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MAPAL Drills Into Cost Reduction Processes at Ford Engine Plant
MAPAL Drills Into Cost Reduction Processes at Ford Engine Plant
MAPAL Drills Into Cost Reduction Processes at Ford Engine Plant
MAPAL Drills Into Cost Reduction Processes at Ford Engine Plant

MAPAL Drills Into Cost Reduction Processes at Ford Engine Plant

Added to MTDCNC by MAPAL on 06 January 2017

When Ford opened its Bridgend Engine Plant (BEP) in 1980, the CVH engine produced on the 1.52million sq/ft site was one of Europe's most popular power train systems. Over 30 years later, the engine used in the Escort, Fiesta, Sierra and Orion models of the 1980s and 90s is long gone. Now, the site is producing the latest generation of environmentally friendly Ford EcoBoost engines and also the JLR V6 and V8 power units.

Producing over 750,000 petrol engines a year, Ford Bridgend is key asset in the company's European supply chain; only last year announcing proposals for the next generation of an all-new family of petrol engines to be manufactured in South Wales. Ensuring Ford hits its SPC targets and uncompromising precision levels on the most critical elements within a vehicle, the company has engaged in a cutting tool partnership with Mapal. Acknowledged as the world leader in the PCD cutting tool market, Mapal has been a key supplier to Ford Bridgend for over a decade.

As a core tooling supplier to Ford Bridgend, Mapal has a tooling engineer permanently based at the plant. Discussing his role at BEP, Mapal UK's Wayne Keepins says: "Mapal tools now account for upward of 90% of all PCD tools on-site, 80% of the milling tools and an ever increasing share of the solid carbide drilling products, which is the result of the Mapal Group acquiring the Miller brand of German holemaking products. To become a leading supplier to Ford Bridgend, Mapal has committed extensive resources to ensure the company benefits from our technical expertise and the evolution of our R&D efforts. This is underpinned by my daily on-site presence to support any cutting tool queries."

Over the last four decades Ford has invested near £3bn in the site, which is the epitome of modern manufacturing. This ongoing commitment has recently been bolstered by the announcement of an additional £100m investment in the next generation petrol engine line. Such investment levels are critical in the era of the modern automotive industry that demands a continual cost-reduction year-on-year. As Mr Keepins continues: "We are committed to helping Ford hit targets of improving productivity or reducing costs by 10-15% year-on-year. This is a huge challenge that is commonplace in the global automotive sector. Mapal continually strives to exceed these expectations, something that can only be achieved by working in a true partnership."

Stepping Up To The Mark

With an annual tooling supply to the plant well in excess of £1m per annum, a large portion of the Mapal products are applied to engine block milling and holemaking applications. Like most modern day engines, the Ford power systems are lightweight aluminium blocks with sintered iron inserts pressed into bores to support continually moving wear parts. It is within these holes and bores that Mapal has stepped up to the challenge with its bespoke multi-stepped drilling innovations.

As Mr Keepins says: "To improve efficiency, productivity, tool life and reduce costs, we have to go beyond replacing previous holemaking tools. We have to design completely new concepts. One example is the machining of valve seats on the 1.5 and 1.6litre engine line. The previous process used three different indexable insert tools to undertake four processes. The operations included machining the throat blend on intake ports, semi-finishing the intake valve seat, piloting the valve guide and then finishing the valve seat and guide. We developed a new combination tool that would reduce the overall process from three tools to two, which would reduce costs, set-up times and enhance productivity."

By removing the stock material in a single pass, Mapal eliminated the need for a separate throat blend and valve seat tool. This new combination tool reduced cycle times from 64 to 34 seconds, reduced tool setting times by 30% and reduced the number of tool changes by 800 per year.

As well as implementing productivity and cost saving combination tools, other tools have been developed to resolve inherent engine block machining issues. On the JLR V8 engine line, the crank boring process was trapping swarf in the guide pads of the boring tool whilst the rear of the tool was being contaminated with swarf particles. To resolve the situation, Mapal developed a two-tool process to replace the previous three tool operation. By eliminating the rough boring tool and machining the complete bore from one side of the block, the new two-tool process reduced insert consumption and improved tool life to the tune of £52,000 per annum. This was partly down to the new tool requiring four inserts as opposed to 8, a potential 50% saving. The engine line that manufactures 145,000 engines each year also benefitted from enhanced bore precision and surface finishes, improved hourly engine throughput and reduced tool changeover times.

Concluding on the installation of hundreds of PCD and solid carbide multi-function and combination tooling lines at Ford Bridgend, Mr Keepins says: "To establish such a partnership with one of the world's most recognised brands is credit to our dedication to the customer. We are on-site five days a week looking to continuously develop and implement new innovations. In parallel to this, the existing standard and bespoke product lines are supplied with uncompromising service levels. Mapal has a manufacturing facility in Rugby that services, re-grinds, re-tips and returns used products to the Ford shop-floor in an 'as-new' condition whilst new tools are also manufactured in the UK and delivered directly to the Ford engine plant as and when required."

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