Special Cutting Tools, Special Cars

Ford's new "world cars"--the Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique and Ford Mondeo (available in Europe)--can be equipped with a 2.5 liter, 60-degree, all aluminum V-6 Duratec engine designed to go 100,000 miles between tune-ups.

Case Study From: 7/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop

Ford's new "world cars"--the Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique and Ford Mondeo (available in Europe)--can be equipped with a 2.5 liter, 60-degree, all aluminum V-6 Duratec engine designed to go 100,000 miles between tune-ups. The engine is reputedly so good that during a 12-month or 12,000 mile period, only 1.75 customers per thousand are expected to return to their dealerships with an engine-related complaint. Producing an engine of this quality would be difficult enough in small numbers, let alone in the volumes predicted. The Ford Cleveland No.2 Engine Plant, where the Duratec is built, is expected to produce approximately 900,000 engines in 1996.

It's not surprising that Ford Cleveland expects a lot from its suppliers. For example, Ford's decision to use Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Guhring Inc., for all the "round tools" (drills and reamers) on Duratec's cylinder head, block, connecting rod, crankshaft and camshaft production lines was made about three years ago in the machinery concept stage, and based on a host of wide ranging criteria. According to Guhring Territory Sales Manager Tim White, Ford wanted considerably more participation from its tooling suppliers than before, and on an international scale. "Ford wanted a drill supplier with the expertise and staff to play a role in the simultaneous engineering to be done with machine tool builders both here and in Germany," says Mr. White. "They sought to ensure that builders were taking full advantage of the latest cutting tool technology, and its ability to impact the machinery's design early on as it relates to workpiece quality, equipment cost, machine flexibility, and other important issues."

Guhring's participation in the simultaneous engineering efforts in the U.S. with Ford, and other manufacturers, led to significant machine design improvements, according to Mr. White. "For instance, we were able to develop special tooling that, in a single pass, could produce a finished hole that used to take four separate operations," he goes on to say. "So, instead of spotting, roughing, reaming and boring a hole at four different stations, we can do it with one tool at one station, cutting cycle times and eliminating spindles, heads, even complete workstations from the design."

Now, three years later, 140 different Guhring tools are at work each day on five different production lines. Fully 95 percent of these tools are special. Most are solid carbide, coated and coolant feeding to meet the high feeds and speeds and tool life required to produce this number of engines. What's really remarkable is that Ford can usually get replacement tooling on any or all of these specials in 24 hours or less, thanks to a decision on the part of Guhring and its Cleveland-based distributor Strong Tool to collectively stock upwards of 1.5 million dollars in materials and finished tools without benefit of a purchase order from Ford.

But Strong Tool vice-president, John Siskovic does not seem concerned. "The customer can't afford to wait the usual two to four weeks for a replacement tool, there's just too much at stake in this project," says Mr. Siskovic. "So we've committed to getting Ford replacement or replenishment tools same-day or next-day, despite the fact that tool life and usage patterns are still being determined."

Not only does Ford Cleveland want it "now," they also want it "right." Guhring tools go directly from Strong Tool into Ford's cribs or onto a line without inspection.

Strong tool, with a history dating back 20 years with both Ford and Guhring, seems particularly well-suited for this challenging project. "We `specialize' in specials, and even have a carbide expert on staff," says Mr. Siskovic. "And we've worked closely with Ford and Guhring from day one on this project as a partner to develop a world-class tooling program, the likes of which don't exist anywhere else in the world."

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