TRW Automotive Parts
TRW, based in McAllen, Texas, receives from 1,000 to 3,000 used parts, called
"cores," for remanufacture and distribution to after-market retailers. The parts
arrive in unknown quantities and conditions, and each must be removed from its
box and inspected for admission at receiving. Previously, an inspector would
call out a core part number to a recording inspector, who manually wrote down
the number and condition on a tick sheet for later key-entry into a PC. One
record-keeper recorded verbal data from as many as 12 inspectors, with confusion
and inaccuracies occasionally resulting.
TRW implemented six speaker-dependent voice terminals which were programmed
to ask the inspector for data in a logical flow using synthesized speech.
Training required 30 to 60 minute one-time sessions for each operator. The
voice-based system enabled increased inspection throughput by 100 percent, and
eliminated record-keeping and data entry functions. Payback was anticipated at a
year and came in at six months. Voice recognition was so successful, TRW decided
to move it into its warehousing operation.
Famous for its employee-owned quality initiatives, Saturn, located in Spring
Hill, Tennessee, implemented radio frequency-based voice recognition at the
behest of its operator-technicians (op-techs). Saturn workers chose the system
in order to have their eyes and hands free to perform inspection and rework, and
at the same time to identify and log paint nonconformities and their sources,
flagging them in real time.
As a newly painted Saturn body exits the bake oven and a problem with the
paint is found, the inspecting op-tech describes its nature into the headset
microphone of a speaker-trained voice recognition unit, and the data is sent via
radio modem to the PC where it is logged and acted upon in real time. If the
painted panel needs rework, the op-tech's voice command opens a gate in the
overhead roller guide to route it to the rework area.
The ability to track and respond to paint nonconformities in real time, while
hands and eyes were free to perform work, was a critical factor for the Saturn
employees. The wireless voice recognition system has enabled Saturn to maintain
both high quality and high productivity, and to decrease the rework turnaround
time delay by 80 percent.