Editor's Choice

Case study: material handling system

26 July 2023 Editor's Choice Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Gables Engineering has a deep history in aviation avionics. Being an industry leader in avionics controls, with customers including Boeing and Airbus, the company’s custom control panels can be found on virtually every major commercial aircraft model produced in the last 70 years.

To promise customers short design-to-production cycles with an expansive product mix, material handling was a constant challenge. “When we started SMT manufacturing at this site,” says Clarence Nichols, SMT supervisor at Gables Engineering, “we placed our parts on shelves and in drawers. It was difficult to locate parts.”

In addition to requiring a four-person kitting staff, the manual storage system gave little insight into the location, stock levels or traceability of parts. Manual documentation was time-consuming, and with such a large stock of parts, discrepancies in inventory counts were inevitable. Only an annual inventory audit revealed eventual overstock and waste.

As part of a continuous effort to define future developments in the industry, the engineers at Gables regularly visited the major SMT trade shows in search of evolving technologies. It was here that a promising alternative for the material handling issues was identified. “One year we visited APEX and were introduced to Mycronic’s SMD Tower,” says Nichols. The assembly team decided to give the system a try. Those towers turned out to be a lifesaver when it came to inventory.

As soon as the team began labelling reels, programming jobs, and assembling kits, the benefits became obvious. “Time spent locating parts and gathering kits dropped sharply, and so we began installing more of them”, explains Nichols. “Today we have seven towers and are considering upgrading a few of them.”

Nichols continued, “The system’s software features have enabled an unprecedented level of stock accuracy. The combination of the tower and the MYCenter software gives us real-time tracking of our inventory and the location of all our parts. So instead of doing annual inventory audits like before, we can just go into the system, print out the total number of parts left, and make adjustments.”

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