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|03.2006 MIRS technology
Each phase of the MIRS production process, from designing the cover to manufacturing it, is controlled by integrated software which manages the production cycle at a speed and with a precision without precedent in this sector. From the compounds to the finished tyre in 3 minutes: without interruptions, without semi-processed goods to move nor intermediate storage phases, without wasting energy.
The integrated software manages all the manufacturing phases:
•movements of the robots
•automatic supply of materials
•the choice of the tyre size and thus of the manufacturing drum
•manufacturing the cover
•handling the finished product
The software which manages all the manufacturing phases is in turn integrated with global software upstream of the manufacturing phase which, presides over the engineering process, starting from the initial tyre design.
For this reason, MIRS technology can be defined as a single computerized architecture which, starting from the definition of the product specifications, automatically determines the design of the mould, the choice of materials, the design of the drum, and as seen above all the manufacturing phases until the release of the finished product. The same software also defines the path driver of the MIRS robots and manages its working cycles.
The real secret of the total flexibility of the MIRS system is in this total integration between product design and production process.
Let us now see a summary of the main phases of a complete process - from design to production - by seeing how the main modules of the integrated system operate.
It starts with a building drum on which both the rubber elements (manufactured by winding the bead) and the reinforcement elements (metal and rubber coated textile cords) rest.
Mould Tire Designer
A software application called Mould Tire Designer (MTD) manages the definition phase of the product design specifications. The MTD allows the measurement of the building drum profile to be defined precisely, as well as the section of the cover to be realized on that drum. Once the scheme/configuration of the tyre has been defined (single layer, two-layer, runflat...) the system asks for the data necessary to manufacture the section of the cover, requiring the parameters characterizing each element. The results of the processing of the Mould Tire Designer are the design files of the drum profile.
The MIRS Specification Builder (MSB) is the software, which allows the information processed by means of the Mould Tyre Designer (MTD) and the Robot Path Driver (RPD) to be managed. The MSB creates the technological and manufacturing specifications necessary for the subsequent production phase. The MSB uses a relational database, by means of which any information (necessary equipment, product specifications, vulcanization, compounds...) is managed centrally.
Finally, the Pirelli MIRS Manufacturing Management Module (PM³S) is the software which takes care of transporting the product specifications from the central database to the factory, and then loads the MIRS lines with the information necessary for the production.
Thanks to the MIRS, to its technology, and to its new and innovative production method, the AIRI (Italian Association for Industrial Research) awarded Pirelli Pneumatici the Oscar Masi award in May 2002. The award is given every year to the company distinguishing itself by means of a product or project for having determined innovative and highly original and competitive technological solutions. Professor Ugo, Chairman of the AIRI, in presenting the award highlighted that, "the mass-media and politicians too often limit the horizons of their interest to public research. But industrial research exists as well, indeed it represents about 50% of the total research expense in Italy and has demonstrated and is still demonstrating that it is capable of excellent results. The new Pirelli Pneumatici technology is a very important example of it. Industrial research and its people are one of the Italian assets and should be preserved and brought to the attention of politicians and public opinion."
Within an industrial environment, an innovation may be of three different types. A market innovation, which assumes a new way of selling the product, a product innovation, where the product is not new but it performs better than that of its competitors, and a production process innovation, when a completely new production system is created.
MIRS, the state of the art Pirelli factory in terms of processes, techniques, instruments and raw materials used, comes within the third type, since it is a revolutionary production process innovation. The product is the same, as is the market sector, but the process is the great innovation: the great evolution towards a new concept, a new production model.
The MIRS factory is small, flexible, can be easily moved wherever necessary, and reduces production costs and time. Its innovation, the modern characteristic, which differentiates it from the old plants and production processes, is above all the ability to concentrate very large plants like those of a traditional tyre factory into a small and compact module like the MIRS.
But when was this decisive evolution in the Pirelli production process born? In order to know this precisely, we must go back a few years.
History of MIRS evolution
In the traditional factories, the primary need had become that of removing the unprocessed rubber left over from the processing. It was necessary to find a system that only permitted using the quantity of rubber necessary for creating a tyre without producing waste. The inspiring concept was, therefore, the necessity to remove the idle time between one process and another.
The standard process for processing a tyre consisted of 13 phases (each one of which foresaw further intermediate phases), this process lasted for 5 days. In order to speed up the process, a 'direct connection' was necessary between the raw material (the semi-processed material) and the finished tyre to eliminate the transport and storage phases. Basically, a technology to eliminate deposits and avoid discontinuity was necessary.
Once this concept had been expounded, there was, however, a doubt; is it possible to produce a sort of "liquid" rubber? Or, is it possible to have a rubber belt that can be put on a drum without producing waste? The answer was discovered in a real revolution of procedure: in the MIRS, the rubber does not move, it remains still and is processed by robots which "orbit" around it. A radical change, if we think of the long distances that the rubber covers had to travel in the factory to move from one processing phase to another. The greatest innovation was, therefore, the idea of letting the robots move and not the rubber.
Having drawn up the basic concepts of the revolutionary method, it was then necessary to determine the most suitable technologies for starting up the process. The time had now come to seek new technologies. The secret - strangely enough - was to look for them in other "industrial contexts". Indeed, the intuition which led to the construction of the MIRS came from the motor car world. We asked ourselves, 'if robots are used in the car industry, why not do the same for tyres too?'
The first operative phase thus started. Pirelli bought eight robots from FIAT and set up a laboratory, in which the production with the new process could be tested. In 1998, the first four tyres built with the MIRS technology were created.
From that moment, it has been all downhill; in December 1999 the MIRS project was 'announced' on the stock exchange, in the same year the first real module was constructed and in June 2000 the first MIRS factory was opened in Bicocca. Exactly two years later, in June 2002 the new compound room, the CCM (Continuous Compound Mixing) was inaugurated as an integral part of the MIRS technology. In August 2002, the number of factories in the world increased to four with the inauguration of the one in Rome, Georgia, United States.
A success story, which would never have had the same happy ending if it were not for the incredible commitment of the people who worked within the MIRS context. The figures of technicians, designers, and programmers with more integrated and composite competence than the traditional industry standards were discovered and are still being discovered inside the MIRS. It is as if the innovation, the integration, and the revolutionary synthesis represented by the MIRS process were also expressed in highly developed 'complex' professional figures who were above all capable of always thinking in a 'broad manner', like the MIRS itself.
The MIRS is an incubator of innovations, which proposes itself as a center of evolution and as Pirelli's diamond tip innovation. An always-operating motor, which pushes towards continual innovation, and as a result, generates improvements on the other existing factories.