World Class Manufacturing at Vanner

inverter production assembly line

Vanner Inc., Hilliard Ohio, received the Award of Excellence, Honorable Mention, from Assembly Magazine, 2009, for its flexible, high mix assembly of products, its world-class facility and innovative response to meeting client needs.

Vanner builds power conversion devices used by manufacturers of ambulances, fire trucks, heavy-duty trucks, recreational vehicles, transit buses and work trucks. Its products include battery chargers, converters, electrical system monitors, electronic flashers, inverters and ultracapacitors.  During the past five years, Vanner has boosted productivity by 30 percent.

“Using lean techniques, we have reduced our lead time from six weeks to two weeks,” says Brenda Porter, vice president of operations. “In critical instances, we have built and shipped products the same day. Our cycle time has been reduced from four to six weeks to [less than two] hours.”

Vanner uses a scalable manufacturing structure that allows it to break down production processes into smaller steps. That helps increase throughput and reduce lead time. The company has also invested in new technology to improve productivity. For instance, Vanner recently implemented a high-speed surface-mount assembly line.

“Previously, our placement rates for electronic parts were at a maximum of 750 parts per hour using an automated through-hole assembly machine,”says Porter. “Our surface-mount line achieves component placements in excess of 3,500 parts per hour. In addition, we have streamlined our circuit board assembly process so that we can deliver completed circuit boards to our engineering group three days from the time that they deliver a completed design to us.”

In addition, Vanner has remodeled its existing final assembly line to allow operators to build products on conveyors. “This reduces the time and effort required to move units on and off the line for assembly on benchtops,” says Porter. “We also consolidated tools and parts so that multiple units can be built at the same workstation with little or no changeover.”

A team-based employee involvement structure has resulted in 100 percent on-time demand fulfillment of customer orders. Vanner uses a circular organizational chart. “Responsibility and decision-making is placed where the action is,” explains Porter. Because each team focuses on continuous improvement, the company has eliminated non-value-added activity. For instance, Vanner no longer has a master scheduler.

“Each day, the teams on the production floor regenerate the operating system, print their production schedules, look for customer orders, create work orders, and produce products to fill the new orders,”Porter points out. “We only build what we can finish daily, and build one piece at a time.”

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