U-line for medical technology

19. Jul 2017 item Redaktion

Why process optimisation under cleanroom conditions places stringent demands on the planning and selection of suitable components.

Maquet is a leading manufacturer of medical systems. Established in 1838, the company’s products are primarily used in the critical areas of hospitals such as operating rooms, intensive care units and laboratory environments. As a result, the products – and therefore the associated production environments – have to meet high quality standards. At the same time, competition in the medical technology sector is getting ever tougher, meaning that success is not just dependent on delivering optimum quality, but also on achieving the best possible production efficiency based on lean production. To test out how production processes in cleanrooms could be optimised, the company decided to refit a pre-existing manual assembly system for a compact centrifugal pump used in portable heart lung machines.

Working ergonomics in manual assembly

The centrifugal pumps are manufactured in line with stringent ISO 13485 and GMP hygiene and cleanliness requirements in a specialised site that Maquet runs in three-shift operation. However, another site took over many of the workstations that had been used there to date. As a result, the individual stations were not standardised, nor were they modular, which meant there was not enough flexibility to implement the planned improvements. The decision was therefore taken to establish a new production line based on the lean philosophy.

This process optimisation centred on switching to a U-line with short routes between the individual assembly steps and one element of this involved improving workplace ergonomics. To achieve this, the individual working areas would need to offer flexible adjustment options to ensure workers of very different sizes can always lay their hands on tools and materials in their personal handling area with the greatest of ease. Since sensitive electronic components are installed during the production process, end-to-end ESD protection was also an essential requirement.

Optimising processes in the cleanroom with item

After completing its internal planning for the production line refit, Maquet turned to item for the practical side of things. There were three main reasons for this. Firstly, the in-house workshop at the site had already been working with our versatile aluminium profile technology for quite some time, and with great success. Secondly, Line X offered an ideal solution as a profile variant without grooves that is easy to clean, resistant to the cleaning agents typically used in cleanrooms and electrostatically dissipative, making it ESD-safe.

Thirdly, and no less importantly, the high availability of item components and our delivery reliability also proved crucial to this project. Converting the production system to a U-line during three-shift operation and under cleanroom conditions simply was not an option. All that was left was a very tight timeframe over the Christmas holidays when production stopped. Delivery delays or the unavailability of components would almost automatically result in the project being put back at least six months.

Lean strategy from bottom to top

It was also important to Maquet, as the basis for its in-house lean strategy, that employees be involved as much as possible in developing the manual assembly work benches. Staff who work in an area for eight hours a day usually have a good feel for potential improvements. If these can be realised simply using flexible material supply systems, modular components and electrically height-adjustable work benches, not only will that improve production efficiency, it will also motivate employees and make them more likely to embrace the new production environment.

By pursuing this strategy with reliable partners, Maquet succeeded in boosting productivity on the production line by 20 percent. Putting the various measures into action as a team helped the company cut throughput time by 10 percent and rejects by 8 percent. 

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