"When supplying to the automotive industry, only the best survive. It is highly competitive. You either succeed in squeezing the last drop of productivity from your equipment, or you are thrown out of the league," says Rudolf Neidert, managing director of Kendrion Binder Magnete GmbH Fahrzeugtechnik (Villingen, Germany). The company produces electromagnetic actuators—solenoids—for the automotive industry.

These solenoids are in high demand. They are virtually maintenance-free, can react within milliseconds, can be operated in hot oil at 130 C and in arctic conditions, and hold their characteristic curve for their entire service life. "Nevertheless, the crucial argument is cost," says Neidert. "For the car manufacturer, product excellence is not a bonus. Instead, it is viewed merely as the admission prerequisite for further negotiations focusing on rock-bottom costs."

The increasing volume and variety of solenoids required by its automotive customers presented Kendrion Binder with a formidable production challenge. "We needed an assembly line enabling us to fulfill the high—and at the same time very diversified—demands of our customers," says Walter Ebner, master craftsman.

"The solution is our new line for assembling several types of electromagnetic valves," explains Edgar Tausendfreund, who heads the capital equipment acquisition project team at Kendrion Binder. The line is made up with modular Teamos base units from Teamtechnik GmbH (Freiberg, Germany). It includes base units for both manual and automated processing, and the two types can be combined in any sequence to form a production line.

Base units for automated processing can host four 400-millimeter processing modules. A transfer belt system moves workpiece platforms from station to station. Exchanging a complete base module, manual or automated, can be performed within minutes using a manual forklift. Self-centering conical locating pins ensure correct alignment, and standardized multipurpose connectors provide energy, data and pressurized air.

"We assemble 12 different types of solenoids for magnetic valves on this line and only two components are identical for all of them," says Tausendfreund. The line is about 17 meters long with six base units for automatic processing. It houses two to four individual process modules each, and four manual assembly units. The system produces 1 million units per year. In addition, some of the automated process modules, such as the one where an axle is pressed into a piston, retool themselves automatically.

Production cycle time varies between 9 and 12 seconds, and changeover from assembling one type of solenoid to another takes 5 to 20 minutes. The central control system automatically adjusts production and quality testing criteria for all stations. "This has led to an enormous improvement in product quality. Our internal reject rate is only 30 ppm," says Tausendfreund.

The assembly line was installed in stages. "When we bought the system, in a first stage, we opted for a version that was designed to produce 500,000 items per year," recalls Neidert. This first version consisted of only three automated base units, along with two manual assembly stations. The production cycle was 20 seconds, because there were more manual operations than on the current line. On the other hand, the flexibility allowed initial production requirements to be met with a modest capital investment.

A year later, when increasing demand called for increased capacity, the existing modules were integrated with the new, enlarged production line. Despite the new line’s increased complexity, the complete setup and reconfiguration was completed within 3 working days. The run-in phase to achieve peak productivity was 6 weeks. In the near future, the line will be equipped to accommodate other product variants.

For more information on modular assembly systems, call 877-233-5198 or visit www.teamtechnik.net.