AKM345 GEN3 OTIWTI™ Production Spotlight

Qualitrol is excited to kick off 2023 by launching a newsletter and the first feature for our newsletter is a spotlight on production. We interviewed Damien Ferrin, the Value Stream Leader for Belfast AP products. Damien’s team, among other things, is responsible for production of the AKM345 GEN3 OTIWTI™ line. We caught up with him recently about his work with this next-gen device, and here’s what he had to say:

Qualitrol AKM345 GEN3

Interviewer:  Damien, would you start by introducing yourself? What is your role at Qualitrol?

Damien: For the last three years, I am the Value Stream Leader for Belfast’s AP products manufacturing group so I’m responsible for production scheduling, on time delivery, process & quality performance, procurement and 5S, but I held other technical and supervisory roles on the AP line before that.

Interviewer: What is it like working at Qualitrol? Tell us about your team.

Damien: We have a terrific group of individuals working in Belfast and across Qualitrol. This team really comes together to navigate challenges that can come up fast. We also have our parent company, Fortive. Being able to lean on Fortive tools in the FBS suite helps us navigate problems in an increasingly complex world with ever more complex problems.

The products we build help ensure the safety and integrity of electrical supply across the globe, so in a very real sense we are helping to keep the lights on in schools, hospitals, businesses and homes all over the world.

Interviewer: So, you are responsible for the new AKM345 GEN3, what’s different about this instrument? Why is this exciting?

Damien: For starters the GEN3 is really designed for manufacture.  Some non-value added operations have been eliminated and the time saved is being utilized to assemble and test exciting new features such as Modbus signaling.

Transitioning to an improved and ruggedised 3rd generation product has many benefits, from quality and process variation reduction to enhanced material control to simply better utilizing of space in the best 5S tradition.

Interviewer: How is the GEN3 an improvement over earlier generations?

A 5S Workstation

Damien: With GEN3, we offer IP66 and C5-High environmental protection as standard. Not only for offshore and coastal locations, but the whole install base, will benefit from a more robust ability to function for years in harsh conditions.  Also, I suspect that Modbus communication will have an increasingly important role in condition-based monitoring in the future.

Interviewer: How does designing for MFG improve production, and therefore the customer experience? What is the customer going to love about the GEN3?

Damien: At this point we have already produced several thousand GEN3 instruments, so I have quantitative and qualitative data that tells me the quality / process team have done a very nice job with cell set up, work instructions, programs and poka-yoke solutions etc. We are well prepared to meet current demand and we’re also ready for future ramp-up.

Here’s one example, from many, for how this will improve the user experience.  Production operatives used to have to calibrate PCBs using trim pots to achieve the appropriate remote indication outputs.  PCB’s now come preset from supplier, so only a test verification is built into the process, now.  Less complexity equals improved repeatability and improved takt time, which ultimately benefits our customers via improved quality and on time delivery performance.

We worked hard to incorporate VOC feedback into the design from day one, and I think customers are going to see that.  Customer feedback inspired the introduction of features such as Modbus communication, removable cover, IP66 and C5-High as standard. And the fact that we built these exciting new features on top of a trusted technology which has decades-long performance history is even better!

Interviewer: You mentioned the FBS suite earlier; what is that and how does it relate to manufacturing the GEN3?

Testing the AKM345 GEN3

Damien: FBS is the Fortive Business System, a series of tools, processes and values designed to define all we do as we drive continuous improvement. For me, FBS is the heart of Qualitrol and Fortive.  It’s a common language we use to tackle problems together.  In manufacturing, that shared lexicon includes standard work, problem solving, 5S, daily management and reliability among many others.

If we take GEN3 as an example, we held a series of events in production to prepare for launch.  Initially, we had a cross-functional workshop using elements of standard work and 5S to determine how, where and when the manufacturing cell would be set up.  We used floor layout processes, tool and equipment lists, work instructions etc. to cement planning and create budget.  We held a second event using the PFMEA kaizen process to ideate, categorise and score potential safety, quality and process risks, and generated an action plan to address these.  Finally, when we had built in the process improvements and received tools and equipment, we held a week-long Standard Work kaizen to set up cell, embed the processes, reduce waste and maximize efficiency.

Everyone is aware that the global economy and geo-political landscape has experienced major turbulence over the last few years.  Qualitrol serves a global marketplace and partners with a global supply chain.  Streamlining our GEN3 design, manufacturing processes and product offerings will reduce risk going forward and allow greater control in meeting commitments to our customers.  The aim of course is to deliver the best quality products to our customers, on time, every time.

AKM345 GEN3 OTIWTI™is the next generation of oil and winding temperature indicators for transformers of all classes. The AKM345 GEN3 represents the latest technology in temperature measurement, control, and monitoring for electrical transformers while utilizing the same great AKM bellows technology that has been trusted for over 50 years and includes numerous improvements and additional features. The biggest new feature is the addition of RS-485 MODBUS which allows customers to better integrate temperature data into their monitoring systems. Additionally, the AKM345 GEN3 hasIP66 ingress protection and C5-High corrosion protection standard, making it the most robust standard temperature indicator on the market. 

Established in 1945, Qualitrol provides condition-based monitoring solutions across the globe for high value electrical assets. We are the largest and most trusted global leader for partial discharge monitoring, asset protection equipment, and power grid applications across generation, transmission, and distribution systems. At Qualitrol we are defining reliability in condition-based monitoring. 

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