Located near Montreal, Canada, the manufacturing team was routinely building many hundreds of complete bus frames per year. Production grew as new models were introduced. The addition of a new gas-electric hybrid design necessitated a re-examination of the quality inspection process, to determine strategies for increasing productivity and improving data management and analysis. BuildIT was called in to perform a complete process audit and work with Novabus to implement strategies for cost-effective productivity enhancements.
Evaluating the Inspection Process
Current frame inspection required two inspectors and took up to five hours per bus. A portable coordinate measurement device combined with manual techniques measured the bus in multiple sections. The time consuming process required significant paper-based recording and analysis, as well as careful verification to ensure the accuracy of information. “Our goal was to make inspection a three hour procedure to be performed by one inspector. We also wanted produce digital records of all inspection information,” stated Alain Conraud, Section Head, Technical Services at Novabus. Additionally, Nova Bus wanted to reformat the inspection reports to make it easier for shop staff to interpret, and make the information accessible to support the final assembly process.
Working closely with Nova Bus, BuildIT created a plan that included portable CMM hardware and new measurement software for a paperless inspection process. In the first step towards implementing the plan, BuildIT worked with Nova Bus to identify and acquire the most effective CMM technology to support the new process. A new laser tracker would complement their existing portable arm, and enable them to transition to an entirely digital measurement process.
Next, they needed measurement software to support the measurement devices and to produce the much anticipated digital reports. The software requirements had been clearly identified: it must be easy to learn, interface with multiple measurement devices, feature customizable reports and be programmable for inspection automation. “Ongoing feature development and personalized customer service was very important to us,” stated Conraud. “We needed to be sure that we would get continued support after our initial investment. We chose BuildIT because the technology stood out among its peers and because we were confident they would deliver.”
BuildIT is 3D software for integrated coordinate measurement, tool-building and quality process automation. It is easy to use for the casual user, yet provides the depth and traceability required by metrology experts. Nova Bus modeled their workflow on BuildIT and quickly benefited from their investment.
Reducing Inspection Time by 80%
Within a few months of implementation, Nova Bus realized an 80% time savings. Engineers at BuildIT created automation routines that guide the inspector through one-button measurement. Inspectors follow a sequential multi-station process that ensures consistent and repeatable measurement. What used to take ten man-hours to complete could now be accomplished in two hours – a full hour less than Nova Bus’ original goal.
BuildIT’s unified software interface simplifies the process of working with multiple devices. The same one-button measurement process collects data from both the arm and the laser tracker and all measurement data is easily merged into the design coordinate system. BuildIT facilitated measurement and understanding of intricate geometries like door frames that were previously measured by hand. For the first time, Nova Bus is able to analyze dimensional data across the entire vehicle without having to manually manipulate the data.
Nova Bus benefits from powerful reporting capabilities of BuildIT. Hundreds of key features are inspected against tolerance and exceptions are highlighted in color-coded 3D CAD reports.
A complete digitized inspection process and customized reports make inspection results immediately understandable.
In addition to the immediate benefits of reducing inspection time, BuildIT helped Nova Bus identify opportunities for further process optimization. Consistent vehicle-wide coordinate data makes it possible to identify specific features as being more or less critical and inspection frequency adjusted accordingly. Likewise, overall process simplicity and ease-of-use makes it possible for Nova Bus to quickly train operators with little or no previous metrology experience and maintain the same level of quality control.
“We selected BuildIT to improve our production process, and they exceeded our expectations,” said Alain Conraud. “BuildIT worked alongside us in a very collaborative way to fully understand our process. Through them, we redefined our measurement process and dimensional quality control, they helped us identify manufacturing issues and solve them quickly, and they helped reduce inspection time by 80%.”