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Viewpoints: Auto Suppliers Must Be Highly Capable

Viewpoints - Vincent Trampus 

By Vincent Trampus
Vice President
Sales and Proposals
HELLER Machine Tools


Capital spending globally may not be where the industry had expected it to be in 2013, but our cautiously optimistic outlook is based on the refinement of our portfolio of innovative and competitive products, as well as new products presented at EMO. In all markets worldwide, we observed that investors have been somewhat hesitant with investments.

Nevertheless, vehicle producers globally are looking for greater support from manufacturing system providers. Among the criteria they are seeking: financial independence and stability, research and development commitment, global presence, demonstrated problem-solving capability, process expertise, local production and service, qualified personnel, and a proven ability to meet the customer’s total cost of ownership.

To ensure top-level effectiveness of its production solutions, HELLER has been taking an integrated approach to the value-added chain and its optimization for years. The result is an international production network comprising production locations closer to their end markets in Germany, England, Brazil, the US and, since this year, China.


Development Must Continue

Development expenditures will be increased by more than 10% in the current year at Heller. The focus will be on the diversification of the product range, enabling the company to better serve its existing customers and expand business into new target groups, including customers from outside the company’s traditional clientele from the automotive industry.

HELLER expects to attract new customers with a completely revamped product portfolio for four-axis and five-axis machining and combined milling/turning. We also have a completely new developed small machine for the machining of small light-duty crankshafts to round off the lower end of the product range in terms of external and internal milling processes.

Bringing its production solutions to North America is an important objective of the HELLER Group. The United States is a relatively low-cost country, in global terms, right now. Offshore vehicle manufacturers have made substantial investments in production capacity in the US. And when you consider the euro-dollar relationship, US-based manufacturers gain a big cost advantage over off-shore competitors.

Then there is project management. Systems are complex.

Managing the design, engineering, machine building, integration and installation of these complex system components is a key competency of successful manufacturing system providers operating globally in Europe, Asia, and South America as well as North America. System providers must be fully experienced at taking on full turnkey projects for the creation of machining systems from raw part machining through preassembly. It must deliver production to its customers, from beginning to end.

Process engineering and project management, planning a project from raw parts to finished parts, will become even more important in the future. To provide this essential service, suppliers of the means of production must start with simultaneous engineering to optimize process capability and production efficiency during the planning phase to smooth the path to start-up.

Piece cost will remain a key concern. Manufacturing system suppliers must be able to bring to OEM and tier producers simulation capability that can predict process stability, cycle times, and piece costs before any production begins. Service capability locally will be vital as parts producers are less available to troubleshoot systems, and due to lean production, downtime in any plant will not be tolerated.

Assembling machines within the market assures part producers of rapid response to their requirements. If you want to sell here, system suppliers must be able to build and service here. The vehicle production industry will always require that kind of close support. With deep engineering expertise, system providers should also be able to modify machines to better handle workpieces.

Going forward, the most capable suppliers will be even more essential to the success of vehicle makers. There is likely to be fewer manufacturing engineers within those companies and greater reliance on the machine and system providers. This spells great opportunity and great responsibility for global production system suppliers up to the task. ME


This article was first published in the November 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.

Published Date : 11/1/2013

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