Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK's Sunderland plant has used simulation software to boost production of the Qashqai off-road vehicle by 20% after higher than expected sales.
The plant used the optimisation module of its Witness simulation software from Lanner Group to analyse production processes and identify ways of speeding up the plant.
"We used the software to simulate the billion different ways the production line could be set up and identify what changes we had to make to achieve the most efficient configuration of equipment and interaction between humans and machines," said Anthony Timmiss, an industrial engineer at Nissan.
The software, which runs on a standard PC, models every element of the production process, including robots, transport equipment and people, to identify any inefficiencies and bottlenecks.
Nissan boosted production by 2,900 vehicles a month by adding robotic assembly equipment, boosting the speed of existing robots, and employing an extra 180 people.
Nissan originally used the simulation software to identify the best plant to manufacture the Qashqai. It chose Sunderland in 2006 because it was able to offer the best quality, cost and delivery out of five other manufacturing plants in Spain and Japan.
"Simulation is effective because it is visual, interactive, takes variability into account, and enables users to see and understand why certain results are achieved with different processes and machinery," said Timmiss.
The software allowed Nissan to conduct hundreds of experiments to identify the best production line configuration, he said.
"Being able to test and improve processes without interrupting production saves the company tens of thousands of pounds a year," said Timmiss.
Timmis is using the Witness software to refine production line designs for a new Nissan manufacturing plant to be built in St Petersburg, Russia. "We have been able to make several improvements to the design even before it is built," he said.