Quality at the core of Danfoss’ new digital displacement assembly facility

A new assembly line has been commissioned at Danfoss’s global Digital Displacement manufacturing and R&D facility near Edinburgh in Scotland – which will bring a new approach to precision assembly.

The fully flexible facility has been custom designed from the ground up to assemble a new generation of Digital Displacement® pumps for off-highway and industrial customers.

Production has already begun, with the first customer pumps rolling off the line in August.

“This new area is unique in Danfoss,” says Dominika Babalska, Head of Operations, Digital Displacement, at the Edinburgh site. Rather than building a large, fixed production line, we have taken a modular approach allowing the shop floor to grow naturally together with customers’ needs. “Every pump that rolls off will have been quality assured at each step and is fully traceable from start to finish,” Dominika says.

Working as a team, Danfoss’ production specialists designed and selected the latest solutions to enable production line operators to assemble the Digital Displacement pumps with a ‘zero parts per million’ approach to errors. “Our strategy has been to identify what problems might occur, and then design our process to avoid these altogether,” Dominika says.

Central to this is a step-by-step production process built around five modular workstations. These have been developed to ensure the system has an unambiguous and clear process which can be followed easily – yet can be modified and changed as customer demand increases and volume ramps up.

“Because Digital Displacement pumps are an entirely new commercial product it makes sense to develop the production line that we require at present, but with the capacity to follow market pull and increase or change production as volume grows,” Dominika says.

The process begins by downloading software onto a pump’s controller (CPU). Once this is confirmed the controller is laser marked with a unique serial number. The laser workstation is integrated with two benches. The first bench prepares the controller for download and has a screen to convey work instructions to the operator. The controller download then takes place within the laser marker which is mounted on the second bench. Laser marking only takes place once the download is complete – ensuring that none of the operations can be missed by transferring between stations. The valve assembly area utilises a light guide system which gives the operator a precise instruction on what to do next. Instructions are projected onto the workbench and the operator cannot progress to the next step until the current step has been completed correctly.

“The whole process will always require human input, and our intention is to ensure that our skilled operators can perform any of the tasks perfectly every time,” Dominika explains.

“By making every task a simple step in a fully-planned process we can reduce the time to train staff, increase productivity and ensure quality throughout.”

The bearing pressing station has been designed so each element will only fit on the correct way and the rotating table is equipped with a collaborative robot camera (COBOT) to check the inside parts of the pump.

Overall the new assembly area has been a major investment in Digital Displacement and underlines the company’s confidence in the technology. In the current set up, Dominika estimates the assembly area could roll out more than 6000 pumps per annum, with capacity to bring in more lines as required. The whole process is fully integrated within the firm’s SAP delivery model and a number of completed pumps have already been shipped to their first customers.

“This whole area epitomises our approach to organising a production facility, where selected Industry 4.0 solutions are mixed with simple best practices in process engineering. By taking the best solutions from both approaches this creates tremendous synergy within our assembly area,” says Dominika.

“It is flexible and scalable – and by reducing the scope for human error we can follow customer needs while making sure our processes are efficient,” Dominika concludes.