When CME Limited were presented with the challenge of designing, developing and delivering a complex multi-station production solution for an international customer within just 17 weeks of first contact, the company took the opportunity to once again demonstrate how its robust yet agile new product introduction methodologies work to achieve customers’ technical, commercial and timeline expectations.
Innovative Approach for Bespoke Automation Solutions
Bespoke automation solutions require careful and detailed consideration at all stages of the project if a reliable and efficient production system is to be delivered on time. In many instances, the time from order placement to delivery and commissioning of this type of production technology would be a minimum of 26 weeks, therefore achieving a much-reduced timescale of 17 weeks for this complex system would require both an innovative and agile approach.
With 20% of the company’s workforce dedicated to R&D and design, CME had the resource available to initiate the concept and design processes immediately, drawing upon the diverse mix of design expertise available within the team, utilising the latest Vault & Autodesk Inventor CAD technology. This complex machine would be required to achieve micron flatness and height tolerances in certain areas, whilst achieving dispensing weigh control to a tolerance of -0 + 0.1g on a variety of up to 60 different product permutations, each with their own unique characteristics. Challenging indeed, and best addressed by open minded innovative thinking on the part of the design team.
With an in-house component machining resource, CME were able to prioritise manufacture of specific components requiring testing and also further reduce manufacturing timescales by running overtime and extra shifts. In addition, successful relationships with high quality offshore supply chain partners provided valuable additional machining capacity.
First-of-its-kind System for High-Speed Product Dispensing and Sealing
This sophisticated automation solution accepts delicate thin “sleeves” from an input magazine system before indexing them through various stations at the rate of 60 per minute, where product is dispensed to weight, compressed to a specified density, height checked and sealed. Paul Knight explains: “This system is the first of its kind in OEM production and required careful consideration of the nuances associated with the previous manual production processes to guarantee reliable and efficient operation. For example, there are multiple grades of product, which differ in consistency and contain varying levels of moisture therefore the coatings used on the product feeding surfaces are designed to maintain the required feed rate across all product grades. Another example is the sealing process, which uses multiple servo- motors to consistently replicate the dexterity of the previous manual operation. The machine is also designed ergonomically, and the man-machine interface is highly intuitive, for ease of operation by production operatives ”
Successful Delivery of Unique Machine Within 17-Week Timescale
The result of the efforts of the whole CME team resulted in the machine being complete and delivered within the required 17-week timescale. Paul Knight concludes: “We are proud of our achievements on this project and once again we have been able to demonstrate how efficient our methodologies and processes have become. Although this machine is the first of its kind, we are confidant that, based upon its success, it will be the beginning of a standard range of products for CME looking forward.”