With more than 35 years of experience in industrial service, Plåtson has constantly cultivated new approaches and developed new practices to provide its clients with ingenuity and expertise.

Located in Oskarshamn, Sweden, the company specialises in creating and streamlining solutions for its customers’ production flows and processes. Plåtson’s industrial service is actually born through extensive collaboration with Scania, the Swedish manufacturer of trucks, buses, coaches, and power solutions, and the company’s neighbour and largest customer.

Recently, Plåtson acquired a world-leading automated 3D measurement system in order to secure the accurate measurements required for precision-demanding parts in a very time-efficient way. Consequently, the company can now provide its customers with real-time follow-ups and measurement data that is available 24/7.

Plåtson had been facing various challenges that eventually prompted it to look for a new solution for measuring Scania’s transport stands, ultimately reaching a turning point that motivated the industrial service manager to look for an automated system. With a number of key requirements specified in its technical request, the company’s search finally ended with Creaform’s latest technology, the MetraSCAN 3D-R robot-mounted optical scanner.

High-precision stands

Scania has several production plants in Europe. The cabs, which are the driver’s compartment, are produced in Oskarshamn, and the vehicle chassis are manufactured in other plants located in the Stockholm area, as well as in Holland and France. Therefore, the cabs have to be transported from Oskarshamn to the other production plants around Europe. To do this in a safe way and in an automatic loop, Scania uses transport skids in which the cabs are locked for transport.

Scania also uses other types of production stands. They have assembly stands used to move the cabs on the assembly line, and they have paint skids on which the cabs are painted. In each configuration (transport, assembly, and paint), the cabs are mounted on the skids and held by four anchor points.

High precision is required for both the cabs and the stands in order to hold and maintain the parts securely. Every standing point must be at the right position and must have the right dimension. The quality of Scania’s vehicles depends on it. Nevertheless, the stands are handled manually by forklifts at the factory and can be damaged easily.

Once on the production line, if problems are detected, an automated line at Scania detects and changes the faulty skids, which impacts the production workflow. To limit the scrap rate and maximise production, Scania mandated Plåtson to check every stand once in every loop and make sure all of the stands meet the specifications. When defaults are detected, Plåtson proceeds with a repair. In short, no stand leaves Plåtson to go to Scania before the measuring solution has given it the green light.

Overcoming manual challenges

Before using the automated measuring line, the inspection was performed at a manual station on a checking fixture with a ±2mm tolerance. The skid needed to fit in the fixture. If it did not fit, it was considered to be out of tolerance, but it was impossible to know by how much. Knowing with precision what the real problem was and which side was faulty was almost impossible. In addition, the old measuring method could not indicate the actual position of the four critical standing points.

Before working as the Site Manager of Industrial Service at Plåtson, Pär Henriksson was in charge of logistics at Scania. The innovative idea of having an automated inspection solution was already evolving while he was working there.

“I had this vision of a solution with which we could measure the skids in an automated way and have a database where we would keep the quality information about every skid,” he explains. “We could see the deviation between measurements, and we could compare the results with the CAD drawing.”

Once at Plåtson, Henriksson’s new associates considered the initiative to be an excellent idea that aligned with their mission to excel in everything they are doing.

“If you can supply your customers with a solution they didn’t know they needed, then you become a great supplier,” Henriksson adds.

Creaform’s automated quality control solution

Plåtson decided to invest in an automated quality control solution to raise the quality of its work and obtain higher precision on its measurements. To do so, the company wanted digital documentation and automatic reading of the skid measurement results. With automatic reading, they could stop writing data on paper by hand, and thus limit errors related to human fatigue or distraction. With digital documentation, the deviation report could be stored in a cloud service that is available to customers in real time. This way, the industrial service team could shorten its lead times and lower inspection costs for its customers.

Plåtson took the decision to test Creaform’s new technology, the MetraSCAN 3D-R. By testing the new control line, Plåtson realised how it could increase the quality of its measurements. Not only could the team know they had a deviation, but also they could know how big the error was in order to conduct the proper repair and correction. At this point, Plåtson knew that investing in Creaform’s automated quality control solution would make it very competitive.

The benefits of automated 3D scanning

Because deviation reports are stored in a cloud service, they are available for customers in real time. The benefits of this feature are enormous.

For instance, imagine that Scania faces a problem during production. It conducts a verification and realises that something is wrong with the skids, as they do not match the CAD drawing. Repair must then be made on all the skids on the production line. From there, Scania could also look at the complete lot’s inspection report. The repair decision will differ depending on whether there are only a few faulty skids or a complete lot of 2,000 skids with a deviation of ±3mm in one direction. Scania can either calculate how much it would cost to repair all of the skids, or verify if it is possible to adjust the assembly line in order to handle this deviation.

“With this equipment, we can choose the right repair method,” says Henriksson.

When all the data about each and every skid are available, it is possible to make a better decision by calculating the cost of different solutions. Plåtson is now in a better position to handle this kind of situation.

Comparison to the competition

Plåtson found that in addition to its metrology-grade accuracy and operational simplicity, Creaform’s 3D scanning technology is also more versatile than other solutions offered on the market because the MetraSCAN 3D-R can be used to measure many different skids with various sizes and shapes.

“Whatever our robot can reach, we can scan,” affirms Henriksson.

Plåtson can now measure up to 350 skids per day, while other scanning equipment could only measure three to five skids in that timeframe. Therefore, the company has achieved significantly shorter lead times.

Now, Scania has access to quality information regarding the skids. Moreover, Plåtson can be highly transparent in its inspection and repair services. Indeed, when a company is paid to make repairs to issues that they find through their own inspection, there could appear to be a conflict of interest: the more defects that are listed, the more repairs must be performed. The service company could be asked for justification, and the customer can question if the damages are really that bad and if they really require repair. Therefore, the new system provides a way to show what is being measured and what is being repaired in real time. With Creaform’s automated quality control solution, everything is now open and transparent.

Future projects

For now, Plåtson only inspects the transport skids with the automated 3D scanning solution. However, the situation could evolve further in the future. Scania is interested in including the paint skids and assembly skids in the automated measuring station. After seeing the benefits of 3D scanning on the inspection and repair of the transport skids, there is significant interest in getting the same measuring system and database for all the other skids.

The goal, of course, is to eliminate skid problems during production. The solution has attracted a lot of attention because Scania sees the benefits as soon as it logs into the system. It sees what Plåtson can deliver for the transport skids, and it knows that it could get the same results and benefits for the paint and assembly skids. For sure, as soon as another line is requested, Plåtson will be ready to make the investment, as it knows it will get a valuable return on it.