Click image to enlarge

by Tim Wilson

Automotive OEMs challenged by market demands for innovation at a low cost

In the automotive sector, the buying public is more demanding than ever. People want quality and fuel efficiency at a good price. That message is driving all the way through the supply chain, with lighter weight materials changing the way vehicles are made. Still, there’s a catch: the regulatory environment is now increasingly strict, and that places limitations on materials and design.

“To meet upcoming fuel economy requirements, there is a trend in the auto industry toward advanced high strength steels (AHSS) to achieve weight reduction,” says L. Ray Osborne, director of engineering at Anchor Lamina, Windsor, ON. “But AHSS present forming challenges that typically do not occur with conventional low carbon alloy mild steels.”

To stay ahead of the curve, Anchor Lamina, a global company that manufactures die sets, steel plates, and metal fabrications for the automotive sector out of its Windsor location, must ensure that bend angles are up to snuff.

“One challenge is achieving consistent bend angles with conventional wipe tooling,” says Osborne. “This is leading many stamping companies to implement rotary bending in place of the conventional wipe tooling.”

Within the automotive sector, geometries are becoming more demanding. To get the most out of less material, precision then becomes the name of the game.

“Tolerances for our products are definitely tighter,” says Brendan Lane, general manager of Lanex Manufacturing, Maidstone, ON, a Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive part supplier specializing in stampings, headedproducts, wire and tube forms, as well as assemblies. “However, the part itself is still pretty consistent with older designs.”

But that may not be true for long. Driven by the same requirement for lighter weights and lower costs, plastics and composites are making inroads into more and more aspects of automotive manufacturing, and must sync up with the same design and regulatory requirements that include AHSS.

“We have some parts that are overmoulded,” says Lane, who has yet to see much impact from plastics. “The only difficulty we have run into is aesthetics; any dirt on a part will taint lighter coloured plastics.”

To deal with the changes the competing regulatory interests demand–lighter parts for fuel efficiency, stronger and heavier parts for safety–many companies have stayed nimble by investing in lean manufacturing and real-time inventory systems. These should in theory reduce inventory risk in the context of demand fluctuation, but that isn’t always the case.

“Being a Tier 2 and Tier 3 supplier, we are generally the last to know of scheduling changes,” says Lane from Lanex. “This can make keeping the proper balance for inventory difficult.”

Things might be looking up, however, as the 2013 automotive survey by consulting firm PwC found that there is pent-up demand for new cars, with consumers now waiting longer than six years to trade in their old vehicles. And with the US economy expected to continue with its measured growth, innovative companies will thrive. In fact, PwC says the real challenge will be to find the skilled workforce to get the job done. SMT

Tim Wilson is a contributing editor. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
Quebec SME receives $396K in federal funding

The Compagnie Canadienne de tableaux noirs (CCTN), based in Saint-Constant, QC, has received $396,000 in funding through Ottawa’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) Steel and Aluminum Initiative announced in March 2019.

McMaster opens $11 M engineering hands-on learning centre

McMaster University's Faculty of Engineering has opened a 28,000 sq ft student centre for hands-on learning.

Canadian manufacturing growth slows down: PMI Report

The pace of growth in the Canadian manufacturing sector slowed to a nine-month low in October according to the latest data from the Markit Canada Manufacturing Purchasing Managers index (PMI). The report attributes the slow down to businesses' supply chain disruption caused by a hurricane in the U.S.  which saw export orders contract.

Automotive drives strong robotic sales

The North American robotics market has recorded its strongest year ever in 2012, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

Jeff Nesbitt new Canadian sales manager for Vero

Vero Software has hired a new sales manager, Jeff Nesbitt, to support sales of the Vero solutions throughout Canada.

Tiny Twists

by Kip Hanson

Micro drill manufacturers achieve Lilliputian dimensions, solving big problems for their customers

Peter Burrell joins Amada Canada

Peter Burrell has joined Amada Canada, Mississuaga, ON, as sales manager.

He has more than 24 years of experience in the sheet metal fabrication business. He will be based out of the Mississauaga, ON, office.

Amada

New university lab for advanced manufacturing

The University of Waterloo is building one of the largest university-based facilities in the world to advance additive manufacturing (AM) and help companies adopt AM processes for innovative and customized products.

Job Shops Alberta - Growth by Design

by Mary Scianna

Strategy and hard work a winning combination for growing job shop

Advancing Canadian manufacturing

New show, conference focused on technologies, strategies to maintain manufacturing competitiveness

Hypertherm re-launches contest for North American schools

Hypertherm is holding its "Spark Something Great" education grant program again in 2017. The contest is open to Canadian and US schools and 10 North American winners will receive Hypertherm's new Powermax45 XP plasma cutting and gouging system and the company's Plasma Cutting Technology: Theory and Practice curriculum kit.

CNC crash fails

It’s a bit easier to watch when it’s not happening to you. Watch these classic confrontations between metal and machine.

Celebrate SteelDay in Canada

On September 16, steel product manufacturers will be able to celebrate what they do by opening their doors to the public. SteelDay is an interactive and networking event created by The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction.

Ottawa’s pre-election budget gets mixed reviews

Ottawa has introduced its 2019 budget, to mixed reviews from business.

Jeff Krause new head for SME

Jeffrey M. Krause has been named the new executive director and CEO for SME, based in Dearborn, MI.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn

Top