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The production of an assembly line, for instance, is usually kept continuous. In the Andon philosophy, when an error occurs, the line is stopped and the reason for the problem is investigated. When the downtime is recorded into the information system, it is possible to systematically deal with the causes.

The Wärtsilä factories in Vaasa manufacture big diesel engines for ships and power plants. During the years 2006 – 2007, a new assembly plant was built in Vaasa to manufacture W32/34 engines. It was built on the principle of an assembly line where the engine moves forward as the assembling proceeds. Earlier, large engines were assembled in immovable production cells.

An engine that weighs tens of tons cannot be placed on an assembly line, so the arrangement is that the engine proceeds on the line with steps that can be measured in days. The morning and evening shifts install components into engine blocks and the night shift moves the parts forward to the next assembly area.

The new philosophy

The production control applies the Andon production philosophy that originates in Japan and the Toyota car factory. The principle is not to keep the production going no matter what but to systematically investigate the occurring errors.

The role of the assembler has changed from how it was earlier when the assembler tried to solve the problems inside the assembly cell. Nowadays, the assembler simply sends a report and it is someone else’s job to worry about finding the cause and a solution to the error. Problems are not swept under the carpet but instead, they are brought to the daylight and their causes are rooted out.

“In each assembly cell, there is an error button that activates further measures. The error message is sent as a text message to three units: production, logistics and quality control. Each department sends to the assembly area a representative that has been assigned to this ‘fire brigade’ ”, says development manager of production planning, Mikko Ketonen.

When the group is together, the message is signed for and the cause of the problem is determined. The reasons are various: sometimes a wrong component has found its way to the assembly area or then the component is missing altogether. The cause can also be found in the quality of the components, in which case changing the material will be considered.

Ultimately, when both the cause and the solution to prevent such an error in the future have been determined, the incident is recorded into the system. This information is collected into the database and summed up basically by applying methods familiar from Machine Track.

Wärtsilä Finland Oy ,
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