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Cummins chooses LB Foster for automated engine transfer towline conveyors

LB Foster Materials Handling has begun work on an automated engine transfer contract for the engine manufacturing plant of Cummins in Daventry.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel engines and related technology around the world. The company serves its customer through its network of 500 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 5,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries.

Approximately 1,000 people work at the Daventry plant, manufacturing high horsepower diesel and gas engines which range from 38 to 91 litres. The engines are made primarily for the international market; they are exported all over the world to be used in a variety of industries from marine to mining.

Every engine is spray painted in the specific colour requested by the customer. The prestigious contract awarded to LB Foster is for two automated systems to transport the engines through two new paint processing lines. Both lines have been designed to process a maximum of 10 engines at a time, each weighing up to
12 tonnes. One line has already been finished with the second due for completion later this year.

Cummins have had previous experience of working with LB Foster as the company has manufactured conveyor systems for several assembly lines in Daventry. As a result the equipment is known to be well engineered, robust and very reliable.

Ian Bennion is the manufacturing engineering leader for Cummins, he explains why LB Foster was selected for this important project, "Automation in manufacturing is quite a niche market however it was a still a competitive tender.

"Confidence in LB Foster’s ability to complete the task was the deciding factor. They were able to demonstrate that they had already designed and installed similar lines for other companies by showing us professional photographs and video evidence.

Automate for increased safety and efficiency
In the past the large diesel engines were mounted on carts and moved manually through the different sectors of the paint process. The decision to automate the lines was taken as part of a lean manufacturing initiative by Cummins.

Each line is split into two in-floor towline conveyors divided by a paint spraying booth. At the start of the process an engine is picked up by an overhead crane, secured onto a cart before starting its slow journey down the line, where it first enters the engine wash facility. This is followed by a trim process where sections of the engine which do not require painting are masked off.

Another crane is then used to position the engine into the paint spraying booth and from there it is put back onto another cart to be towed by the second conveyor to the end of the line. This process transports the engine into the drying oven, through post paint trim, inspection and then finally it is transferred by crane onto a shipping skid.

Bennion comments, "We’ve developed a close relationship with the LB Foster team over the years and they’ve done a very good job on the first part of this project. They collaborated well with our other suppliers and the installation crew was absolutely fantastic.

"Safety of our employees is paramount, using the new automated line we have taken away many of the manual processes. At the end of each takt time alarms sound and a system of sensors ensure that operators have cleared the area for the engines to automatically move up to the next process.

"In addition, we’ve increased our engine throughput and improved efficiency by processing engines more quickly and moving them smoothly down the line in a disciplined way."

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