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The Eaton Inoac plant in the northern Ohio town of Fremont is an automotive Class A trim supplier. The company's two paint lines use more than 250 different colors to supply components for about 35 car models. To better manage the extensive painting operations, Eaton Inoac installed a manufacturing intelligence system that has helped it boost productivity and cut costs.
The company blow molds and paints various trim pieces, including spoilers, ground-effects packages, wind deflectors, body side moldings and mudguards for nearly every major auto manufacturer with operations in the United States. With a special emphasis on spoilers, the company's 400 employees annually produce 750,000 to 850,000 of them--about 70% of the spoilers produced in North America. In late 2000, Ritchie Automation started automating one of the paint lines with electrostatic hand sprayers, reciprocators and rotary atomizers (bells). Robots were added in late 2002. At that same time, Eaton embraced a new concept in paint shop management called Paint Shop Manufacturing Intelligence (PSMI).
Ritchie Automation had already been working on a Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) solution specifically designed for the paint shop for several years, so the timing was right. Ritchie's Paint Keeper program had been implemented in some other painting facilities, so it became the final 1component added to the new automated paint line.
Data in context
The goal of Paint Keeper and other PSMI solutions is to transparently collect valuable process data from throughout the paint line and put it into the proper context. This information is then stored and used for building historical and timeline trends. These systems analyze those trends and other data, and then everything is reported in real time to the plant's management, supervisors and workers for making better decisions.
Although millions of dollars were spent over the last two decades on complex ERP systems with the hope that they would provide this type of information, that wish never fully materialized (see sidebar). ERP systems have primarily become sophisticated accounting programs and the important work-in-progress (WIP) data has been virtually ignored, especially in the paint shop. MI and PSMI systems fill that void of missing information.
When properly integrated, they allow ERP systems, as well as initiatives like …