Magna International, Conveying the Future

How can a multibillion dollar global manufacturer use design to turn costly conveyance inefficiencies into improved profitability and worker safety? 

Over 20,000 automotive products are produced and conveyed each and every day throughout the one million square feet of manufacturing space at Magna International’s Polycon facility. Although other aspects of their processes and technologies had advanced significantly, outdated storage and conveyance methods were creating bottlenecks that affected the company’s bottom line. The expenses associated with maintaining an obsolete system were exceeding $12 million annually. With several new technologies available and pressure to decrease time to market, Magna was ready to make critical investments in their manufacturing infrastructure and the future of Polycon.

With Magna eager to solve this challenge in 2017, Jacknife invited a group of internal and external stakeholders to reframe the challenge through what is known as a ‘charrette’, a process of collaborative design and solution mapping.

The 8 hour session, “Conveying the Future”, was designed to align over 15 internal and external stakeholders on Magna’s goals and set the stage for innovation. Process and mechanical engineers were teamed with industrial designers, communication designers and automation technology experts, producing dozens of fresh and feasible concept directions on a compressed timeline. Involving stakeholders during idea generation allowed the teams to move swiftly towards solutions aligned with the needs of the organization going forward.

Crucial to the process was the refinement of a System Solutions criteria list which addressed inventory, storage optimization and density, energy savings and worker safety. Examination of retrieval systems including automated vehicles and robotic resources, lead by one of the world’s most prominent logistics and automation experts, revealed prime opportunities for creating a smarter system hinged on the re-design of a base ‘storage unit’ which Jacknife’s Industrial Design team would soon tackle.

Findings from this session were the foundation Jacknife used to design a new storage product. Our team tapped into new material technologies from the National Research Council Composite Centre, and presented multiple design concepts and prototypes in a 5 week period. The resulting product design reduced the unit weight by 80% while increasing storage efficiency through a collapsible design by 75%.