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Hatch Sees Opportunity in the Volunteer State

By: Louis A. Kren

Monday, June 1, 2015
 

The U.S. automotive base has steadily migrated southward. As OEMs and top tier providers have inundated the Southeast, suppliers in the traditional Midwest vehicle stronghold have had to come to grips with lengthening supply chains, and the need to stay engaged and immediately available to now-distant customers.

1000-ton Nidec Minster press and integrated feed system
The largest of three new press lines at Hatch Stamping Co.’s new plant in Portland, TN, is anchored by a 1000-ton Nidec Minster press and fully integrated feed system. This line, and the others, allow Hatch Stamping to fulfill current work for its Southeast U.S. customers while providing flexibility to accept a range of new jobs.
“We stay very close to industry trends as to where our customers are located and where the work is flowing, not only regionally and throughout North America, but globally,” explains Dan Craig, Hatch Stamping president and chief operating officer. The company is predominately dedicated to the automotive industry, serving primarily Tier One and Two customers and OEMs. “Any new assembly or OEM plants in North America, excluding Mexico,” he continues, “are being built in the Southeast United States. Understanding that migration, we felt that if we had to redeploy assets, the Southeast would be the logical place.”

In exploring its options, Hatch Stamping conducted a six-month study of customer and OEM locations in the region as well as areas with good talent pools.

“We put everything together,” says Craig, “and Portland, TN, fit the criteria for what we needed to be successful in the Southeast.”

Press Lines Fully Outfitted, Selected for Current and Future Work

This past April, after eight months of toil adding infrastructure, access and beefed-up utility service, a new plant has emerged. The massive, pristine interior is dominated by 250-, 350- and 1000-ton press lines from Nidec Minster, Minster, OH. The three lines, complete with coil-handling equipment as well as a transfer system on the 1000-ton press, give Hatch Stamping flexibility in servicing current customers and the ability to accept a range of new business.

“Overall, the lines allow us to run a variety of materials, from cold-rolled to standard hot-rolled to high-strength low-alloy steels,” explains Stewart Claucherty, Hatch Stamping engineering manager. “We also can run dual-phase, stainless steel and aluminum.

“With such a range we can meet the needs of many customers,” he adds.

Mirroring production at its other plants, Hatch Stamping will transform these materials into all sorts of parts including automotive seat-assembly brackets, tracks and seat-related mechanisms; ABS and other braking components; and fuel-system brackets, straps and rings.

The press lineup includes a Minster E2H standard mechanical 250-ton press, selected for its robustness and minimal bed deflection, enabling production of tight-tolerance parts that require coining and high-impact forming.

The E2H 350-ton press features Minster’s alternative slide motion (ASM) technology.

“It offers unique drawing capabilities while maintaining efficient stroke speed,” explains Claucherty. “If the ram velocity is too fast on some of our draws, the parts will tear or fracture. With ASM, the ram slows at the bottom of the stroke for a slower forming rate, and then accelerates on the way up and back down. It provides some characteristics of a servo-driven press but at the higher speeds we need. That’s why we opted for ASM over servo drive in this press.”

The 250- and 350-ton presses have 47 by 120-in. beds, along with automated feed lines that accept stock widths to 32 in. in thicknesses from 0.020 to 0.25 in. These turnkey lines also feature integrated control that runs all components from the press console.

The largest press, Minster’s E2 1000-ton unit, provides a 72 by 168-in. bed and will produce parts at full-tonnage speeds from 17 to 35 strokes/min. at Hatch Stamping. The line can feed material in thicknesses from 0.030 to 0.375 in. and has been augmented with transfer capabilities.

Servo-Transfer System Offers Production, Die-Change Advantages

An LTA-FR front-to-rear transfer system from Linear Transfer Automation Inc., Barrie, Ontario, Canada, was installed after the 1000-ton press arrived, and offers Hatch Stamping flexibility in production and die change.

 1000-ton=
The 1000-ton press features an LTA-FR front-to-rear servo-driven transfer system from Linear Transfer Automation Inc., Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
“It’s full servo-driven capability allows for unique motions,” says Stewart Claucherty, Hatch Stamping engineering manager, “giving us the option to run at aggressive speeds or slow down and round out motion curves for smooth operation on thinner tight-tolerance parts.”
The system gives the stamper conservation of window space; extra lift height to ease die changeout; and independent control of transfer movement on each side of the press that provides options in part routing.
The system, mounted on the front and rear of the press, provides rigidity and servo-motor control of all axes, important for Hatch Stamping’s high production speeds and need for part accuracy.

“It’s full servo-driven capability allows for unique motions,” says Claucherty, “giving us the option to run at aggressive speeds or slow down and round out motion curves for smooth operation on thinner tight-tolerance parts.”

Standard features include touchscreen control with master encoder feedback, storage of multiple tool recipes and programmable part detection.

Claucherty identifies three features in particular that suit the transfer system to Hatch Stamping’s needs: conservation of window space, extra lift height and independent control of transfer movement on each side of the press.

Transfer bars do not drive through the press window with this system configuration. That conserves daylight space and allows Hatch Stamping to run wider product. Extra lift height is provided through the system’s Z2 lift option—it can park 13 ft. in the air to enable access for large dies and fork trucks. This option significantly assists in die changeout at Hatch Stamping.

Independent control of transfer movement enables a part to be formed in one direction on one side of the press and then horseshoed around to enable additional forming in the opposite direction on the other side. This effectively doubles the length of the press ram. The system was installed so that an additional shuttle mechanism can be added easily for part transfer from one side to the other.

“Using this capability,” offers Claucherty, “depends on part geometry and what is required tonnage-wise for forming.”

Support Operations Up to Speed

Gobbling up scrap is an underground, out-of-sight conveyor system from Prab, Kalamazoo, MI. Three feeder trenches route scrap from each press to a main conveyor that deposits into one of two containers in an adjoining 5000-sq.-ft. scrap bay. The system communicates automatically to indicate when the containers must be switched out.

Supporting the stamping operations are an onsite quality lab with 3D inspections, tool certifications, CAD comparison, dimensional analysis, and reverse engineering through  PCDMIS-controlled CMM and portable laser scanning to ensure that customer quality expectations are met. The entire value stream from incoming material to in-process inspection and final audit are tracked via a quality system tied to the Plex (Troy, MI) ERP network. The new facility also provides full engineering support using VISI CAD/CAM software for tool building, and will be outfitted to perform all tool maintenance and repair with the ability to construct new tooling if needed. Initially, however, tool build will be sourced locally.

Again, Hatch Stamping in Tennessee plans to duplicate the capabilities of its other plants, so it will be adding welding and assembly operations.

Able Workforce, Industrial Base Drove Location Decision

Local sourcing points to a major reason why Hatch Stamping established its plant in Portland. The area is home to a host of industrial companies, including other stampers and machine shops. That makes not only for likeminded and convenient neighbors but also for a developed workforce.

“In scouting locations, we looked at the talent pool,” recalls Craig. “It was important to us that we have competition, which means that there are skilled employees in the area. Since choosing Portland, we’ve worked with local employment agencies and local governments, and networked with school systems and universities to screen new employees. So far we’ve found good people with talent and experience.”

Utilities and governments have assisted with upping the power supply to the plant, which originally had been built for offices and light industrial use, and building an access road. In the meantime, Hatch Stamping’s industrial neighbors made their lots available for truck and employee access, and the company already has worked with local operations for machining, trucking and other needs while awaiting installation of its own equipment.

At this early juncture, Hatch Stamping looks to be a good neighbor surrounded by good neighbors, and is poised to be a good neighbor to the automotive market in the Southeast. MF

 

See also: Linear Transfer Automation Inc., Nidec Minster Corporation, PRAB, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Automation, Coil Handling, Presses


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