PHA, a world leader in the automotive subassembly business, has seven Korean plants, seven plants in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, India and the USA and three worldwide sales branches.
The company’s Czech Republic plant, PHA Czech s.r.o., in Český Těšín, 300 km east north of Prague, started production in 2008 and employs 300 people and concentrates primarily on the production of door modules for a leading Korean automotive OEM.
It also produces non-module door hinges, bonnet/hood hinges, tailgate hinges and tailgate latches, not only for the Korean car maker, but for a number of other leading automotive OEMs.
In a recent development program, the Rockwell Automation Global Solutions team in the Czech Republic team was tasked by PHA Czech s.r.o. with the development of a complete control solution for a front/rear, left/right turnkey door module assembly line and end-of-line (EOL) test stations.
The scope of delivery given to the Global Solutions team, which has been working with PHA since 2006, involved project management, administration, hardware & software design, cabinet manufacture, site installation, commissioning and production start-up.
The assembly line – the fifth to be developed by Rockwell Automation for PHA; and the first door module line built on a conveyor concept, where the panels move on pallets and the operators stay in one place – had to be designed to meet demanding production capacities and targets.
Capable of building 850 car sets per day it had to be flexible enough to address the possibility of extending this to 1,000 car sets per day.
PHA also wanted enhanced quality levels and various process optimisation steps based on both knowledge from previous installs and newer standards and targets defined by more recent end-user customer requirements.
A comprehensive machine and personnel safety solution was also part of the brief.
For the complete door module car set assembly, there are two lines (front and rear) with conveyors carrying the front door module down one side and the rear down the other.
These modules are then assembled in parallel using an identical sequence. Assembly operations include: pulley pre-assembly and riveting; drum winding; window regulator assembly; motor and speaker assembly; latch placement and the incorporation of a side-impact sensor and wire harness.
The EOL inspection stations then undertake full door module functionality tests and motor noise sound inspection (in a sound room), deploying a Poka Yoke quality system.
According to Rockwell Automation Account Manager Miroslav Novotny: “This was a complex project, which was made easier thanks to the use of a number of Allen-Bradley® products from our Integrated Architecture portfolio.
The main line controllers on the front and rear lines are Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 1756 L73 programmable automation controller (PAC). The chain conveyors and motors, which handle all aspects of pallet movement are controlled using Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 variable-speed drives.
This comprises lateral and up and down movement of the pallets between workstations, and control of the recirculating conveyor, which takes empty palettes back to the beginning of the production line.”
The ControlLogix PAC collects, collates and controls all the signals from the various assembly stations using an EtherNet/IP network, Stratix™ managed switches and Allen-Bradley POINT I/O™ modules, which have been used due to the long distances involved – the primary conveyor is 15 m long.
At the end of the line, in the testing stations, four Allen-Bradley CompactLogix™ PACs are used, two in the sound rooms and two in final inspection. The ControlLogix PAC also oversees a robot used on part of the line.
The automation solution is completed by a wide variety of Allen-Bradley low-voltage products, including buttons, sensors and other accessories, inside the cabinets deployed at each station.
Finally, the line’s safety infrastructure, which complies with all local safety legislation, comprises a number of Allen-Bradley safety gates, linked together with emergency stops at each station, all connected in series to safety relays within main control cabinet.
Rockwell Automation Global solutions team leader in the Czech Republic, Petr Veselý, explains: “I have worked with PHA for 10 years now and for this project we started with face-to-face meetings with their engineers, who gave us a very detailed specification, including 3D models of the final product.
They also gave us their expectations regarding timings and volume targets. In this instance we supplied the complete solution, not just the control solution and software; we effectively owned and supervised the whole line, including all mechanical and electrical elements.
We also dealt with three local mechanical assembly suppliers and once the concept had been created we then handled all of the approvals within PHA.
“Once the mechanical design had been approved,” Veselý continues, “the manufacturing go ahead was given and the electrical concept was evolved. Once this had been approved, we employed four programmers from the Rockwell Automation office in Prague to create the software.
Two programmers worked on the main line and two on the inspection stations. RSLogix 5000 was used for visualisation and, in answer to one of PHA’s primary demands for flexibility, we applied customised application windows.
Each station uses a separate all-in-one PC touch panel (18 on the main line and 11 in the standalone and test stations) running C# applications programmed by the Rockwell Automation programmers. Further visualisation and control of the main conveyor is supplied by two Allen-Bradley PanelView™ HMIs.
According to Novotny: “This successful project delivery demonstrates the professionalism and capabilities of our Global Solutions, not only in the provision of technical solutions but also in the delivery of complete project management.
The experience and skills obtained in this instance will be adopted as a basis for further similar opportunities in the automotive market, including future projects with PHA. Indeed, we are already in discussions with PHA for the provision of another door assembly for a different car model.”
Przemysław Sakowicz, Manufacturing Engineer at PHA Czech s.r.o. cites fast support, good relations and previous good experiences of working with Rockwell Automation as the primary reasons for using the leading automation provider again: “I know exactly what quality I can expect and Rockwell Automation has very good team of programmers which offers very fast reactions to any issues or challenges we face.
We had multiple customer audits before and during project start up and the auditors were very satisfied with what we have developed with Rockwell Automation, which is very important for us. I would particularly like to thank Petr Veselý and his team for the project fulfilment and management, they met all the requirements from my side.
“With regards to specific benefits of the Rockwell Automation solution,” Sakowicz concludes, “as well as hitting the production targets, we expect to see significantly reduced programming for the new line we are developing as well as the easy tuning and manipulation of the software we have seen in this solution.
The Integrated Architecture has also delivered a more flexible and open platform for both remote troubleshooting and local maintenance.”