Investment Recouped in Half the Time Expected
A common advice that many would dish out in the business world is “Dream Big, Start Small”. Indeed, it is a useful maxim that is tried, tested and true. One such company that followed this path to success is PROTON Holdings Berhad (Malaysia), part of the PROTON Group.
Back in 1979, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, proposed the idea of an automotive manufacturing industry for the country. Known as the ‘National Car Project’, it led to the birth of PROTON in May 1983. In just nearly 3 decades, PROTON has already become a global automotive player that is a force to be reckoned with. Today, PROTON Group has closed to 12,000 staffs worldwide engaged in manufacturing, sales, service and other operations. Geographic coverage spans across domestic and international markets. This includes Australia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Certainly, PROTON’s success has to do with the emphasis placed on pursuing its core values. It should not come as a surprise that ‘quality’ is listed as the first building block of the company’s ability to achieve business excellence. While PROTON believes in going beyond the traditional approach of quality control, the company still ensures that its foundations are firmly established. Zulhasni Bin Abdul Rahim, Senior Executive (Group Quality – Head of Project for Quality Digitization and Quality Metrology Innovation Program) of PROTON in the Shah Alam plant shared, “Our quality control procedures calls for precise metrology in applications such as alignment, calibration, installation and most importantly, the inspection process. We are glad that with portable solutions from FARO, we have been able to perform our quality checks with much more ease and efficiency.”
Variety in an Assembly
The automotive manufacturing process typically takes the form of an assembly line, whereby auto parts of a large variety — different in size, shape and nature — are fixed together to create the end product, a commercial car. In ensuring product quality, PROTON performs routine checks by measuring the assortment of parts used. This includes car parts, stamping parts, plastic parts, as well as jigs that hold pieces in place while they are being worked on. These parts range from a mere 200mm to a full-sized car body approximately 3m x 1.5m x 2m, with corresponding weights as light as few grams and as heavy as a few hundred kilograms.
The 9-ft FaroArm offers portability and versatility to PROTON’s QC team, making the inspection process much simpler.
It is not difficult to imagine how tedious and complicated the inspection process could get on the shop floor of an assembly line. In an interview with a Group Quality staff, the team revealed, “In the past, our inspectors used to rely on a host of conventional measuring tools. This ranged from steel rulers and measuring tapes to taper gauges, micrometers, vernier calipers, and also a fixed coordinate measuring machine (CMM).”
While these tools fulfilled PROTON’s measurement needs early on, customers’ growing expectations required the company to search for more advanced technology to meet new and higher requirements, especially on results consistency, accuracy, and time. As demands for precision increased, PROTON was gradually faced with issues concerning measurement consistencies. The company wanted to reduce the amount of time spent on inspection, as well as eliminate factors such as human and equipment error that was inherent with the usage of traditional hand tools.
Fueled by a personal commitment to improve on quality, Zulhasni and his team went in search for a viable solution at the Malaysia MetalTech tradeshow. The exhibition allowed PROTON the opportunity to see, touch and witness the technical prowess of all available measurement equipment in the market.
The PROTON team first considered a handful of brands, and then with PROTON’s stringent procurement process, they narrowed the options down to 2 brands, of which FARO was one of them. “In a final accuracy test using a step gauge master tool, we found that FARO gave us better repeatability and accuracy,” mentioned the PROTON team. “Comparatively, FARO offered lower variation than the competing brand, yet the systems were rather closely priced. We concluded it was a better investment to purchase the FaroArm, and decisively made our investment.”
Enhanced Efficiency and Capability
In late 2008, PROTON purchased a set of FARO Laser ScanArm V3 and a set of FaroArm Platinum, for the QC Body and Jig Shop departments respectively. These are portable CMMs that enable operators the liberty to perform high-accuracy measurements right on the assembly line. The FaroArm Platinum performs contact measurement by means of probing, while the FARO Laser ScanArm® has the additional ability to obtain scans of objects without making contact.
With FARO solutions, PROTON achieved higher accuracy levels and repeatability during its inspection checks. PROTON managed to achieve tighter tolerances, with an accuracy of 0.2mm to 1mm, for the entire range of measurement volume. The device offers portability and versatility, on top of its efficient and accurate scanning capabilities.
PROTON achieved higher accuracy levels and repeatability in its inspection checks using the FaroArm.
PROTON also enjoyed significant time- and manpower-savings with the implementation of the FaroArm, which greatly boosted the company’s efficiency. “1 portable CMM now replaces the multitude of conventional hand tools we used in the past,” continued the Project Head. “Coupled with the arm’s user friendliness, we have saved plenty of time. On average, it used to take us up to 4 days to properly inspect 1 car unit — from measuring, to inspecting and producing reports. Now, we only need 2 days to complete the entire task!”
In addition, PROTON also managed to have substantial manpower-savings on its inspection checks. The company was able to deploy the FaroArm anywhere on the shop floor, whenever required. This eliminated the need to move objects to a fixed machine, which saved PROTON time and labor. In fact, PROTON managed to free some staff members for other tasks, requiring only 1 inspector for quality checks, instead of 3 or 4 in the past.
Exceeding Expectations on Return On Investment
Due to an extremely high frequency of use in the first 2 years, PROTON managed to achieve full returns on investment (ROI) in just half the time that was originally expected. “Based on our conservative calculations, we targeted to reach ROI at the end of 3 years,” indicated the Project Head. “However, requests to utilize the FaroArm were coming from other departments in PROTON, as well as from external parties such as research units of the local universities. So with the FaroArm in operation for 75% of the time, we promptly realized a positive ROI within the first 18 months.”
At present, PROTON owns a total of 3 portable measurement arms from FARO — one of which is of the latest generation, FARO Edge. When asked if he would recommend FARO to other similar businesses, the Project Head declared, “Yes, having seen the technical capabilities of the product, we are fully confident that it truly delivers what it promises. The numbers do not lie, and it is a sound investment. Our partnership with FARO has enabled PROTON to improve our quality checks tremendously, both in accuracy and efficiency. We look forward to more advanced technology from FARO in future to further enhance our capabilities.”
About PROTON Holdings Berhad
PROTON is Malaysia’s leading automotive manufacturer with 27 years of innovation and exports to over 27 countries. Today, it has over a dozen models in its stable with more than 3 million units sold.
Incorporated in 1983, PROTON has a significant international presence in 27 countries across South-East Asia to the Middle- East, China, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.
For more information, please visit www.proton.com