REDwire Magellan Aerospace sees huge savings thanks to new Manufacturing Execution System

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The MERLIN operator portal on the shop floor at Magellan Aerospace. This portal displays data and allows the operator to send emails to other staff so the operator does not have to leave the machine. Photo courtesy of Magellan Aerospace Ltd.

Alignment and automation are key success factors for Magellan Aerospace. But the Kitchener, Ont.-based company was experiencing a challenge: its standalone machines were not reaching production targets. There were far too many downtime events happening on the shop floor — so much that the company was at the point of considering buying another machine to make up for the missed targets. Shop floor supervisors would manually record information regarding the start and end times, and quantity produced during the shift, but the information didn’t provide the detail that was needed. 

Magellan’s relentless pursuit of excellence led it straight to MERLIN, a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications platform by Memex Automation. MERLIN (Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network) can use MTConnect and other protocols to connect the shop floor to the top floor, so that anyone with a need to know can use its information to increase production and income from operations, all while raising Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to world-class levels.

Magellan met with Memex Automation’s executive team in 2011, and installed the MERLIN hardware and software on various machines at its Kitchener plant. Jonathan Ung, the continuous improvement co-ordinator in charge of tracking the plant’s progress with MERLIN, gathered some very promising ROI results.  

“We deployed MERLIN on our FMS/Makino cell,” said Ung. “There are four robot-controlled CNC machines in the cell, and we also outfitted three standalone CNC machines configured in a cell-like environment. The standalone machines utilize the MERLIN Ax9150 hardware board along with the G55 handheld scanner, giving us visibility of the machines that we previously did not have. The Makino cell has the MERLIN Operating Portal deployed on it, which gives us detailed machine information right on the shop floor. We feed MERLIN with work order and product standard data directly from our CINCOM ERP system.”

The MERLIN data indicated there were far too many downtime events occurring. Magellan shared this information with its team, and with the help of the MERLIN software, was able to reduce those downtime events from 400 hours per month to 100 hours —  a net increase in machining capacity of 100 hours per month per machine. 

“Multiply that by the hourly machining cost and Magellan was able to capture real savings of over $30,000 per month against an initial price of $20,000 for MERLIN,” said Ung. “That’s a very satisfying payback on the technology.”

Memex applied its “Roadmap to Success” methodology, a valuable tool to use in analyzing and interpreting the information MERLIN makes available. After completing the corrective actions the Roadmap suggested, Magellan was able to show that MERLIN brought its OEE up from 36 per cent to a sustained 85 per cent. The time spent previously gathering data was decreased dramatically because the data was now available to management and operators.  

Magellan now sees there is more possibility for MERLIN on the shop floor. The company believes it is just scratching the surface of MERLIN’s capabilities and is looking forward to seeing what else can be accomplished with the system.