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Volvo’s Gent plant in Belgium relies upon Lanner’s WITNESS simulation solution to continually optimise efficiency and productivity in the plant, and maintain its reputation for quality. 

In particular WITNESS helps Volvo to:

  • Identify the optimum approach for new or revised car manufacture for models including the V50, C30, S60 and the new XC60
  • De-risk decisions
  • Maintain control of costs 
  • Prove scenarios in a virtual environment before investment is committed 
  • Identify and remove blockages and bottlenecks in the production process

Background

With a turnover of €4 billion, Volvo’s plant in Gent, Belgium, produces over 200,000 cars each year including the Volvo S40, V50, C30, S60 and the new XC60, and employs 4,500 people. The plant is one of two main Volvo assembly plants and exports 97% of its production to the US, the European countries and Japan.

As automotive manufacturing faces eroded margins, escalating consumer expectations, competition from low-cost countries as well as the ongoing legislative landscape, Volvo’s Gent plant has to operate at optimum levels of efficiency while maintaining high quality standards at all times.

In fact, the plant was the first non-Japanese company to be honoured by the Japan Institute for Plant Maintenance for its focus on quality and efficiency winning in its lifespan the Excellence Award, the Special Award and the Award for World Class Achievement.

In order to maintain, and continuously improve upon its credentials for efficiency and quality in manufacturing, Volvo relies upon simulation technology. Simulation supports major business decisions through mapping out scenarios in a virtual environment. In taking this approach, Volvo’s Gent plant can build business cases and de-risk decisions prior to investment being committed.

Results

For the last 10 years, Volvo Cars Gent has used WITNESS software from business process improvement specialist Lanner Group. WITNESS is a key tool in enabling Volvo’s Gent plant to respond quickly and accurately to the business when requests are submitted to the plant. These often relate to capacity for a new model; changes in production; new legislation; future capacity; ascertaining the root cause of bottlenecks and maximising productivity (and overall profitability) of the plant.

Through accessing a comprehensive picture of production across the entire plant, inefficiencies and areas of capacity can quickly be identified and addressed to the benefit of the plant.

Tom Madou, Flow Simulation Engineer, Volvo Cars Gent, comments:

“Simulation helps us to avoid blockages and bottlenecks, mitigate against risk and avoid escalating costs. It is critical to have a means of testing decisions in a virtual environment before committing investment and WITNESS really is an invaluable tool for our business.”
“Simulation is the first port of call when we have to make any decision about the plant. Whether it is production of a new car, identifying capacity for unexpected demand or ascertaining the efficiency of a particular area such as welding, painting or final assembly, WITNESS plays an important role.”

Driving the plant forward

Volvo Gent has just adopted WITNESS 2008 and is already benefiting from advanced functionality. In particular, spreadsheet style grid editing and dashboard style views mean that Volvo can see all information & results relating to a given project. In addition, sub-modules can easily be drilled down into at the touch of a button. A comprehensive de-bugging functionality also helps to identify mistakes quickly, enhancing the productivity of the solution.

“Our wish list for improvements to the solution is always taken into account and many of my suggestions have been included in the new version of WITNESS 2008. It is so important that we can work collaboratively with the Lanner development team to ensure the solution continues to meet our needs now and in the future.”

Tom concludes:

“With only one full-time simulation expert it is imperative that our simulation solution is deeply functional, flexible, responsive, and can be deployed for multiple projects at any one time.

“We continuously review the market to ensure that we are using a best-in-class simulation solution and continuously conclude that WITNESS is a solution which meets our needs.”

“Innovation is essential in the car industry and it is integral that we work with the innovative tools to optimise production and maintain a reputation for quality and efficiency, as well as improving margins.


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