31 July 2007

Real World Access (31)

One of a series of articles about where Microsoft Office Access applications have found a real-world niche.

 Brent Spaulding's Processes

Maintenance/Production/Quality Management System

  I work for an automobile company in the body weld department of an assembly plant.  Our department's end product is the shell (body) of a vehicle all welded up.

To perform this task, we employ the use of several manual and automated welding processes.  The automated processes are made up of processing lines.  Each line has stations (or cells), each station typically a grouping of robots.  The robots primarily perform welding tasks.  However we also have robots to apply sealers, and move parts and vehicles from line to line or station to station.  All the robots, lines, cells, fixtures, etc are the "Processes" we use to build the product.

I have developed a Microsoft Access application, known as MxP, with a SQL Server data store, to monitor processes' status (Running / Not running), track quality issues the processes create in the product, and keep tabs on process maintenance (both preventative and reactionary).  The system is also used to provide production information (start and stop times, production quantities, efficiencies, part traceability, etc.).

Integration with an HMI (Human Machine Interface) allows me to track live information about the processes (build quantity, running status, and part traceability).  By using auto logged information, the core aspects of the data are quite accurate due to the removal of much of the user inputs.

Users input data that supports the automatically logged information.  In short, MxP will record when and where something happened, our team members record why it happened, and how they fixed it.

On top of the MxP generated data, the system also links with many other applications our facility uses for reporting and traceability purposes.

The system has the capability of filtering and sorting large amounts of information for reporting purposes and research.  The research is usually done to answer questions that generally take the form: "Which process had the most stop time due to weld separation over the last 4 months?"; "Which process had the most stop time last week?"; "When was the last time this process was stopped for >20 minutes?"… The list of questions is endless.

Because of the wide array of questions asked of MxP, the reporting system is completely flexible, in that the users have the ability to filter the data on any field for any report.

The formats of the reports range from tabular listings, detailed reports, as well as Pareto and trend line charts.  Summary reports have elements of all the different primary formatting options.

The system commonly has ~50 concurrent users, and has had a peak of ~200.  The users can access the system from our WAN which extends all across the U.S., plus has limited connectivity to Japan. 

The ultimate goal is to have one application that can provide the core information our Production and Maintenance personnel need to track and manage their day.

With the flexibility of linking with many different data sources, coupled with the ease and speed of application development and distribution, Microsoft Access has fulfilled our needs beyond the expectations of many.

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