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Production Line

Logistics refers to items’ movement, storage, and services and is usually called supply chain services. Factory logistics refers to the logistics management in the factory area or supply chain management and services. From factory warehouse management to distribution to workshop, from workshop to every machine, and workshop to warehousing, all belong to the management category of factory logistics.

If we say that human beings have moved from gathering power (animals, wind, waterpower) to producing power (steam engines, electricity), inventing machines that can work with power, and freeing human hands. Then the emergence of the production line, automatically conveying the workpiece, is to liberate people’s feet, no longer need to run around, you can work on the spot, which greatly improves productivity.

A production line is a series of orderly operations established in a factory using machines and equipment to assemble finished products or refining raw materials to produce final products suitable for continued use. Usually, raw materials refer to metal, wood, food materials, cotton, etc., which must go through an orderly series of continuous operations, from rough processing to fine processing, until the process requirements are met.

A series of operations on the production line are realized through machines and transportation lines. On the production line, people do not move, and the workpieces come to the workers one by one, and each person can make only one movement so that the division of labor can be more detailed, and the efficiency can be higher. Similarly, if a machine replaces this station, it will be easier, and the efficiency can be increased by several times or even an order of magnitude.

In terms of process characteristics, there are two types of production lines: the raw material processing line (also known as continuous production) and the assembly line that assembles parts into products (also known as discrete production).

Raw material processing lines refer to raw materials such as metal ore, agricultural products such as food, or textile raw materials such as cotton and flax plants that require a series of treatments to make them useful. For metals, the process includes crushing, smelting, and further refining. For plants, useful materials must be separated from the husk or contaminants, processed, and sold. Parts assembly line refers to the need to assemble parts into products after processing raw materials into useful parts, such as automobile assembly lines, according to the process installation process, design each node, until the completion of all process requirements.

In 1913, Eli Whitney proposed the assembly line concept, which took Ford to the next stage. Henry Ford introduced an innovative technology that continuously moved assembled cars through various workstations. This raises the idea of standardization. The exact process can be copied. Instead of everyone completing all the operations, one operation will be copied continuously.

The assembly line comprises many chains and chain links, which place different parts in various positions throughout the car. The car’s chassis is moved along a 45-meter-long line through a chain conveyor, and then 140 workers apply designated parts to the chassis. The assembly line reduces the assembly time of each vehicle. The production time of a car has been reduced from over 12 hours to only 93 minutes. This is the power of standardization and replication, which can increase production efficiency by nearly an order of magnitude so that labor costs are greatly reduced, and the per capita output value is nearly doubled. All of a sudden, Ford stands out, and automotive technology enters the Ford era.

Let’s look at the fully automatic coffee production system of Starbucks’ flagship store in Shanghai. They want customers to understand how Starbucks starts with raw materials and don’t touch them by hand. All are automatic, from bean selection, roasting, cooling, storage, and distribution to various coffee machines. It can be said that this is a reduced version of intelligent manufacturing. Figure 2-34 is a photo of the scene. Figure 2-35 shows the delivery of roasted coffee to the front desk.

Figure 2-34 Starbucks fully-automated coffee production line – raw material entrance, Photo credit: Author

Figure 2-35 Starbucks coffee production line of automatic transmission of coffee beans to the front desk

In smart manufacturing applications, traditional production lines are replaced by smart production lines, combined with product design and process models, plus artificial intelligence-based vision and sensor logistics systems. Smart machines can complete process nodes that humans completed in the past. As a result, the processing of each workpiece can be monitored, and the number of intelligent machines required can be designed according to the production capacity requirements without increasing the positions of persons.

The smart factory is composed of smart production lines, and its ultimate goal is unmanned production lines. From processing raw materials to the assembly of finished products, intelligent production is realized through intelligent machines to realize the purpose of using machines to work.

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