At Engel Canada, Inc. (Guelph, Ontario), putting the adaptation philosophy into practice has been a critical element in executing the success formula of investment, reinvestment and expansion. As part of its production process improvement strategy, Engel Canada began exploring ways to cut costs and streamline production on one of the most critical injection machine components: the hydraulic piston. This highly precise and sensitive component, which ranges in length from 600 to 2,200 mm and ranges in diameter from 50 to 500 mm, is at the crux of the injection process—the component through which plastic is pressed into the mold portion of the device.
The problem was that Engel had to rely on external partners for production of this part because of the company's lack of deep-hole drilling capability. Outsourcing the production made for longer run times and higher production costs. Dependence on paid labor also took process control out of the company's hands, resulting in quality and deadline issues.
In addressing this problem and searching for solutions, the company turned to Weiler Machine Tools(Pineville, North Carolina). The Weiler name was well known to Engel's sister companies in Austria, where 21 Weiler E-Series lathes are in operation. The results Engel Austria reported, combined with the newly developed and incorporated deep-hole drilling capability, made the Weiler E-Machine a prime candidate.
E-Series is the name Weiler gave to its line of horizontal lathes, which combine user-friendly software with a CNC control while maintaining the possibility of manual lathe operation. The lathe is said to provides a cost-effective solution for small- and medium-batch production of workpieces with complicated contours and strict tolerance requirements because the machines are precise and easy to program. The Weiler-developed software, based on the knowledge and suggestions of lathe operators in the field, provides screens that are straightforward, well organized and easy to follow, according to the company. This translates into short retraining times for operators and stable labor costs for management. Eventually, live tooling and C-axis functions were added to the catalog of options, increasing the application possibilities of the machine.
When Engel heard that Weiler had expanded the functionality of the E-Machine to include deep-hole drilling, interest was high. Deep-hole drilling was the identified problem area, but all part requirements had to be met. Depending on the particular machine technology and application, the contours and dimensions would vary significantly, which made for a perfect fit.
Engel Canada saw the results on the production floor quickly. From the operator's point of view, there have been no disappointments. With everything the machine needs to do, the simplicity claim seemed hard to believe. But on of the company's machinists, Marian Przychodz, says, "Even for setups, programming and deep-hole boring of highly complicated parts, our new Weiler is a very handy and operator-friendly machine."
Management is also pleased because the numbers have improved. By employing the new lathe with deep-hole drilling capability, the hydraulic pistons are now produced completely at the Engel plant in a single operation. "Through the transition to complete production, production time has been reduced up to 2 weeks with a 15 percent cost savings," reports Juergen Winkler, the lead engineer of the production department.
The process improvement implemented with the Weiler E110 acquisition resulted in additional benefits as well. "From the global employment of Weiler lathes stems interesting synergy and cost-saving effects, such as global tools, global NC-program creation and production planning, global tool catalogs and global time standards," says Executive Vice President Franz Strohmaier.
The lathe's combination of turning, milling and deep-hole drilling, facilitated by a special clamping plate with a pressure intensifier for quick drilling block mounting for ejector drilling, has turned into a winning ticket for Engel Canada, Inc.