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Making money in the finish

The whole idea of lean production implicates that we can manufacture things smarter and cheaper with less matter and energy. Today the solution for many manufacturers is to abundantly move things around in the factory. When machines in the assembly lines instantly communicate not only with the directory program, but also with each other, much of this abundance and built-in margin in production can be greatly reduced.

New finishing solutions

For example, getting a car its final paint is a cost-consuming process for the auto industry. It’s a process that not only takes a lot of floor space, but also demands lots of chemicals and plenty of energy. Traditionally it’s a time consuming process within the assembly line, including most of these steps: prewash, pre-treatment, electro-coat, oven, seam sealing, oven, primer, oven, sanding, base coat, oven, clear coat, oven, sanding/polishing, spot repair, wax and assembly. The full finishing process can well require as many as 20 separate steps, in which baking and drying in several ovens are included.

The body of a car usually goes through such a finishing job by some sort of conveyor; normal today is a steady one-way flow through the whole process.

A smart control system

One American company has taken to the ideas of industry 4.0 and developed a smart inter-communication finishing system, a typical lean production solution. Apart from being modular and scalable it can also oscillate the product throughout the system. IntelliFinishing’s system, using a hanging conveyor together with a modern smart controls technology, allows individual sections of the conveyor to move independently in both speed and direction. This system by default decreases the need of floor space, as well as significant amounts of energy and chemicals. As it is modular and scalable, it is also easily adapted to the space given.

It is the combination of module interconnectivity with a smart control system that allows the factory to adapt the finishing line to very specific needs. It is actually possible to run even individual parts through the line, all in separate needs of finishing recipes. Instead of being stuck with a one-way loop, they can arrange the system’s components and process stations to maximise resources. The result is a faster, more efficient process with fewer errors, resulting in significant cost savings.


The beauty of next-generation finishing systems is that their automation can be scaled in correlation to an operation’s specific parameters. This scaling is made possible because automation can be broken down into three or four levels in terms of existing systems and future systems, up to the “Internet of Things”. The technology can pinpoint each part as it moves along the conveyor, as well as logging its weight, description, current process, previous process and the specified finish colour.

Modern, smart systems also provide a hearty treasure of useful analytics. You can in very short terms utilise the data to identify bottlenecks and by that knowledge optimise your process even more. An intelligent system can also generate production reports for reviewing, printing, sharing and evaluation. Management can use the reports to compare schedules, processes and the work of employees – and maximise them.

All the factors above: adaptability, interconnectivity, instant monitoring and logging makes this system from Intellifinishing able to cut time, chemicals, energy and floor space to a minimum, and by that save lots of money for the manufacturer. This is at the very heart of what lean and clean production means to modern manufacturing – they are truly keys for a successful industry.

/Gunnar Fägersten Novik

– Keys for a successful industry