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Holden’s bottleneck indicator tool wins engineering award

A Bottleneck Indicator Tool (BIT) software system for optimising manufacturing, developed by GM Holden’s Virtual Manufacturing Engineering Manager Gregory Linke, has won the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia Bronze Automotive Engineering Excellence Award.

[Pictured alongside: Gregory Linke (L) collects the Bronze SAE-A Award for his Bottleneck Indicator Tool from Society President Patrick Ross.]

The manufacturing tool builds on the known "Theory of Constraints" concept to identify bottlenecks in complex manufacturing processes.

The BIT algorithm and processing methodology is based on real time computer analysis of the work flow through the system’s work station buffer areas (where one process is completed and another begins).

The BIT requires only easily validated buffer contents data, which makes data acquisition and calibration readily achievable. The benefits of BIT are far reaching, including accuracy, ease of calibration, low deployment cost and negligible ongoing maintenance.

The BIT package identifies "hidden" bottlenecks missed by other systems and includes a tool box of reports that deliver high levels of detail in a user friendly web browser visual format.

During the initial three month deployment at Holden’s Elizabeth, South Australia Vehicle Assembly Plant, volume increased by 60 units a day. The BIT software has been identified as Best GM Practice and is being considered for global deployment.

A sample web based Bottleneck Indicator Tool report showing a Bottleneck indicator of 1 as red and 0 as blue, which highlights the Trim 1 and Trim 2 work zones as hot spots over time.

A sample web based Bottleneck Indicator Tool report showing a Bottleneck indicator of 1 as red and 0 as blue, which highlights the Trim 1 and Trim 2 work zones as hot spots over time.

Innovations to reduce engine emissions and fuel consumption, and talented young engineers were among the other winners of the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia (SAE-A) Automotive Engineering Excellence Awards presented in Melbourne last month as part of Australian Automotive Week.

The other 2011 SAE-A Awards included:
o Gold: Frank Will, Deakin University senior lecturer, for creating the environmentally friendly OVER7 – Engine Waste Heat Recovery system.
o Silver: SMR Automotive Australia with the University of South Australia, for a lightweight integrated plastic rear vision mirror.
o Certificate of Commendation: Vaughan Bolwell, MDesign, for the Bolwell Edge Caravan.
o Young Engineer: Stephanie Radion, Sr Engineer, Seating, GM Holden.
o Young Engineer Runner-up: Christopher Ebejer, Team Leader Reliability Testing, Automotive & Body Electronics, Robert Bosch Australia.

The number and quality of entries increased this year as the shadow of the GFC has passed over local vehicle engineering and new projects are again moving forward. In addition to entries received from component suppliers and vehicle manufacturers, welcome entries were also received from the recreational and safety equipment sectors.

Overview of the OVER7™ - Engine Waste Heat Recovery System.

Overview of the OVER7 – Engine Waste Heat Recovery System which won the Gold Award.

SAE-A Judging Panel Chair Bill Malkoutzis said the innovation and passion that was evident in the 2011 Awards entries was reassuring.

"We know the face of the vehicle industry is changing with local manufacturing shrinking and imports increasing to over 80% of Australia’s one million vehicle sales a year. Even imports of components have now increased to 44% of all parts used in Australian made vehicles," said Bill Malkoutzis.

"Growth in demand for more environmentally friendly vehicles presents opportunities and challenges for Australian automotive engineers. The correlation between the consumers’ demands and the engineering projects entered in the Awards this year was clear to see.

"Equally important, we welcomed entries based on projects designed to increase the flexibility and productivity of Australian manufacturing processes. This reflects Australian engineers’ ability to adapt to the increasingly competitive global vehicle manufacturing landscape.

"Australians should be proud to be one of the few nations capable of building new vehicles from concept right through component manufacturing to vehicle production. Through these Awards, the SAE-A recognises the skill and experience of our component and vehicle manufacturing industry, which contributes about $7 billion a year to the economy and employs more than 50,000 people," he said.

An independent panel of judges from the automotive industry and engineering academia judged the entries. The 2011 Judging Panel included Chair Bill Malkoutzis, an engineering consultant; retired Ford Motor Company international executive engineer David Ford; DVExperts Director Dr Shane Richardson; RMIT University Prof Simon Watkins; and Melbourne University Prof Harry Watson.

SAE-A Automotive Engineering Excellence Awards entries are invited from all organisations and individuals, who directly or indirectly provide products, processes or services to the vehicle and related industries.

Industry guest speaker at the Awards dinner, Richard Marshall, Director of Energy, Environment and Technology at GM Holden, emphasised the need to ensure that Australian automotive manufacturing continues to gain the support of governments, particularly in terms of maintaining a level playing field compared to other nations.

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