Project Case Study: Georgia Pacific Robotic Patch Line Simulation
Evaluating Robotic Patch Line Configurations
Georgia-Pacific’s Corrigan Plant produces a variety of plywood products for the building and construction industry. The Company discovered a number of inherent inefficiencies, such as over-routing and unnecessary patching, that occurred when identifying and repairing various veneer defects on plywood boards.
Since the process was handled manually, Corrigan’s management team made the decision to undertake a pilot project to automate this process by combining advanced veneer scanning technology with the latest in robotic patching equipment. An automated approach would greatly reduce the amount of panel re-patching and rework required, as well as allow for better management of patching material used, leading to an improvement in product quality, increased production and a quick ROI. A number of vendor-proposed layout and equipment proposals, as well as alternate designs were considered by the team.
Quantifying the impact that these configuration alternatives would have on key performance criteria using traditional excel analysis tools and methods proved to be challenging, time consuming, and inconclusive. A simulation modeling approach was chosen to evaluate the different system layouts and identify the optimal robotic patch line configuration.
A Robotic Synthetic Patch Team was established which comprised of leading equipment vendors and engineers, as well as Visual8 simulation consultants and Georgia-Pacific’s own engineering team. Together, they established relevant design factors for the new automated process as well as a set of six (6) preliminary design scenarios to include as part of the simulation analysis project.
Visual8 worked closely with the Robotic Synthetic Patch Team to coordinate the collection and structuring of the data required to drive the simulation model. The input information required included:
- Veneer grading information: defect type, sizing and clustering distributions
- Robotic defect routing and patching times
- Layout drawings for each potential design
- Conveyance logic, rates and times
Using SIMUL8 software, Visual8 developed a detailed simulation model of each layout and incorporated a number of user-defined inputs accessible via standardized spreadsheets and dialog boxes. From there, each design could be tested under a variety of conditions by changing key operational parameters such as:
- Defect sizes,
- Distribution and type, and
- Equipment performance metrics.
The output results collected from each trial was combined into a report format and reviewed on-site with the Robotic Synthetic Patch Team. The key performance criteria included:
- Panel Throughput
- Floor space requirements
- Product flow
The Robotic Synthetic Patch Line Simulation study allowed Georgia-Pacific to objectively evaluate and quantify the impact of each possible patch line configurations before making a final decision. The simulation analysis led to a much higher level of confidence in the design that would best meet their requirements.
Additionally, the simulation also provided a great deal of insight into a number of factors, such as:
- The impact future veneer defect types and rates would have on their process,
- The relationship between router sizing and patching solution consumption, and
- Potential positive effects of adding further intelligence into the operation.