Nissan, one of the world's major car manufacturers, produces approximately 3.3 million cars annually at over 16 worldwide production facilities. Nissan South Africa in Rosslyn, Pretoria, runs one of these production lines, manufacturing a car approximately every four minutes. As multiple vehicle models are produced on this line, with only a short lead time to delivery of the cars, processes must be carefully constructed to ensure efficiencies.

Roan Systems, a supplier that has been delivering barcode solutions to the motor industry for 10 years, provided Nissan SA with a mix of industrial printers, thus assisting the manufacturer in ensuring maximum uptime and smooth operation of its production line.
In 2005, Nissan SA needed to replace its legacy mainframe application. It had been developed over a period of 20 years and was not meeting the fast-paced and dynamic requirements of the company. There were concurrent plans to embark on a printer replacement project as the company needed reliable printers to replace legacy equipment on the production line, and at the parts and accessories distribution centre.
Specifications included thermal printers, used to print labels for the production line, and line printers. The latter is used to generate work instruction sheets that include details of each car and its components – an important consideration as many different models are produced on the production line.
Says Francois Greeff, senior IT manager at Nissan, Rosslyn: "Eliminating downtime was a key consideration when embarking on the printer replacement project. If a production line printer goes down, it can halt the production of vehicles which directly equates to a loss of revenue. Consider the consequences of halting production for a three-hour period when a vehicle is manufactured approximately every four minutes? It was therefore imperative for us to find robust printers that could handle the harsh environment of a production line."
The printers also needed to accommodate customised A & B symbols printed as tags to identify specific chemicals in the radiator. This is a requirement from Nissan's operation in Japan and allows for the identification of vehicles that will be exported. These tags form a key component of Nissan's governance processes and must be readable by eye and machine, allowing employees and systems to make use of barcodes to establish if the vehicles have undergone a required process, such as a safety check. Labelling also speeds up processes within the production line by providing easier identification.
Nissan had previously used Roan Systems for some of their legacy printer and hardware requirements. This had a direct impact because, with Roan Systems expertise, Nissan could use existing printers with its newly implemented SAP system without having to embark on a costly printer hardware change. Replacement only occurred where necessary.
Frikkie Koegelenberg, MD at Roan Systems, explains the impact: "Our solutions simplified the implementation of barcode systems across the business and allowed for a more reliable service for Nissan's production line, as well as in their warehousing where existing printers were replaced with Printronix thermal printers. This was necessary to gear the business for the future requirement of RFID, especially as the current hardware was becoming unreliable."
Roan Systems supplied Nissan with all the expertise they required for barcode printing and assisted with designing label layouts for SAP by supplying easy-to-use scripts. They delivered a label design that was more robust and reliable than the ones previously used at Nissan.
"Service was a major requirement of the printer replacement project," says Greeff of Nissan SA. "Our real-time view of production and the JIT (Just In Time) process meant that it was necessary to implement an industrial printer solution that was highly visible and could accommodate our environment. Roan Systems was an ideal 'partner' fit for Nissan because they understand our environment and needs. Our JIT process requires the services of a strong, reliable partner to maintain a smooth operation and ensure maximum uptime of the production line, especially when systems are changed as with our implementation of SAP.
"Their track record, extensive knowledge, service and support levels and culture of 'going the extra mile' were all motivators for signing a service level agreement with Roan Systems. The subsequent addition of an on-site engineering resource reduced overall downtime response from almost four hours to just 18 minutes, allowing us to achieve up times above 99%.
"In addition, Roan Systems overcame our online printer visibility issue by using the Printronix remote management tool," adds Greeff. "We can now configure the printers remotely and, when a problem occurs, the solutions alert designated staff by emailing them. This greatly reduces downtime as these issues can be resolved over the network."
The Printronix PrintNet enterprise printer management tool further enhanced efficiency by deploying the customised A & B symbols to all printers from a single point on the network. The tool also allows for simplified management and control of printers from a single PC.
"Roan Systems supplies consumables, adding further value by reducing the total cost of ownership of our printer solutions. For example, if a print head is damaged, they replace the print head immediately rather than quibbling about the cause. We believe that Roan Systems is a key part of our success in implementing the new systems and we will continue to utilise their expertise and services as we implement our world-class systems at Nissan," concludes Greeff.