Excel Monorail Systems (formerly Translift Systems), a division of Excel Automation, has recently completed an extension to a conveying and handling system, which has enabled the “Cockpit fit” station to be re-located 20 metres further along a car production line.
Cockpits for the MINI range are delivered to Plant Oxford from the Magna Intier plant at Redditch in Worcester using specialised road transport trailers equipped with on-board, chain-driven live roller conveyor systems. On arrival, the trailer is docked with the receiving conveyor system.
Originally the cockpits, each mounted on a platen 1540mm long x 890mm wide and 660mm high and weighing 100kgs including the platen, were discharged from the trailer in sequence and transported by a chain-to-chain live roller conveyor to a drop section, which raised the platen from the basement to a ground floor Cockpit fit station at the side of the production line. At the same time as the platen was delivered to the Cockpit fit station, an operator lifted the cockpit using a specially designed manipulator, directly from the platen and introduced it into the vehicle. The empty platen was returned using the elevator to an intermediate level for return to the empty trailer.
Due to process changes, the Cockpit fit station needed to be relocated approximately 20 metres further along the production line. The move required the design of a new conveying and handling system to transport the loaded platen out of the drop section to the new fitting position, relocating the manipulator (and standby manipulator), implementing a new light guard array to the new position and a means of returning the platen to the drop section for onward despatch.
The plant’s engineers decided how best to achieve the changes, wrote the specification for the new handling and conveyor system and selected four companies to quote against the specification.
Excel Automation was awarded the contract on commercial grounds and was also able to show the MINI team a similar system at its Worcester factory, which was undergoing a factory acceptance trial (FAT). Excel had also installed a handling and conveying system for sequencing the same cockpit platens at the Magna Intier Redditch plant.
Platens still enter the plant on a conveyor system in sequence via the basement and are raised up through the floor at the point where the cockpits had previously been fitted to the car. The new 20 metre conveying system now takes the platen on a two-tier conveyor to a new Cockpit fit station where it is removed from the platen and fitted to the vehicle. The empty platen is then lowered 900mm to the lower tier and returned to the same drop section that brought it up to the ground floor. From there it is transported back into a trailer for return transport.
The specification included new 25 volt rollers, which are used for the first time in the Oxford plant. A further factor in the success of the project was recognition that the software associated with introducing the new conveyor and relocating the Cockpit fit location was fully de-bugged before the new system went live. The Cockpit extension system was also assembled and FAT tested at Excel’s factory, which ensured that the installation and integration of the new system went very smoothly. Working closely with MINI engineers and its controls partner MacDonald Humphrey Automation Ltd, Excel implemented a series of off-line tests on site before the decision to break in was made.
Commenting for Excel, general manager Gary Sweeney says that, due to a great deal of planning by MINI and Excel engineers, the system worked well from start-up, looks good, operates extremely quietly and has been trouble-free to date.