While Germany’s machine tool manufacturers are very cautious about growth prospects, at the same time the most recent production automation and assembly exhibition, Motek 2013 in Stuttgart Germany, showed some real innovations that can truly revolutionize the assembly and production logistics.
One innovative young German company (won an innovation award in 2012) showed a Local Positioning System application.
In all simplicity it means that “a trained” machine is watching over an assembly cell worker.
All moves of the worker are registered via ultra sonic sensors and if an assembly worker picking up the wrong part, the system will alert. Drills will not turn if at the wrong position, screwdrivers will not turn if pointing the wrong screw, etc.
Of course all torque values are also automatically registered for traceability.
This Local Positioning innovation brings substantial benefits for small and medium size logistics and production operations, because quality control and production management is sophisticated and traceability for manual work is substantially improved.
Transferring production to another plant or outsourcing by applying the local positioning system becomes much easier as well.
Robotics for SMEs is usually too costly and provides limited flexibility. I am convinced that several European SMEs, having mostly manual production processes, will very quickly adopt these kind of innovative methods.
Manual production organized efficiently and using modern tools and methods provides for SME relatively low cost means to make their production world class.
The Holy Grail for low product costs is not necessarily low cost country sourcing.
Perhaps the solution for high quality and lower cost production lies within your factory walls with relatively very simple and innovative ideas.