The Internet of Things (IoT) organically connects people, things, and environments. Shimane Fujitsu, the laptop PC and tablet factory, has achieved the visualization of the pre-shipping repair process to resolve one of its longstanding problems. This was made possible with the combination of Fujitsu's IoT cloud platform and Intel's IoT Gateway. Throughout its six-month field trial, Shimane Fujitsu greatly increased factory efficiency and reduced overhead costs.
A Factory with Problems Unique to Small-lot, Multi-variety Production
Annually, Shimane Fujitsu produces approximately 2 million laptop PCs and tablets for enterprise use. It is involved in the entire production process, from printed circuit board production to product assembly. It also engages in small-lot, multi-variety production to meet even the smallest needs of their customers. The products, each having their own specifications, are individually assembled in the production line. Factory visualization allows instantaneous understanding of the types of work in progress and where they are happening in the factory. It dramatically improves productivity and reduces overhead costs.
As described above, Shimane Fujitsu has actively introduced visualization for its production processes. In its repair process, products that failed the test (rejected products) are inspected and repaired. However, the previous environment was unable to track the status of each product.
Products assembled on the line are subject to a functional test before packing. They are strictly checked in two steps, by machine and by hand, and sent to the repair process if a problem is found. They are then diagnosed, analyzed, repaired, and tested again; the product will be shipped as normal if no problems are found. Since the production line has already been visualized, all workers and managers can easily see the work progress of each product. In the repair process, however, a wide variety of products with different specifications are brought in, and prioritizing repairs was difficult because product locations and shipment deadline information were not sufficiently visualized.
"If a product remained in repair for a long time and, as a result, could not make its shipping deadline, an additional truck had to be arranged, leading to extra costs." (Shinichi Hirono, Deputy Section Manager, Production Engineering, Shimane Fujitsu)
Visualizing the Repair Process Reduced Extra Transportation Costs by 30%
Aiming to create and offer a high value added IoT solution, Fujitsu set out to connect Fujitsu's IoT cloud platform, Fujitsu Laboratories' distributed service platform and Intel's IoT Gateway in May 2015. The first part of this project was the field trial for visualizing the repair process at Shimane Fujitsu.
In the field trial, sensor beacons were affixed to individual products in the repair process so that their locations, retention times, and shipping deadlines were centralized and visualized in real time. The large volume of complex data from the sensor beacons was processed by Intel's IoT Gateway and Fujitsu's Gateway (FUJITSU Network Edgiot). The processed data was collected on Fujitsu's IoT cloud platform and presented on a map for real time monitoring.
"We previously checked product progress and shipping deadlines with labels affixed to individual products. Sensor beacons eliminated the extra work of checking the labels and as a result improved work efficiency." (Hirono)
Visualization of the repair process improved the work efficiency and reduced the lead time for repairs by approximately 20%. The ability to ship products on schedule reduced the use of expensive charter trucks, reducing additional transportation costs by approximately 30%.
Automatic Recording of Videos and Photos of the Testing Process Help Identify the Cause of an Error
Shimane Fujitsu strives to further improve work efficiency. It is now recording videos and photos during product checks in the testing process to see if errors could be analyzed with higher speed and precision.
Errors sometimes fail to reproduce themselves. For example, a product screen that does not turn on when switched on during testing on the production line may turn on after it is brought in for repair. Failure to reproduce an error can be attributed to multiple factors, including human errors in the testing process, characteristics of the parts and products, as well as the test equipment. It is therefore very difficult to identify the cause. Shimane Fujitsu is working to improve product quality by instantly detecting the type of the error that occurred in the testing process with screenshot videos from the product, making correlations between the obtained error type and past repair data, allowing for the error cause estimation and quick feedback, by making use of Fujitsu Laboratories' image processing technology and a framework to shorten application development time using the technology, as well as Intel's IoT Gateway.
The IoT Solution to the World
Visualization of the repair process was the first visualization trial for a factory in Japan. "Solving factory problems with ICT was the starting point. The IoT solution has allowed us to 'see' the process, improve productivity, and reduce overhead costs. Such solutions will be valuable in many factories. Proving its value at Shimane Fujitsu, a small-lot, multi-variety production factory, has been a great achievement for us. We will further improve the IoT platform to expand its use on a global scale." (Tomoaki Endo, Senior Manager, Solution Department, IoT Business Division, Network Service Unit)