Case Study

Factory Automation – Assembly Line Capacity Expansion

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The Client

Automotive vehicle manufacturer

Capabilities Demonstrated

  • Capital project management
  • AGC system configuration, programming, and testing
  • Technical specification development
  • Facility and assembly process layout
  • Visual factory simulation modeling – capacity planning, throughput analysis, & bottleneck discovery
  • SCADA control system upgrades and software development
  • New equipment automation (e.g. pick-to-light, fluid fill, part marking systems)
  • IT-OT network update support
  • PLC programming
  • HMI programming
  • Material flow optimization
  • Integration with MES
  • User training
  • Support for customer-led continuous improvement


Our customer needed to expand their assembly line capacity by 50%. They needed this accomplished without bringing the existing line down for any significant period of time.


A&E delivered the control systems needed for much of the automation, particularly the AGC (Automatic Guided Cart) and Andon systems. A&E also provided guidance and technical support (e.g. capacity planning & throughput analysis) for the overall expansion. Our solutions dovetailed with the customer’s ongoing lean manufacturing journey by virtue of its modular, scalable design and focus on sustainability.


  • Expansion increased capacity by 50%, allowing the customer to consolidate their resources.
  • Existing assembly line continued running while the expansion was built in parallel, then joined together with the existing line
  • On-time startup of new factory
  • Knowledge transfer and documentation to ensure client resources can operate and maintain equipment and systems

Project Overview

The existing assembly line had to continue running while the expansion was built, tested, and started up in parallel, then joined together with the existing line with minimal risk and downtime. This required complex and meticulous planning and execution across five major project phases:

  1. Layout and high-level process flow design
  2. Automated Guided Cart system design and technical requirements specification
  3. Installation and testing of expansion area
  4. In-situ upgrades and layout changes to shared production area
  5. Final tie-in and production launch of combined production area

A&E was the project manager for the automation/controls aspects of the assembly line expansion, particularly the AGC, Andon, and SCADA systems. A&E also provided guidance and technical support for other aspects of the overall expansion project (e.g. process equipment integration, MES integration).

The scope of expansion included:

  1. the addition of two new assembly lines,
  2. doubling the size of the post-assembly (test/repair/ship) area.


  • wrote the technical specs for the AGC system,
  • validated the layout for AGC and assembly process feasibility,
  • identified impacts to all other systems related to and/or integrated with the AGC system,
  • coordinated the AGC project timeline, tracked progress and managed exceptions,
  • developed test plans and acceptance criteria,
  • oversaw installation and commissioning, supported startup, and
  • provided training for engineers and operators.

A&E also planned and executed additions/upgrades to the Andon and SCADA systems. This included oversight of networking and controls hardware throughout the new area, substantial rewrites to Andon PLC code, integration testing with AGC and other systems, documentation, and training.

The customer’s Wonderware System Platform galaxy and objects were completely overhauled, replacing a patchwork of one-off applications and objects with an organized and modular galaxy hierarchy. Several new dashboard and scoreboard applications were developed for both existing and expanded assembly areas.

Lean principles were baked into our solutions, from reusable code objects, to flexible AGC pathways, to faster and more reliable handshakes between systems. Our designs formed a continuous improvement platform that enhanced our customer’s ability to pursue future projects with less effort.

We provided technical assistance with various smaller controls and integration projects within the assembly area during the expansion project, such as:

  • end-of-line vehicle test system troubleshooting,
  • manipulator safety interlocks, and
  • process equipment integration (e.g. part marking systems, fluid fill systems).

Software Developed

  • Automated control of andon system for assembly lines
  • Automated control of AGC (assembly line conveyance) system
  • Integration with MES (SAP-ME, SAP MII)
  • Integration with process equipment (e.g. end-of-line test systems) for error-proofing, material flow and no-fault-forward quality systems
  • HMI/SCADA – Various custom scoreboards throughout assembly area
  • HMI/SCADA – various custom interactive engineering / supervisory dashboards throughout assembly area
  • HMI/SCADA – Development of modular hierarchy of code objects and graphics to reduce errors and accelerate future software development

Platforms & Hardware Utilized

  • Rockwell Logix PLCs
  • Wonderware System Platform (HMI/SCADA)
  • SAP-ME (MES)
  • ProModel® visual factory simulation modeling