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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 75 / 32
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Leaner Appliance Manufacturing

Ethernet-based networking using Profinet simplified installation of new machinery, and changed the production processes at GE's home laundry plant by emphasizing lean manufacturing principles.

GEs Robert Frank said networking dramatically reduced the wiring required for upgrades.

Profinet provided the backbone for a new lean manufacturing system that is producing General Electric's latest home laundry appliance, a high-efficiency (HE) top-loading washer. By reducing the time and cost to install new production lines at Appliance Park in Louisville, KY (USA), the Profinet network helped GE bring its innovative washer to market in time for the 2012 holiday buying season.

Shortening cycle time

"We needed to shorten the cycle time for building and installing new manufacturing equipment," said Robert Frank, senior advanced manufacturing engineer, explaining why Profinet was chosen for the new HE washer production lines. "The machine that fabricates the washer apron (the front and sides of the new top load washer) has approximately 500 input/output points," said Frank. "With traditional wiring practices, 1,500 individual wires would have had to be cut, stripped, numbered and terminated. We also would have had to disconnect and reconnect 500 of those wires when the equipment was shipped from the machine builder to our facility. All of that wiring was replaced with 15 Profinet and 15 DC power cables."

Profinet also made it simple to connect valves from the compressed air system used in washer assembly. The valves needed to be located near the devices they are powering--bringing compressed air to a cylinder, for example. Using the network eliminated the wiring and conduit needed for traditional hard-wired valves. The valve packs also have the capability for inputs, so the sensors used to verify that the cylinder has moved can be plugged into the valve pack, which eliminated the wiring for those devices as well.

Lean transforms manufacturing

The transformation at the Home Laundry facility is part of a $1 billion investment GE is making, most of it at Appliance Park, to revitalize its global appliance manufacturing operations. By introducing lean manufacturing principles and technologies such as Profinet to reduce costs and improve competitiveness, GE expects to launch 11 revitalized product lines over the next few years, and in the process create more than 1,400 new jobs in the U.S. "Lean has changed production processes through simplification," said Frank. "Instead of bigger and more complex, the process has taken the facility back to basics. De-complication is one of the biggest gains through lean production."

Application article by PI International.

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 75 / 32
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