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01 April 2021

Kitting –  Simplifying Supply while Reducing Downtime and Unproductive Time

Good cooks start by bringing all the recipe ingredients together on the work surface. It’s more efficient, it means not having to keep visiting the refrigerator or the larder, and it avoids finding out half way through that there isn’t enough milk, or that the last egg is cracked and unusable.

It’s just the same in shop floor assembly (production or in-field service). To work effectively and efficiently, the engineer needs all items readily available, not only the major items but also the complementary parts such as various assemblies, mechanical fasteners, couplings, hoses, consumables etc.

All these products, often small and delicate, need to be readily to hand, but at the same time kept safe and secure until they are needed. Ideally, such parts are presented to the engineer as a single, organised ‘kit of parts’ – a sort of tool box. Such a ‘kitting’ service is among the integrated supply services that MAG45 provide for their customers.

The benefits of kitting
Kitting means that production or service engineers have the assurance that all the necessary parts are available at the beginning of the task. Small and often delicate parts are kept safe and secure from contamination, damage and loss until they are needed. Valuable working time is not wasted and production is not interrupted, because engineers are retrieving additional parts from stores. Nor do service visits have to be repeated because the necessary parts are not present first time around. A well organised and presented ‘kit’ gives visual confirmation that all the parts are present. Kitting eliminates the need to leave a task incomplete or that subsequent operations are delayed.

Multiple separate parts are reduced to a single stock number, which simplifies requisitioning and inventory administration. The customer is relieved of the burden of accuratly picking many small parts or alternatively of mainting stocks at point of use.

New cleanroom facility
Several of our customers are manufacturers of machinery that is assembled – and subsequently used – in cleanroom conditions, so cleanroom standards obviously have to apply equally to the parts and components they receive. MAG45 has therefore opened its own cleanroom so that it can carry out parts kitting operations to the necessary standards.

Our new cleanroom opened in March 2020 and was built by cleanroom specialist Interflow. We have also taken advice and guidance from our customers in the semiconductor industry as well as from our partners who do the actuel cleaning of our products.

In our cleanroom we have approximately 200 SKUs of our most commonly used products to assemble various kit variances. Parts have to be picked, placed in containers or dunnage, and assembled into the ‘tool-box’ (and of course all the packaging materials likewise follow a clean regime). Appropriate labelling for individual parts and for the whole kit is also critical.

Cleanroom class compliance
At rest, the cleanroom meets Class 6 of ISO 14644; or Class 7 when people are present. The ISO standard specifies the number of particles over a certain size in a volume of air in the cleanroom. When people are working in a cleanroom this automatically increases the number of particles. Most of our customers measure the number of particles on a given surface area, which is subtly different. We work to the classification of ASML’s grade 4, an in-house standard but one which is widely recognised.

Our cleanroom operation – with its many unpacking, assembly and repacking sequences – is not typical, and we have worked hard to devise logistics flows and product routes that prevent any risk of cross-contamination. This applies all the way from the receipt of cleaned parts to the shipping of completed kits to our customer or their end-user.

Similar considerations display another advantage of kitting as a supply strategy – it is of course much easier and simpler for a field engineer to introduce a single sealed box of parts into the safe, controlled environment of a machine than it would be twenty individual packages.

Looking to the future
A possible development for the future would be around return logistics. In field service in particular, a kit may contain parts that might not be needed in certain circumstances, a few of them quite expensive. Returning such parts to stock while preserving or recreating the required level of cleanliness is not only beneficial for the environment but also for reduction of lead times of items with long lead times and scarcity.

Kitting, whether in a high-tech cleanroom environment or for more run-of-the-mill situations, is a powerful method of simplifying supply, while reducing downtime and unproductive time and eliminating error. While it is an approach that can be adopted in-house, using the dedicated specialist services of an integrated supplier such as MAG45 will lower the total costs involved and may introduce new levels of flexibility and accuracy.

Tim Verberne

Tim Verberne is Supply Chain Manager at MAG45. He has a master’s in Supply Chain Management and Strategic Management, which he has put to good use in optimizing stock management at MAG45 and its customers. He led the project to realize MAG45’s own cleanroom.