Filling the Gap

To keep up with production demands, project managers at John Deere Davenport Works (Davenport, Ia.) were seeking new methods to shorten production time while improving product quality. Deere's Davenport plant manufactures construction equipment in a five-step process beginning with cutting steel, then robotically welding, machining, painting, and assembling it.

12/15/1999


To keep up with production demands, project managers at John Deere Davenport Works (Davenport, Ia.) were seeking new methods to shorten production time while improving product quality. Deere's Davenport plant manufactures construction equipment in a five-step process beginning with cutting steel, then robotically welding, machining, painting, and assembling it. A main conveyor line, which is divided into 150 zones, routes parts throughout the plant.

Changes in routing parts to the main conveyor line were common, but had become difficult because of the outdated, inflexible control platform being used for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) functions. A VAX computer ran custom-developed software for the SCADA functions.

Deere chose PCT Engineered Systems LLC (Davenport, Ia.) as the system integrator on the project. First, PCT's Information Technology (IT) Team conducted a pre-engineering study, comparing different software products that could be used for the replacement. After careful examination, Intellution Dynamics was chosen because of features such as VBA and Object Orientation, which allow for flexibility during implementation.

PCT's IT team used other top-of-the line technologies for different components of the project. They used CORBA for inventory transfer; Java classes for TCP communication; OLE DB for data access; and OPC for plant-floor data collection. PCT also developed a web-based search for parts in the system that allowed for just-in-time information.

Before PCT's upgrades, adding or modifying a part in the parts database took up to 24 hours. Now updates are immediate. Supervisors can easily add or modify parts using the Parts Detail Screen, and within seconds the change is available on the plant floor.

"In addition to simplifying and accelerating process flow changes, the system implemented by PCT Engineered Systems will yield other important business benefits, such as improved inventory control," says Bernie Morales, Deere's electrical engineer responsible for the system upgrade. "We'll be able to assure our assembly line that they will have a painted part at a specific time," he says.

Mr. Morales adds that PCT's changes will play an important role in a new system being instituted by Deere that will build only equipment ordered by dealers.

"Now that we are able track our production and exchange data with an Oracle production database, we have better control of our production schedules, and will be able to give our dealers exact delivery dates for orders."

The new system is also expected to improve Deere's ability to track productivity of its plant workers, who receive incentive pay based on the number of pieces painted. "The new system will allow operators to view in 'real-time' what they've earned."

Overall, the project has been a success. "We are confident that we now have readily available support from PCT, and an upgrade path to meet our future needs," adds Mr. Morales.

Comments? Send e-mail to: mdrakulich@cahners.com

For more information on PCT, visit www.controleng.com/freeinfo .





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