprova we want to ensure the possibility of the quick replanning of production capacity, for reasons  such as unplanned shutdowns or maintenance, thus ensuring a realistic overview of the status of orders within minutes.

Are you satisfied with the progress of the project so far?

I can say, the existing progress of the Asprova implementation has surprised us positively and has met our requirements step by step. We fanned fears of a scheduler who was sceptical about the system. He did not believe in the possibility of transferring the real state of production to the program interface, and in creating various example situations, which might happen in production. However, we are aware we need to improve the quality of the internal data and its input into the system. We would like to gain a higher benefit from the implementation of the new planning system. I believe, we can manage this within two or three weeks, and we will be able to go forward with a higher level of planning.

What was the biggest challenge for you and your team during the project?

We meant to implement Asprova for the purpose of planning more than a year ago, and connect it to the internal AS400 system. Finally, company management decided to implement solutions within SAP ERP.  From my point of view, this was not a very good decision, since Asprova had already been implemented in two other plants in Europe. The outputs of the two systems – SAP and Asprova were very different. IT strategy within the group was fragmented and inconsistent. Therefore, we returned to the original idea to implement Asprova in Sulzbach, and unify the system with other manufacturing plants.

What is the opinion in your company regarding production digitization, i.e. bringing the Industry 4.0 principles to life? Are you planning any specific steps in this direction?

Production digitisation is a big trend worldwide. We are looking into it at the Decoma company, as well as in the whole Magna organisation. Rather than a revolution, we are talking about evolutionary steps because the approaches, principles and technologies used not only in production and logistics are constantly evolving.  However, for the operation of machines and handling devices, we continue using human resources. At the same time, we have automatically guided vehicles (AGV), moving autonomously without any operator intervention. Digitisation is also about the collection of large amounts of data. For these purposes we have the MES system. It provides us with the necessary data as to which machine is working or on the contrary shutdown, how many pieces are produced and determines the quantity of correct and defective parts.  We know the layout of machines in production, material flow, semi-finished and finished products. Our systems are connected to the systems of our OEM customers. We keep a small, human-operated train in assembly. Projects in this area will not be finished in three or even in five years. It is a long-term process.

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