During the summer 2020, HAMK carried out a commission by the elevator company KONE to develop software that rearranges orders on the production line. The purpose of the software is to improve production efficiency. The work was carried out in cooperation between a HAMK’s Electrical and Automation Engineering student and staff at HAMK Smart Research Unit. KONE has already made plans to carry out follow-up projects with HAMK.
KONE, a manufacturer of elevators, escalators and doors, has assembly lines in factories in several countries. On each production line, several different products with different components are manufactured to customers’ orders. The components for the products arrive at the production line workstations on pallets.
When differing products are produced consecutively, the component pallets must be changed. The warehouse robot that changes the pallets creates a bottleneck on the production line. Therefore, the aim is to manufacture similar products consecutively. KONE used to organize similar orders manually so that they were consecutive. As part of the renewal of KONE’s production control system the aim was to automate this.
Automation significantly enhances productivity
Data analyst Olli Niemitalo from HAMK Smart Research Unit produced a demo of automated rearrangement of orders for KONE.
”In the demo, the problem was solved by approaching it as a travelling salesman’s problem in which a salesman must pass through all the cities using the shortest possible route. In KONE’s case, the cities corresponded to products and distances were the number of pallet changes”, Olli Niemitalo explains.
During the summer 2020, a software to optimize the order sequence automatically was developed. With optimization, the number of pallet changes was estimated to decrease to half of the original figure. Reducing the figure by half was achieved when there were 50 orders. When order sequencing was optimized for an even larger number of orders, it was possible to achieve even greater benefits.
The solution is currently being tested in a manual environment and the possibilities to continue developing the software by adding variable factors of the production environment to the algorithm are being investigated.
”During this autumn, we will build an interface between the assembly line and software written by HAMK,” says Global Manufacturing Solution Expert Juha-Matti Kuparinen from KONE.
Genrikh Ekkerman, a 3rd year Electrical and Automation Engineering student, was involved in the project. Ekkerman decided to solve the traveling salesman problem with the help of a genetic algorithm which Olli Niemitalo, his supervisor, refined to make it fast and reliable. If, in the future, the problem will be described in a more detailed manner, for example by simulating events on the production line, then it will be easy to adapt the genetic algorithm accordingly.
”The genetic algorithm does not necessarily produce the best possible solution, but this is not necessary in this problem, as long as the solution is close enough to the best solution. The approach allows for rapid adaptation to changing requirements. It provides the customer with greater benefits,” says Niemitalo.
New projects in the pipeline
KONE is satisfied with the cooperation both now and with previous research and student projects implemented with HAMK.
”All in all, the work was completed very quickly, taking into account that the actual start of the work took place during the summer holidays and at the time of the ban on visits due to the coronavirus situation,” says Juha-Matti Kuparinen from KONE.
According to Mr Kuparinen, new collaborative projects have already been considered by KONE.
”We will bring them up at the next meeting, without forgetting further mapping of the current development work. In the future, we also want to support HAMK in producing new experts to take their place in professional life.“
Read more about this project: https://blog.hamk.fi/hamk-smart/from-a-trainee-to-working-with-an-international-giant/
Global Manufacturing Solution Expert
Global Manufacturing Solution Manager