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Handling luxury is easy with modular trolleys

Lineside component handling flexibility and performance has been improved by luxury car maker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited following the introduction of modular adaptable trolleys supplied by The Tube & Bracket Company. The new trolleys have reduced space occupied by lineside storage while enhancing the ability of the manufacturer to handle an increasing number of components to support more options as its range of models continues to grow.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom is currently produced in two versions, standard and extended wheelbase, at the company's Goodwood manufacturing plant. Customers can choose from a huge number of options which allows them to specify a vehicle which meets their own exacting requirements. This presents a logistical challenge on the assembly line because the combination of components required to build and finish each vehicle is always different. Rear door glass, for example, can be specified with clear or tinted finish while the shape will depend on whether the vehicle is the standard or extended model.

Hardware used for delivering parts to the lineside has to provide flexibility without constraining the overall assembly process. Components had previously been handled using carts sourced from catalogues, purchased through parent company BMW or fabricated to order. None of these offered a long term solution because the standard carts were generally designed for the components used in volume production rather than the slightly larger items associated with a luxury marque while fabricated units were heavy and cumbersome. Neither option supported adaptability or flexibility.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited approached The Tube and Bracket Company which has extensive experience in working with customers throughout the automotive sector to deliver modular handling and storage solutions that support lean manufacturing. All of the trolleys devised by The Tube & Bracket Company were created using the modular Lean Tek system of tubes, brackets, wheels and accessories. Components are interchangeable and reusable which allows trolleys to be reconfigured and ensures they are more flexible and cost effective than comparable devices fabricated from welded steel or similar materials.

The first trolleys were delivered by The Tube & Bracket Company in mid-2005 in time for the launch of the extended wheelbase version of the Rolls-Royce Phantom in September. Eighteen were supplied for handling a range of components. This included trolleys configured specifically for items such as front door protection, rear door protection, rear window glass and roof lining as well as general picking and handling. Each trolley is designed for a specific application and matched to the dimensions of the components it holds which means it occupies the minimum floor space. Many of the units have been supplied with foam coverings on the tubing and carpets on the platforms to provide additional protection to the extremely high finish quality of the items they support.

Switching to modular trolleys has also enabled a reconfiguration of the assembly cell areas. With the rear door glass panes, for example, a full pallet of each option component was formerly placed at the lineside. Now only pallets of the standard clear panes are handled this way. Meanwhile daily production schedules are used to pick other glass options from the main warehouse onto one of the new trolleys, each of which can accommodate up to six panes, which is then rolled to the production line. This has reduced the overall space required for lineside storage and helped to create a tidier and more efficient working environment.

Adopting a modular approach allows greater flexibility when handling components. All of the trolleys provide an ideal solution for the current requirements but the inherent flexibility of Lean Tek means that they can also be adapted very easily using basic tools to accommodate components with different dimensions or to enable entirely different applications. This attribute will be useful when new models or options are added to the range because the same units can be modified to cope with new components. It will eliminate the need to replace the trolley as would be the case with fabricated units.

The use of tubular components to build the frame ensures that the resulting trolley is lightweight without needing the same structural surround as a solution fabricated from heavy gauge steel. A number of the trolleys used at Goodwood do not look like conventional handling equipment with their open tubular frames and protruding arms that are designed for a unique component of specific size.

The Goodwood facility is extremely modern, with floor to ceiling windows along one side, and the cars are finished using a combination of modern techniques and the traditional crafts and skills for which the company is famous. The trolleys blend into the overall process to enhance the appearance of the assembly area. Most of the trolleys have been prepared and assembled at The Tube & Bracket Company's factory in Banbury prior to delivery to Goodwood. On-site logistics specialists have been able to modify the trolleys to make minor adjustments and optimise them for specific handling tasks.

The Tube & Bracket Company provides lean manufacturing solutions that help deliver Kaizen-based continuous performance improvement to customers in manufacturing, engineering and production. Its modular LeanTek system comprises coated steel piping, joints and fixtures that can be assembled into a variety of solutions including live storage, carts, trolleys and ergonomic workstations for use in Kanban and first-in-first-out stock management and throughout the manufacturing process. These can be modified or reconfigured quickly and easily to meet process change. The company offers a complete range of consultancy, project management, design, build and component supply services.

Nick Tyler
The Tube & Bracket Company Limited
T: 01295 277791
E: sales@tubeandbracket.com
W: www.tubeandbracket.com

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