An invention of two MAN employees serves to facilitate the performance in truck assembly.
Many steps are necessary to accomplish the assembly of a truck – and not all of them are easy. When screw holes and fastening positions are difficult to reach, assembly operators are faced with elevated physical strain. Two MAN employees had a good idea and developed the camera screwdriver, to make the process more ergonomic.
For years, technicians climbed into the assembly pit beneath the production line to attach the exhaust silencers onto MAN trucks, as the fastening points on the truck frames were more easily accessible this way. Upon the introduction of Euro 6 emissions standards and resulting modifications of exhaust silencers, however, these assembly parts grew in size. All of a sudden, the space in the pit no longer sufficed and the fastening point became difficult to reach. This presented a problem, as these components are unwieldy and industry-standard screwdrivers with high torque weigh about five kilograms.
Thus, assembly technicians found their working conditions greatly encumbered, with increased risk of accidents. MAN Truck & Bus, however, places great importance on ergonomics in the workplace, for only this kind of compliance ensures that assembly technicians can work on the production line until retirement, thus contributing their long-term and extensive experience.
Yet how could the production process be designed to render it ergonomically advanced? Dirk Schupmann and Michael Bernoteit, assembly planners at MAN Salzgitter in Germany, addressed this question. An initially bright idea soon evolved into a practical solution, which eventually received the award for “Best Assembly Idea 2016”, at the 27th Assembly Congress in Nuremberg, held in June 2016.
Over a cup of coffee, Schupmann and Bernoteit jointly pondered the options and came up with an idea: Perhaps it was feasible to practically turn the work process upside down. The fitting technicians should no longer be forced to stand underneath the vehicle frame, but comfortably upright at the line. A camera attached to the screwdriver would serve as an additional pair of eyes for the fitters, which would allow them to squarely keep the underside of the truck frame in focus.
It took merely six months until the vision by Schupmann and Bernoteit evolved from its first drawing to a deployable tool and the first electrical screwdriver equipped with a camera, named the camera screwdriver, was utilised during the production process. Besides the camera, the two inventors had introduced yet another innovation: The impulse screwdriver was replaced by an electrical screwdriver that renders the retightening of screws unnecessary and also works very quietly. Via the screen on the guide handle of a telescope, the operator can observe the exact position of the screw head at any time. This allows for pinpoint socket placement and tightening by the push of a button and without any strain.
The solution had to be not only practical, but also cost-efficient. In order to minimise costs, Schupmann and Bernoteit relied on commercially available components. They therefore chose a reversing camera with matching screen from automotive manufacturing and mounted this system onto an also customary electrical screwdriver. The combination of a tensor electrical screwdriver, telescope suspension and an infrared camera not only made the hardly reachable fitting point for exhaust silencers visually accessible, but is also integrated in MAN’s own production control and management system, which makes the process safely documentable.
Both Schupmann and Bernoteit are especially pleased about the high level of acceptance for the camera screwdriver among their colleagues. As the tool is easily handled, the fitters in Salzgitter required merely two to three hours until they were grown accustomed to the new working method. With the new technology, the assembly experts now work faster, more precisely and with less physical strain. It should come as no surprise, that they can no longer imagine their work routine without the camera screwdriver. In the meantime, Schupmann’s and Bernoteit’s good idea has found its way into other production locations. The MAN plant in Krakow, Poland already considers the tool as standard equipment.