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Project Case Study: Timken Automated Furnace Sequencing System

Improving Continuous Thermal Treat Furnace efficiency through better scheduling

Automated Furnace Sequencing System

The Timken Company, headquartered in Canton, Ohio, is a leading global manufacturer of highly engineered bearings, alloy steels, and related components and assemblies.

Scheduling of orders into the Continuous Thermal Treatment Furnace (CTTF) process was performed manually. The sequence of the orders had a direct impact on the running speed, temperature settings, and throughput of the Furnace zones based on thermal treatment requirements. Not only was this a time-consuming and difficult task, inefficient sequencing of orders led to low process utilization, higher running costs, and long delays resulting in poor conformance to planned product delivery dates.

Timken’s Management team approached Visual8 to develop an affordable planning solution that was flexible and could automate the current system with the operating rules and constraints of the thermal treatment facility in mind. Visual8 designed and developed a customized Automated Furnace Sequencing System that produced faster and more efficient order sequences. The automated system would provide the planner with the ability to adjust scheduling preferences to generate appropriate order sequences for current business conditions.

Automated Furnace Sequencing System Main Screen

Visual8 developed the Automated Furnace Sequencing System using a combination of simulation and scheduling techniques to produce optimal and feasible production schedules to effciently sequence orders across processes within the CTTF. A number of input parameters included:

  • Resource availability,
  • Order due dates,
  • Target workload levels.

The following features were also included to satisfy Timken’s sequencing requirements:

  • Austenitizing furnace (AF) characteristics including drive speeds and zone temperatures
  • Quench process timing, which is dependent on the type of quench required
  • Temper furnace (TF) characteristics including drive speeds and zone requirements
  • Scheduling rules
  • Order priority

The Automated CTTF Sequencer optimizes the flow of orders by cycling the temperature settings of the furnaces and launching product to satisfy the order due dates.

Automated Furnace Sequencing System KPI Results

By automating the CTTF Sequencing system, Timken’s order scheduler to was able to quickly and efficiently generate the line-up of orders for the furnace, reducing process delays, increasing throughput, minimizing energy requirements, and maximizing order due-date compliance.

The system reduced the current planning effort from hours to minutes. With this rapid generation of revised production sequences, new orders or changes to equipment availability can also addressed quickly and efficiently. The Automated Furnace Sequencing System also allows users to perform “what-if” analysis to determine the most efficient scheduling rules, as well as establish “best practices” for the CTTF.

Automated Furnace Sequencing System Main ScreenAutomated Furnace Sequencing System SimulationAutomated Furnace Sequencing System Input PracticesAutomated Furnace Sequencing System Input Quench PracticesAutomated Furnace Sequencing System Input TemperatureAutomated Furnace Sequencing System KPI Results