Cyprus-based toy manufacturer seeks to cut waste in production process
ENGINO-NET LIMITED, based in Limassol, Cyprus, manufactures a range of pedagogical construction toy systems that allow children to explore their creativity while learning about science and technology. The company launched its first products in 2007, and today is one of the fastest growing companies in the industry. Recently, production was expanded into a new factory in Cyprus, introducing vertical integration from conception to manufacturing and retail. The factory produces approximately 700 units per day and ships to more than 20 worldwide destinations.
How to get what where and when it is needed
When ramping up the operations at the new factory, three areas of improvement achievable by better logistics soon became apparent.
As the transfer of materials between production areas, to the warehouse and from there to packaging required human labor, delays and errors in the process ensued. Sometimes this could lead to machine downtime while waiting for the correct replenishments. Finally, if a wrong type of material delivered to a production phase went unnoticed, it could lead to rejects.
“As we are growing fast and the number of products increases, the waste would be exponentially higher,” says Costas Sisamos, the founder and CEO of Engino.net.
To counter these problems, he enrolled Engino.net in the L4MS program. “We are expecting to get problems analysed and solutions created through the new factory simulation, and will aim to acquire adequate knowledge and information on what to avoid and what to improve where in order to achieve maximum efficiency of space, time and human resources.”
OPIL to address the burning issues
Open Platform for Innovations in Logistics (OPIL) – one of the core elements of L4MS – is an open industrial IoT platform that together with a 3D simulator aims at highly autonomous, configurable and hybrid (human-robot) logistics solutions driven by the business needs of the manufacturing company.
In Engino’s case, the idea is to use this automation to handle material picking and transfer by AGVs (Autonomous Ground Vehicles, robotized transport units) while human input is needed only at some nodes.
The operation of the system is based on predefined tasks, such as “part packaging for product A”. The system constantly follows the completion of the task, and makes all necessary task data available to the human workers throughout the process. Task-based execution also takes care that all materials needed at the different production nodes are available to both the machines and the human employees on time.
Indoor logistics a key cost and competitive factor
“For a rapidly growing small-to-medium size enterprise, examining every possible way to cut cost is a crucial component in maintaining competitiveness. It is especially so in a highly competitive industry such as toy manufacturing,” says Mr. Sisamos.
Engino’s expectation is a fully automated prototype system to be tested in their factory in order to get an actual observation of the system, and see the pros and cons of implementing it in production. So far, the work is still in progress.
“It is true that the collaboration with the project partners makes the services market easier to approach,” says Mr. Sisamos. “It is always best to have an overview of the market connected under one umbrella than to look separately and seek individual solutions.”
Mr. Sisamos also points out that participating companies should do their homework before participating in the program. “I would strongly advise them to have a market overview before entering the procedure and have a clear view of the roles, responsibilities and what to seek from the project in order to get sufficient results.”
The future is in logistics
In Mr. Sisamos’ view, logistics in the near future will be the key component in a manufacturing company’s wealth creation and production capacity. “Moving from Manufacturing 2.0 to automated systems in Manufacturing 3.0 is the first step that every self-respecting manufacturing company should take to survive the competition.”
Expected benefits from the experiment
- Improved productivity by reducing the waste associated with transport of parts and products.
- Reduce production error by automating the raw material transport.
- Improve quality control by reducing the packaging errors when final boxes are filled.
See details of the pilot on the L4MS project website.
Arsenios Ioannidis - Mechanical Engineer