GE Transportation has unveiled a new approach to manufacturing rail locomotives with the deployment of a mixed-model moving assembly line at its Brazilian facility in Contagem.

Unlike conventional systems, the new Lean Manufacturing solution is designed to allow employees to assemble different locomotive configurations on the same line as the units move down the track.

The new production system is expected to increase productivity at the plant, as well as reduce lead-times by almost 20%.

It also anticipated to save an additional 1,256m2 of space within the factory.

“Several sensors have been installed to show the progress of all locomotive manufacturing steps, so delays, problems and other data are visible in real-time.”

GE Transportation industrial director Afonso Borges said: “This new manufacturing approach allows for optimisation of the whole production process and promotes the company’s lean culture.

“It enables us to improve the entire production system from end to end, and from the supplier to the final customer, which contributes to delivering better results, ensuring a more competitive and flexible business.”

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The company initially constructed a scale model to test the moving line concept and carried out more than 100 simulations to evaluate and analyse all aspects before commencing the transformation of the facility.

This validation process enabled personnel to identify the ideal flow, layout and space for the implementation of the production system.

The moving line is now operational and advances at a speed of around 1.15mph-2.20mph during assembly, depending on the takt time.

In addition, the production system provides real-time visibility during multiple manufacturing stages to allow any issues to be swiftly identified and resolved.

Borges added: “The mixed-model moving line was born connected.

“This means that several sensors have been installed to show the progress of all locomotive manufacturing steps, so delays, problems and other data are visible in real-time through software developed to manage the line.”