Preferred Suppliers Speed Integration

Serving customers in industries as varied as automotive, medical device and nuclear power, automated assembly machine builder, Wright Industries, a Doerfer Company, builds a variety of custom-designed automated assembly equipment—from complete turnkey systems to single station machines. Such machine builders must become experts on automation technologies from multiple suppliers, while als...

06/01/2007


Serving customers in industries as varied as automotive, medical device and nuclear power, automated assembly machine builder, Wright Industries, a Doerfer Company, builds a variety of custom-designed automated assembly equipment—from complete turnkey systems to single station machines. Such machine builders must become experts on automation technologies from multiple suppliers, while also staying abreast of the latest design and engineering techniques. By staying on the forefront of these two areas, they can create reliable, high-performance assembly solutions for their customers and help them deliver products to market faster.

Wright Industries specializes in custom-made equipment, delivering automated assembly systems in 5 to 24 months, depending on equipment complexity. The company wanted to accelerate its delivery schedule to help its customers shave time off their product development cycles without cutting corners in the process. That would risk its reputation as a supplier of technically advanced, high-quality systems.

The company

“When integrating complex technology, even small interruptions can have a significant impact on our [project] timeframe,” says Tim Cochran, controls engineering manager. “Mastering the nuances of product offerings requires a learning curve in any marketplace that’s technically fast-paced. When getting accustomed to different automation technologies, we spent the most time tracking down the right person at the supplying company to answer our questions. To reduce our build time, we needed comprehensive support from one supplier to help us understand [their] products.”

Inconsistent support was not the only issue. Wright Industries was also paying a premium for products because the quantities Wright purchased from each supplier at a given time often varied and did not qualify for quantity discounts.

Preferred vendor program

To reduce build time and lower product costs, the company sought to reduce its vendor base—asking for more support from fewer suppliers. The machine builder requested proposals from multiple companies, evaluated the options, and ultimately chose Rockwell Automation as its primary supplier. “We’ve used automation technology products from Rockwell Automation for the past 30 years,” said George Davy, purchasing manager at Wright Industries. “Their proposal stood out as the most creative and comprehensive way to help us tackle our challenges. It was the only supplier that offered a solution beyond just cost, encompassing the upfront commercial application and training assistance [we] needed.”

The preferred component supplier agreement for Wright Industries’ 125-person engineering department encompassed four core deliverables:

Team support. Through the vendor’s premium technical support program, Wright Industries’ engineers obtained a dedicated phone line with direct access to a designated group of technical support specialists. Each of the six support-team members has industry and application experience applicable to the technologies utilized by Wright Industries. By leveraging this experience, the company’s engineers receive fast application-level technical support and assistance. This has helped significantly reduce engineers’ learning curve and time-consuming problem-solving activities.

Embedded engineering expertise. Rockwell Automation assigned a field support engineer at Wright Industries on a part-time basis for the first nine months of the agreement. As an embedded automation specialist with broad engineering expertise, this engineer helped convert machine concepts and designs, coordinate technical demonstrations, review design concepts, and resolve technical questions quickly and efficiently.

Integrated offerings. While Wright Industries still uses automation products from many suppliers, the company recognizes Rockwell Automation as its preferred automation-technology provider. To meet the range of its customers’ needs, the company standardized on a broad range of the vendor’s products. The vendor’s Integrated Architecture platform is a multidisciplined, information-enabled, and scalable platform for small, medium and large applications that helped drive standards into the integrator’s machine-building process, shortened design time, and eased the complicated task of integrating products from multiple suppliers into individual systems.

Integrated local support team. To help the integrator’s engineers design machines to meet their customers’ functional requirements, the vendor provided an integrated local support team to facilitate focused technical-education activities. For example, to help engineers learn about available technologies and products, the team created a seminar on DeviceNet fundamentals, performed regular “lunch and learn” sessions on various technologies and applications, and used equipment demonstrations to help them gain practical experience. More challenging applications employed “proof of concept” support methods, which validated first time decisions and helped reduce design and implementation risks.

This combination of solutions and support provided Wright Industries with knowledge and resources to reduce its production schedule and maintain flexibility needed to meet its customers’ concurrent engineering demands.

Responsive partnership

With its technical support and preferred component supply agreement in place, Wright Industries can now respond to its customers’ needs more quickly and efficiently. The working relationship helps the company reduce risks associated with design and engineering, as well as significantly reduce installation and commissioning time and costs.

“Our partnership enables us to gain technical knowledge faster, which is a huge advantage in reducing build time,” said Cochran. “Because we’re able to use the latest automation technologies along with dedicated technical application support, we’ve reduced our design and engineering time by 10 to 15%.”

Wright Industries has also cut time from installation and commissioning—including testing, validation and installation—by 25 to 30% on average. The machine builder delivers its assembly systems sooner, which ultimately helps customers get their products to market faster.

“We would not have gained this speed advantage,” says Cochran, “if we hadn’t partnered with Rockwell Automation.”

The results mentioned above are specific to Wright Industries’ use of Rockwell Automation products in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for others.






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