Case Study Verification Systems for Accuracy

Case Study Verification Systems for Accuracy
Case Study
Verification Systems for Accuracy
When you are packing
500 compressors an hour,
you don't have much time
to check to ensure the
accuracy of your shipment.
Customers expect
perfection and are none
too forgiving when errors
occur, often leveling fines
against suppliers to drive
the point home.
Naturally, suppliers work hard to
avoid such unpleasantness. Copeland
Corporation in Sidney, Ohio, a
subsidiary of St. Louis-based Emerson,
sought to maintain its packing speed
while satisfying its customers, just
as it has done for 80 years. Part of
the Emerson Climate Technologies
business group, Copeland is the world's
leading manufacture of compressors
for residential and commercial
air conditioning and commercial
refrigeration systems around the world.
The company makes its products in
11 countries, producing more than 10
million compressors annually.
After careful consideration, Copeland
installed a cost-effective packing
verification system provided by The
SMS Group featuring printers from
SATO America and wireless hand-held
terminals from Intermec. The result:
end-of-line packing errors have been
reduced to zero.
Compressor Maker Packs Fast With
Confidence | Copeland Corp. uses verification
system to ensure accuracy
Lookalikes and Model Numbers Can
Many of Copeland's compressors look
exactly the same and are packaged up
to 40 on a skid. While the identical look
is helpful in the manufacturing process,
in packing it can be problematic.
Compounding the possibility of
misidentification is the 17-digit model
number, which can be misread by
The company's commitment to
accuracy is strong, says George
Dade, senior IT business analyst for
Copeland Information Systems. "We
use the Japanese term 'Poka,' meaning
inadvertent mistake, and 'Yoke,'
meaning prevent, to describe the
philosophy of mistake proofing that we
utilize throughout our processes."
In the late nineties, Copeland felt it was
important to reapply Poka Yoke to its
packing department, and focused on
its Hartselle, Alabama plant, its highestvolume facility.
Copeland wanted to find a technologybased solution that could quickly and
easily check the packed orders to make
sure they were 100 percent correct. The
company formed a project team made
up of Keith Estes, Hartselle's quality
engineer; Dade and Randy Condon,
both from Copeland Information
Systems' MIS group; and Dave Slagle,
Rob Bye and Jeff Gottschalk from The
SMS Group, a systems integrator and
long-time partner of Copeland also
based in Sidney.
The team looked at the processes in
question to make some critical choices.
Copeland Corp. Uses Verification System to Ensure Accuracy
Of chief importance was to verify what was packed without slowing
down the workers. "Our packing team only has a few seconds to
select a compressor from the end of the conveyor, hoist it into the
skid it belongs in, install the cardboard packaging items, apply
shipping labels, move it to the shrink wrap machine, and then to the
shipping department. The pace is fast, the compressors are heavy,
and everyone knows that nothing can stop the line," says Dade.
The project they outlined had two phases. One converted
Copeland's batch label printing system to an on-demand system
to create "nameplate" labels for each compressor as it is picked.
The other implemented the pack verification system using bar code
scanning, label printing and software developed by The SMS Group.
By printing nameplate labels only as needed, workers could pack
skids more efficiently and not, for example, have two skids for the
same model open at the same time.
When a compressor reaches the packing area, its work-in-process
tracking label is scanned with a fixed-head scanner, which also
queries the company's Scheduling/SQL Database to determine
which customer gets the compressor. A nameplate label is created
using SATO M84Pro thermal printers. The nameplate is placed on
the compressor, and the operator scans that nameplate using an
Intermec 2415 wireless hand-held unit to verify the unit is being
packed in the right skid.
Phase two allows the packers to do their jobs with confidence,
knowing every compressor they add to a skid is the right one. The
SMS Group designed the Pack Verify System using its SMS CORE
2000 development system to connect its printers and hand-held
scanners to Copeland's database using the 802.11b protocol and
Intermec and Cisco equipment. The development system allows
connection of a variety of devices from various manufacturers in
endless combinations. For example, while upgrading to Intermec
2415s, Copeland continues to use its PSC/Percon Falcon hand-held
units with no problems.
This part of the application begins with the Pack Line coordinator
determining how many skids are needed to fill an order. The
coordinator uses a SATO printer to create a skid license plate label
from the company's VisualBasic program. The 4 by 4-inch label
contains pertinent order information and a unique 13-character
license serial number encoded in a Code 39 bar code. The label is
placed on a board given to the packing team.
Team members place the board at the empty skid location and the
packing begins. Operators move the first layer of 20 compressors
onto the skid and then use the hand-held units to scan the license
plate label on the board and each compressor's serial number. The
information is compared to the company database to determine that
1) the serial number is valid, 2) the number has not been assigned to
another skid and 3) the compressor is being packed on the correct
skid. If something doesn't match, the hand-held scanner alerts the
operator by switching to an error mode which does not allow any
more scanning until the error is corrected.
If everything is in order, operators add a second layer using the same
procedure. When finished, operators see a confirmation message on
the screen.
The fully packed skid is shrink wrapped, and a "box" label is applied
over the wrap. At this point, a final verification is made of all contents
on the skid. Operators scan the license plate, model, customer
order, sequence, and customer part number information from the
skid and compressor labels. If all scanned information matches with
the database, then that skid is released to shipping. However, if
something is amiss, the system once again alerts the operator that
there is a problem.
Verification Process Improves Warranty Tracking
A useful by-product of this system is that Copeland now has a
"birth certificate" for every compressor produced, which includes
information such as the time and date each compressor was
assembled and serial number generated, all work-in-process (WIP)
steps taken, system testing, the skid on which it was packaged, and
the customer to which it was shipped. That information is uploaded
to Copeland's warranty tracking system, providing a complete
picture of each compressor, which is very helpful should a warranty
claim arise.
Also, since implementing the system at the Hartselle plant in 1998,
the company, while still vigilant, is not nearly as concerned about
penalties for errant shipments. An early gap in the system involving
stored product in its warehouse was closed, giving Copeland an
error-proof process -- the Poka Yoke philosophy at full application.
It's also easy to train workers and maintain consistency.
As with most implementations, the toughest day was the first one.
Operators were used to searching for compressors with preprinted
labels in hand. "Print and apply was a new concept and hard for
them to accept," says Dade. "At one point, the operator was running
down the conveyor line chasing compressors with nameplate labels
stuck up and down both arms! It reminded me of the 'Candy Factory'
episode of 'I Love Lucy," he laughs. But operators quickly caught on
to how much the new system would help them and have been fans
ever since.
System satisfaction has even traveled up the corporate ladder.
Though the company originally intended to use the system only
Copeland Corp. Uses Verification System to Ensure Accuracy
"The M84Pro line is a good little printer — metal case, workhorse,
prints well, good speed," says Dave Slagle, account executive for
The SMS Group. "We have a lot of them on manufacturing floors,
and they run and run and run."
In fact, Dade adds, "All of our equipment seems to have survived
well. It takes a beating and keeps on ticking!"
Copeland's great relationship with SMS keeps ticking right along
as well. "They have been in our plants, and have helped us with a
lot of projects over the years," states Dade. "They understand our
business, the fast-paced environment of our plants, and know how to
help us solve our problems. They also continue to help us refine the
system with enhancements that we need as new, special situations
come up, and as new problems develop."
at Hartselle, its highest-volume plant, it was so pleased with the
results that it implemented the verification system at nearly all of
its facilities. The solution is currently being deployed at its plant in
Rushville, Indiana.
To say the workers love it would be an understatement. "The plants
would never let you take the system away from them," says Dade.
"They use that Clint Eastwood line about prying it from their 'cold,
dead hands.' Who can blame them? It has cut their return rate to
Enhancements are ongoing, as Copeland and The SMS Group
continue to evaluate and tweak the system. For example, the system
can now be used to pack single compressors and also verify the
"remote kits" that must be packed with the compressors. And now
that the last plant in this division is going live with Pack Verify, could
it be time to look at other divisions and determine how they might
take this experience and replicate it worldwide? "Perhaps," says
Dade. "That might be a good idea."
Till then, the Poka Yoke philosophy hovers over Lucy, Ethel and the
rest of the workers keeping a calm hand on the frenetic productivity
at Copeland.
Good Printer, Good Vendor
Part and parcel of that satisfaction is the rugged, reliable SATO
printer. "The SATO printers are as dependable, easy to use and
rugged as you can ask for," says Dade. "You are supposed to be
able to print a half-million inches before needing to replace the print
head. We exceed that by a factor of 10 before we have to replace it."
As many as 10 SATO M84Pro printers are used specifically for the
verification system at each plant, and many plants use SATO printers
for other applications as well.
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