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Influx of Link-Motion Presses Pays Dividends in Mexico

Monday, June 01, 2009
 
Twenty years ago, Mexican metalformers had a fairly
Link-motion design of its newer presses has increased productivity
The link-motion design of its newer presses has helped Gobar increase productivity compared to its older, more traditional presses.
straightforward path to success, often tied to stamping parts for just one or two customers. For these same companies today, survival has led to market diversification, increased services provided and, often, new manufacturing methods to improve on quality and production rates.

One company that exemplifies such diversification, found just across the border from Brownsville, TX, is Gobar Systems, Inc. Gobar began as an automotive stamper supplying interior parts, mainly dashboard stampings, to General Motors and Delphi, among others. Then, a shift to supplying complete subassemblies to this same customer group grew its capabilities even more—taking on value-added operations such as welding, fastening and part insertion.

Fast forward to today, where the company is viewed as a comprehensive contract manufacturer that processes sheetmetal, plastics and electronic components and assemblies. Its 90,000-sq.-ft. facility, launched more than 20 years ago, employs 75, meets worldclass standards and practices lean manufacturing principles. It houses 25 stamping presses from 66 to 660 tons, and the firm added a second state-of-the-art stamping facility in 1998. Both facilities produce a range of parts for several industries, including automotive airbag components, car-stereo chassis and dashboard components, home-appliance parts and assemblies, and fire and safety components for extinguishers and the like. It also operates a sizable plastics division with 87 associates and seven injection-molding machines. Key customers include Autoliv, General Motors, Delphi, Bosch Systems and Kidde Corp.

Evolving into Non-Automotive

“We realized that our 100-percent automotive roots needed to be diversified when, several years ago, we experienced financial issues with a key customer,” says Rolando Gonzalez Baron, Gobar president and CEO. “At one time we were about 90 percent dedicated to supplying Delphi, and we along with Delphi knew that this was unhealthy. So we set out to diversify to other markets and other types of manufacturing operations. While we still serve automotive customers, our customer base now is two-thirds nonautomotive.

“Additionally, we’re not just a stamper,” continues Rolando, “as only half of our business is in processing of metal alloys. Our growth toward plastics and other advanced materials has been critical to our success.” A key goal for Gobar is to target an equal amount of business from automotive, plastics-processing customers, and a diverse selection of contract-manufacturing sectors such as telecommunications, medical and consumer goods.

While the company has shrunk from 600 down to 250 employees, its annual sales have grown from $20 million to nearly $45 million. This dramatic increase in productivity is due not only to the firm’s ability to diversify into new markets and operations, but also to its commitment to apply automation to nearly every production operation; invest in capital-equipment improvements; and seek to add value-added functions throughout its manufacturing facilities.

New Press Mix Meets Future Challenges

As part of Gobar’s commitment to invest in capital equipment, Rolando describes its need to add new technology to its press stable, a move the company began to make a little more than a decade ago.“We were tooled for a lot of GM component/bracket work in the mid to late ’80s,” says Rolando. “Then, an influx of competition hit our area. We went from no competition in the area in 1986 to four local competitors by 1992, to more than a dozen area companies vying for our business today. We decided to change out our lower-tonnage C-frame presses to allow us to stamp larger and more sophisticated parts and assemblies.

“Our older, lower-tech smaller presses weren’t going to allow us to meet our growth goals,” continues Rolando. “We had been operating used equipment, and struggled with maintenance issues. We then started investigating all of the press technologies out there, from C-frames to straightsides and even link-motion presses.”

Eventually the firm settled on Seyi as its press supplier of choice, and has installed nearly two dozen new Seyi presses—gap frame and straightside models from 66 to 660 tons. But Gobar needed more than just higher tonnage presses to take on production of bigger parts. It required a much broader vision, investing in technology to allow it to build its own dies. The company also became more focused on part design and manufacturability, invested in additional production training for its workers, and drove the organization to become more value-added in its overall mindset.

“Today we can produce simple stampings as well as more complex parts and assemblies. Our niche is making what others around us cannot,” says Rolando.

Link Motion Leads to Growth

Rolando explained how the link-motion design of its newer Seyi presses has helped the firm increase productivity compared to its older, more traditional presses.

Link motion allows a stamper to increase approach and return slide speeds and ultimately increase production rate—by as much as 30 percent, says Rolando. Other benefits include the ability to minimize springback; extend die life due to decreased shock, noise, heat and vibration; and perform multiple functions in a single machine, such as drawing, forming and blanking.

As an example of how link-motion technology allowed Gobar to improve productivity on a job, Rolando cites a case where it switched a deep-draw job from a hydraulic press to a progressive die mounted in one of its new Seyi link-motion mechanical presses.

“Because we felt confident that we could switch the process over,” Rolando says, “we had the customer’s blessing to proceed with prototyping and, with that success, prove all of the production tests for this part. We said that we could increase production rates by two or three times over the older method, and so the customer came in and validated our processes. The link-motion presses were key to this success.”

R & D Center Triggers Tooling SuccessAlso playing a big part in Gobar’s growth strategy has been its R & D Center, introduced in 1999 to focus on developing new tooling designs and the engineering of automation and robotics projects. Projects emanating from the center include application of new CAD/CAM design technology, incorporating wire EDM for tooling production and—most importantly—ensuring Gobar’s total involvement of the manufacturing process from front-end part design through die build and tryout.

The firm also has met the challenge of producing tighter-tolerance stampings being requested by its customers in the automotive and electronics markets. Dimensional tolerances can be as tight as 0.1 mm on some parts.

“While our modern presses help make this happen on a regular basis, all of the elements of the process—die design, the precision of the feed equipment, etc.—are just as critical,” Rolando says. “It’s important that you’ve got your coil payoff in line and you don’t have issues such as camber. All of these factors, and more, are important to a good-quality operation.”

On Gobar’s Future

Gobar expects its overall growth and improvements will continue in two key areas. The first one can be found in its training commitments. The company operates its own corporate university, a place where its people (as well as employees from other local companies) can attend various training sessions. The stated goal of the corporate university: “To enable our associates to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization with a strong emphasis on a culture of discipline, quality, precision and teamwork.” A wide range of subjects are taught including CAD/CAM and other programming, mechanical engineering, management and quality control.Secondly, Rolando and his team see growth coming from taking on more subassembly work across a wide range of materials. “Our customers continue to reduce their supplier base, and for us to keep existing work and grow into new opportunities, we’re finding ways to process subassemblies with metal, plastic and composite parts, even taking on the new higher strength steels,” says Rolando. “Our goal is keep the customer happy by providing the increasing level of value-added services they expect.” MF

Article provided by Seyi Presses, Inc, Tullahoma, TN; tel. 931/455-7700, www.seyi.com .

 

See also: SEYI America, Inc.

Related Enterprise Zones: Presses, Tool & Die


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