MHM Innovators of the Month

Packaging For Lean

Delphi Technologies, Inc.,

3D Optimized Packaging Simulation Software Technology

Delphi Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Delphi Corporation, developed a tool to improve efficiencies throughout the product lifecycle, including initial container purchase, work-in-process parts handling, inbound/outbound freight costs and environmentally friendly part and container disposal. The innovators behind this concept expect the company to create meaningful savings as this beta stage technology is introduced system-wide at Delphi, one of the world's largest automotive systems and components suppliers.

Challenges

At Delphi, packaging engineers must develop a wide variety of production-part packaging configurations. Because these engineers face so many packaging constraints, part/container layout configurations were not developed until two (physical) production or prototype parts were made available. Often, this generated several problems related to timing, cost and quality. The challenge was to find a software tool that would give the packaging engineer more time to plan and develop a "Standard Pack Design."

Delphi couldn't find an off-the-shelf software solution that focused on the actual part geometry, so it decided to develop its own proprietary packaging design software.

Innovation

Delphi's Philip Verdura and William Eckenwiler accepted the assignment to develop a simulation program that would create efficient and optimized packaging solutions. The scope of the project was to develop a simulation program that utilizes:

-- the existing 3D CAD model of a particular part;

-- Delphi's manufacturing and packaging constraints;

-- actual customer and vendor container lists; and,

-- Delphi's "Container Rightsizing Methodology" which emphasizes volumetric efficiency, weight and flow rate.

A small team was assembled within Delphi consisting of software and packaging engineers, lean management leaders, and supply chain and factory floor experts. Together, the team developed and tested the program to meet the company's needs as a tier 1 supplier to quickly evaluate, design and select optimized packaging solutions.

All customer constraints are captured in a programmatic scheme. The team's first approach was to simulate the historical process used by the packaging engineer, with the added benefit of a nesting algorithm. This approach considers one unique part-pattern array, selected by the operator, for each container on a customer's list. The program receives input information, (e.g., distance between parts, part weight, annual production volume, part orientation restrictions, container weight limit and container flow rate), and generates a solution set of all allowable possibilities stemming from the initial positional suggestion of the user. Each of these solutions can then be displayed, queried, saved and used throughout the design cycle.

The optimum geometric and/or financial solution is the pack/container layout that satisfies all manufacturing, packaging and customer constraints. Those may include finding the smallest container for a certain number of parts, the most efficiently packed container, a container with the most parts, or a certain orientation for parts presentation for the factory floor.

The team's second approach significantly expanded on the first, with the addition of an automatic algorithm that rapidly generates thousands of different part-pattern arrays without any user intervention. This version allows a relatively untrained user to quickly view and experiment with optimum packaging configurations for use in non-traditional packaging areas, such as industrial operations, design, and manufacturing engineering. Through this innovation, it now becomes possible for people throughout the product development chain to become aware of the impact of their daily decisions on supply chain costs.

Results

Case studies were performed on 24 Delphi packaging designs. In each case, the optimized design produced by the software was either as good as or better than a manually-derived solution. In 37 percent of the cases, the solution presented a significant benefit in cost and cycle time. These case studies focused on potential containerization and freight savings. This is only a subset of the areas along the supply chain in which the packaging optimization program may create value for its users. In each case, design time was reduced by 50 percent to 90 percent. The combined savings generated by using the solution in the nine cases included design time, containerization and freight costs.

Michelle S. Drage, director of Delphi Technologies commercialization and licensing team, has joined the project and has started a program to internally incubate the packaging software tool. Drage explains that the internal incubator will allow Delphi to not only validate the technology in a production environment but also to confirm the market acceptance. The incubator is headed up by Jayson Pankin, Delphi's new venture creation specialist. Pankin says a number of companies have volunteered to be beta customers, including Delphi divisions, Delphi suppliers and other external companies that are in both automotive and non-automotive markets. This has spawned more material handling innovation.

"The program has evolved to allow for the creation of dunnage in the form of thermoform trays, foam, dunnage bars and partitions — all in 3D," Pankin explains. "An exportable CAD file can go directly to a dunnage cutting device. We're reducing this to practice with two customers, Orbis and Hinkle."

Pankin predicts that a successful beta phase will lead to broad commercialization of the technology into the global supply chain marketplace.

Delphi's beta customers include:

Hinkle Manufacturing Corp., www.hinklemfg.com

Orbis Corporation, www.orbiscorporation.com

Ryder Logistics, www.ryder.com

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