NACCO Lifts its Manufacturing Efficiency with Visual LANSA
This case history about NACCO Materials Handling Group comes courtesy of LANSA Inc. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.
NACCO Materials Handling Group, Inc. (NMHG) designs, manufactures and sells lift trucks and aftermarket parts on a global basis under the Hyster® and Yale® brand names. Lift trucks and component parts are manufactured in the United States, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, China, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil. NMHG has implemented FlowBase400, a large Visual LANSA-based flow manufacturing system. The system integrates with an Advantage 2E-based Order Management System, and a PRMS MRP system, and has been deployed to eight plants and over 360 users around the world, in three different languages.
Ron Duffett, Manager of Global Manufacturing Systems, says, "With FlowBase400 and LANSA we can rely on the accuracy and timeliness of the data that drives our manufacturing operations. It is the global standardization and management of data that give us the quality improvements that we want. In support of our global approach, LANSA's multilingual facilities allow us to deploy exactly the same version of FlowBase400 in English, Spanish and Italian. Deployment of program updates is automatic and effortless with LANSA's Just In Time (JIT) servers and ChangeMaster®."
NMHG has adopted flow manufacturing as a manufacturing operational strategy. In a flow environment, production is based on customer demand and a line design set up that is flexible to allow for quick changes and production of small quantities of goods at a time.
Although NMHG implemented flow manufacturing in its manufacturing plants during the mid to late nineties, there was no computer system to manage the flow environment. All plants shared the same PRMS system for Material Requirements Planning, but when it came to flow each plant used its own solution and its own pocket of data, primarily through spreadsheets that were not standardized or maintained for future use.
Ron Duffett, Manager of Global Manufacturing Systems, says, "The process was difficult to manage. If we planned for a process or engineering change, the required data was found in multiple un-integrated solutions and probably not maintained. We wanted to standardize the process and pick a best practice solution."
NMHG started to look for a packaged flow manufacturing solution. Flow requires accurate data and processes. Key items include process and material definition, sequence of events, line design, Kanban techniques, Operational Method Sheets (OMSs) and resource planning. "There were no solutions that sufficiently met our requirements."
NMHG decided to develop a flow solution in-house and took that opportunity to look for a tool that would help to develop in a rapid successful manner.
"LANSA was identified as a leading development toolset for the iSeries that could be used for either Web or client server solutions. Our existing toolset could not deliver this capability to our satisfaction, so LANSA was selected," says Buddy Evans, Director Global I.T. Applications Development & Support.
FlowBase400 was developed to co-exist with NMHG's MRP and Order Management systems. To prevent duplicate data between the systems FlowBase400 interactively retrieves required data from other NMHG systems as needed. FlowBase400 Phase I consisted of modules for Line Design, Materials Definition, Operational Method Sheet Management and Kanban Management.
To limit worldwide deployment issues, the original concept envisioned a Web interface, but based on LANSA Professional Services' recommendation, the design was quickly changed to a Client Sever Application. During the design phase it became clear that Visual LANSA would provide FlowBase400 with the productive and user-friendly GUI Windows that was required with field level prompts, context sensitive help, drag and drop, easy keyboard navigation and mouse-centric functionality. LANSA Client was also chosen for its ease of use in end user reporting.
Integration with third party Windows applications was especially important in the Operational Method Sheet (OMS) module. OMSs are pictorial representations of the work content. Visual LANSA calls Adobe Photoshop, a third party Windows application, to create the sheets, and an ActiveX browser control was used to provide the graphic display of the sheets inside the Visual LANSA application. The OMS form required data in HTML format, which was achieved using LANSA for the Web. Visual LANSA calls another third party program to convert the HTML page to a PDF document.
FlowBase400 consists of over 390 functions, 200 physical files and 250 Visual LANSA components. During the project, NMHG's developers received on the job as well as formal class training. The total duration for Phase I, including design and training, was 18 months.
LANSA Professional Services, working from LANSA's Toronto office, and NMHG's staff in Greenville North Carolina and Irvine Scotland, completed development jointly. System testing was completed using representatives at plants across the world and was coordinated through the functional Center of Excellence located in Northern Ireland.
"User expectations constantly exceeded the detailed functional specifications requiring constant refinement and rework," says Duffett. "Visual LANSA Framework, not yet available at the time development began, could have provided easily generated prototypes to our users which may have reduced the amount of rework in development because of user expectations not being clearly understood."
"Our Synon and RPG developers found LANSA's 4GL and Repository easy to learn. The biggest learning curve was to understand the event driven paradigm that comes with Windows-based development. It was very helpful to get real-life hands-on development experience under the guidance of LANSA Professional Services. There was a tremendous knowledge transfer. Our internal staff now supports and maintains the system."
"FlowBase400 gives us the electronic tools to manage the flow manufacturing environment," says Duffett. "FlowBase400 requires accurate and formalized data to calculate a line definition. The LANSA toolset has enabled us to develop a user-friendly, Windows-based application to enter, manage and maintain this data."
"With FlowBase400 and LANSA we can rely on the accuracy and timeliness of the data that drives our manufacturing operations, best practice standardization and manufacturing processes synchronization. This global standardization and management of data will allow us to sustain and continually grow the initial flow manufacturing benefits realized."
"In support of our global approach, LANSA's multilingual facilities allow us to deploy exactly the same version of FlowBase400 in English, Spanish and Italian. We have deployed FlowBase400 to over 360 users worldwide. Deployment of program updates is automatic and effortless thanks to LANSA's Just In Time (JIT) servers."
"FlowBase400 is a large application with hundreds of functions and files, and the project involved development and testing teams in multiple locations worldwide. Visual LANSA performed well in our large and demanding development and deployment environment," concludes Evans.
"LANSA has also given us the ability to productively develop a user friendly and graphical application that fully integrates with our Order Management and MRP systems. We are now looking at using LANSA for the Web in other global application opportunities."
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