Thorn Zumtobel – drastically reduce defect rate and cost of recalls

Instruction workbooks on paper were no longer sufficient to support the complex workflows of assembly operations at Thorn Lighting. The company therefore called upon Ansomatic to digitize its work instructions. Today, Thorn Lighting can proudly say that practically any operator can handle any job, without compromising on product quality or production speed.

Ansomat has dramatically reduced the 

defect rate of our outdoor lightening production

(Steve Maughan, Thorn)

Thorn street light brochure

As a member of the Zumtobel Group, Thorn Lighting is a UK-based manufacturer of high-quality indoor and outdoor lighting products. The company is recognized worldwide for its dependable, efficient, high-quality lightening solutions.

Complex workflow with high cost of failure

The manufacturing of outdoor lighting is based on complex workflows that are often challenging for operators. In the past, Thorn operators mostly relied on hard-copy instruction workbooks and spreadsheets, detailing the many different stages of the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, these instructions were not always easy to follow and led to many wrong handlings and mistakes.


In addition, with the advent of LED technology, assembly has become more critical. Contrary to conventional lamps, LEDs are no longer easily removeable from the luminaire. In case an operator fits the LED in the luminaire incorrectly, the entire luminaire needs to be redone. As a result, making mistakes has become costlier than ever. 

Wide spectrum of applications

To better support its operators during the assembly process, and to reduce the cost of errors and recalls, Thorn called upon Ansomatic to digitize its work instructions for the end-to-end assembly of outdoor lighting products. No less than 58 operator workstations at the manufacturing site of Spennymoor (UK) are now supported via a wide range of digital techniques and enhancements from Ansomatic.

Stair Ansomatic options

Guide operators end-to-end through the assembly process

Verify the position or quality of products and ensure accuracy of parts kitting

Project visual instructions onto the workstation to enable operators to wire their products correctly

Exciting flavors-

  • Barcode scanning enables operators to select the right component or LED, and to continue their workflow with the right instruction program.
  • Weight checks compare semi-finished goods with a reference weight from SAP, making sure not a single component has been missed.
  • PLC connection ensures smooth information flow between operator and machinery.
  • Priority steps: more (or less) detailed instructions are shown depending on the skill level of the operator.

Ansomat is so flexible, we can tailor it to every process.

(Gary Pilkington, Thorn)

Clear instructions reduce defects

Thorn now has a broad set of digital tools to clearly convey its instructions to the operator via screens, including video, 3D animations and audio. By making use of a voice-guided interface, operators do not always have to combine looking at the screen with critical handlings. This makes it easier for them to focus on the job and to smoothly complete complicated assembly steps without making mistakes. Ansomatic software also alerts operators to look at the screen at the right time when a specific operation is needed.


“In the past, our hardcopy instructions made it harder for our operators to avoid mistakes,” says Gary Pilkington, Manufacturing Engineer at Thorn. “With the implementation of Ansomatic, we have successfully digitized our work instructions, making it easier for us to get the right information across to our operators, and to deliver high quality output consistently.”



The digital tools provided by Ansomatic have immediately provided return on investment,” says Steve Maughan, Manufacturing Engineer at Thorn. “With the launch of a new product, 2 years ago now, we got zero complaints from the market and before Ansomatic we used to have numerous complaints when introducing new products. That’s the beauty of having Ansomatic.”

Reduce training time

Training time has also been drastically reduced. With our improved instructions, operators at any skill level can be assigned at any workstation. Ansomatic also allows Thorn to adapt the instructions to the operator’s level of proficiency. At first, when the operator still needs to habituate to a new workflow, instructions can have a high level of detail. But when they have become more familiar with the production process, the instructions can be adapted to reduce a number of non-critical steps.

Thanks to Ansomatic, we are able to bring more consistency in the process execution, and we reduce operator variation. This approach has already proven to reduce the number of errors across all our lines.”

Flexible operations

“Ansomatic is so flexible, we can tailor it to every process,” says Gary Pilkington. “For example, if we need to rebalance the line or move operations from one station to another, our digital instructions are easily adaptable. With hardcopy instructions, that would be very difficult. Ansomatic helps us to deal with the complexity of our processes. And if an operator has a suggestion to improve the workflow, it’s easy to adapt as well.”

Thorn now also has more flexibility to move operators around, because the improved instructions have allowed any operator to do any job, without resulting in variance or quality issues.

Another aspect of the system’s flexibility is that it can cope with many product variants and substitutes. For example, there is a lot of variety and complexity in Thorn’s fittings and LED boards. If the purchasing department is struggling to obtain a certain LED, the team can easily add a substitute and assign it to the system.

Ansomatic has had a huge effect on changeover time. Gary Pilkington: “In the past, a changeover meant that all materials were delivered to the line and someone needed to go over all the components, making sure we were building the correct luminaire. Now, we are using Ansomatic’s vision inspection capability to tell us which components we need. This way, we can speed up our changeover without making mistakes.”

Operator feedback

Ansomatic is well accepted by operators community.

Gary Pilkington: “As all instructions are intuitively presented to the operators, there is no blame culture anymore. If a mistake happens, it’s more likely due to a design issue rather than a human fault. Operators like the fact that Ansomatic takes ownership for them.”

Proven ROI

Without any doubt – one of the biggest challenges when introducing new technologies is to proof its return and get senior management buy-in.

Steve Maughan: “When we started to use Ansomatic, our management was a bit skeptical. They feared it would take longer to produce a luminaire. But we timed it and we were able to prove them wrong. Now that we have clearly demonstrated the return on investment, our management team couldn’t be more convinced of Ansomatic.”