Mazak Hyper Turbo-X Helping CNH Consolidate Production
< a href="http://www.modernmachinerycompany.com/index.php/laser-cutting-machines/">Laser cutting machines from Mazak Optonics Corp. are helping the agricultural equipment business of CNH (Case New Holland) consolidate harvesting equipment production, further modernizing its manufacturing processes and be a low-cost supplier.
The fabrication shop at the CNH hay tools plant in New Holland, Pennsylvania, has been working seven days a week for nine months to accommodate the transfer of product lines from the company’s plant in Belleville, PA, scheduled to close in 2008. The New Holland plant ultimately will gain 1,500 part numbers from the Belleville facility and its laser workload will increase by 15 to 20 percent.
Majority owned by Fiat S.p.A., CNH is a world leader in the agricultural and construction equipment businesses. Supported by about 11,500 dealers in 160 countries, CNH brings together the knowledge and heritage of its Case and New Holland brand families with the strength and resources of its worldwide commercial, industrial, product support and finance organizations.
The New Holland plant opened in 1895, as a one-man engine repair shop. Abe Zimmerman’s New Holland Machine Company would carve its niche in the 20th century as an innovator of agricultural equipment. In 1940, New Holland introduced the revolutionary “Nolt,” the world’s first commercially successful automatic picking and self-tie baler. This product established the company as a leader in agricultural equipment. What followed was a shift in direction from engines toward hay and forage equipment, with improved forage harvesters, rakes, and spreaders. Balers still are the major product of the New Holland plant, but it also fabricates parts for CNH’s other plants, adding to its workload.
CNH acquired its first two Mazak STX laser-cutting machines in 1999. They were purchased in lieu of competitive manual load/unload lasers, which were the first lasers at New Holland. “We’ve been buying one or two lasers a year ever since,” says Bob Unruh, Manufacturing Engineer at CNH’s New Holland plant. The company now runs 15 Mazak lasers, three four-machine cells and one three-machine cell. Each cell is automated by Mazak’s Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS).
FMS combines all the benefits of automated setup and valued-added process integration with multiple laser cutting machines and automated raw material loading and the subsequent unloading. Unruh says he was first drawn to the Mazak Optonics lasers due to their automation, better cut, the capability of one operator to run four machines, and their smaller footprint. “The footprint is a big deal because we have a pretty tight shop,” he says. “The fabrication area is a 150 feet x 500 feet space.”
Among the parts CNH fabricates in New Holland are large, 20-gauge steel exterior panels for combines assembled at the company’s plant in Grand Island, Nebraska. It also makes smaller but heavier brackets and other frame parts from 3/8-inch steel. The majority, however, are 10-gauge, 12-gauge and 3/16-inch steel panels and sides for the balers.
The added work from the closing Belleville plant is more of the same, and the addition of four new Mazak Hyper Turbo-X laser cutting systems will help CNH not only seamlessly add volume, but continue to improve the entire plant’s fabricating process. “We’re really attacking the whole process of making parts,” Unruh says. “Cutting the steel is only 7 percent of the process. The rest of it is getting the steel there, getting the parts and the scrap away, and programming. If you improve the cutting process by half, you’re only improving the process by 3.5 percent. If you attack the 93 percent and make a 10 percent improvement, you’re doing better.”
Mazak Optonics lasers and FMS not only improve the cutting, but “attacks the other stuff,” says Unruh, who adds that the new Mazak Hyper Turbo-X lasers will allow him more flexibility and versatility on the shop floor. “We had to have some new machines to take the work that’s coming from the other plant,” Unruh says. “Being able to run lower-volume work on the Mazak Hyper Turbo-X will allow us to keep the higher-volume work on the STXs, and overall we’ll probably be able to react faster.
“Right now we run lighter-gauge material on one cell and heavier material on another,” he explains. “The Mazak Hyper Turbo-X will give us the ability to run thin, 20-gauge parts and then a 3/8-inch part back to back with minimal changeover.”
When one of CNH’s new Mazak Hyper Turbo-X is presented with a different material thickness than it ran previously, the pre-programmed control tells the machine to change nozzles and all the necessary machine settings automatically. “With other machines, you’d have to manually change things or put it on a different machine that’s already set up,” Unruh says.
As the work from the other plant is absorbed, Unruh expects to put still more work on the lasers. “We still have a fair amount of work that we do the old way, where we shear a blank and then punch holes into it,” Unruh says. “We haven’t been able to move all of that work over to lasers because we haven’t had the capacity. So we’re going to take as much of that as we can and put it on the lasers.”