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4/15/2003 | 3 MINUTE READ

Near Dry Machining Means Improvements For Roof Rack Manufacturer

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These lubrication systems have increased this manufacturer's tool life by at least three times.


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Franklin Aluminum Company (Franklin, Georgia) is said to be the world’s largest roof rack manufacturer. Its parent company, JAC Products (Saline, Michigan), supplies two out of every three racks provided on North American vehicles and accounts for half of the category market share worldwide. Founded in 1962, Franklin is the only roof rack manufacturer to do aluminum extrusion in house. It has an ISO 9000, ISO 9001 and QS plant. With 40 employees working three shifts, 24/7, the company produces an average of 2,000 roof racks a day per customer.

Franklin manufactures a variety of parts and products used in the original manufacture of automobiles, trucks/trailers, recreational vehicles, pleasure boats, ships, transit buses, school buses, rail vehicles and aircraft. Its engineering, manufacturing and quality systems are geared for effective initial design, just-in-time delivery, E.D.I. and strict defect preventive requirements.

Franklin handles all the steps of the manufacturing process in-house, from extrusion to forming, drilling, painting, assembling and shipping. The company has three extrusion presses with modern enhancements, which provide the capacity to produce up to 20,000,000 pounds of extruded shapes annually. After extruding the aluminum, the next step is forming.

Mike Traylor, tool manager, explains: “No one else forms the way we do. After forming and drilling holes, the racks will go to heat treating to harden.” The responsibilities of Mr. Traylor’s seven-person department are to build the “tables,” the machinery that will form, drill and assemble racks. Because every roof rack is different, even for the same manufacturer, Franklin needs to design a dedicated table for each model. It takes about 2 months to build a new table specific to a new car model. Custom fabrication tooling is designed and developed in-house to customer specifications. The tooling is monitored and maintained in accordance with inspection and computer controlled maintenance requirements. After the forming and drilling stage, the roof racks will be heat treated, painted, assembled and shipped.

Three years ago, Franklin Aluminum converted its lubricants needs to Accu-Lube from ITW Fluid Products Group (Glenview, Illinois) and now enjoys the benefits of near dry machining. “Before we switched to Accu-Lube, we were using 20 ounces of lubricants per machine each day,” Mr. Traylor explains. “The lubricant usage per machine was 60,000 ounces/year. Today it is only 32 ounces/month/machine, 384 ounces/year/machine. For the entire plant, as we run on average 20 machines per day, we are now using 7,680 ounces of lubricant/year instead of 120,000 ounces/year!”

Since Franklin has been using Accu-Lube, the life of the racks has been drastically extended. Accu-Lube lubrication systems increase the tool life by at least three times.

“We decided to go to a micro-lubrication system 3 years ago,” Mr. Traylor says. “All new tables have been designed and equipped with a lubricator, and we are updating the old tables with Accu-Lube units. We purchased 30 Accu-Lube applicators in 2001. We are also in the process of combining/consolidating tables. Instead of having one table dedicated for one roof rack model, we are combining up to four different rack models on the same table. In that case, we will need an Accu-Lube applicator with more nozzles.

“As of today, we are using Accu-Lube applicators equipped with one to 14 nozzles. Each table is different; therefore, each Accu-Lube applicator has a different application.”

Accu-Lube applicators carry Accu-Lube fluid to the cutting edge, preventing heat buildup and enabling metalworking to perform better. Because the process is more automated, Franklin has improved the overall quality of the end product. Another benefit comes after drilling, when the racks are heat-treated and painted. The painting process is much more successful now that the holes have been through consistent high quality drilling process.

After an initial training, Franklin Aluminum technicians are doing all the Accu-Lube installations themselves. “It’s very easy to install and adjust. We have not encountered any difficulties, even when installing bigger units,” says Mr. Traylor.

“There is nothing to do to maintain the unit,” Mr. Traylor adds. “We have not had to repair or service any Accu-Lube applicator. You just turn on and off the machine. That’s all there is to do.”