TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — An official with Honda of America Manufacturing Inc. said the company saved $10 million by overhauling its tooling to make large bumper fascias for its new Accord coupe.
Honda claims the alternative to tool overhaul would have been to spend about $10 million to buy six new injection presses with very large clamping forces.
``We had a new, larger-sized bumper and machines with a clamping force too low in pressure,'' said John Adams, senior vice president.
``It was a question of spending a lot of money or finding a different way to do this. Our engineers went to work on it,'' he said in an interview after his Aug. 3 speech at the University of Michigan Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant operates six injection presses, each with 3,000 tons of clamping force, to make bumper fascias. The 10-year-old presses process thermoplastic olefin resins.
Honda's in-house engineers redesigned tools with six sequential valve gates for better mold flow under similar pressure, said Honda spokesman Roger Lambert.
In contrast, the previous molds featured only two injection cavities, Lambert said.
The overhauled, multicavity molds allowed the company to keep using the older presses, Lambert said. Although the bumper fascias are 20 percent larger than on older-model Accord coupes, the company has increased production capacity while avoiding a cycle-time increase, he said.
``We experimented,'' Lambert said, ``and we came out ahead.''
Machinery maker HPM Corp. played an active role in the project. HPM's Remanufacturing Division, located near Marysville in Marion, Ohio, was enlisted for help, said David Troutman, general manager of the division, which sells used equipment.
HPM not only devised the sequential valve gating but added specially built hydraulic process controls to its existing presses to help direct the molding process, Troutman said.
``We do retrofits whenever our customers ask us to do it,'' said Steven Byrnes, general manager of the equipment supplier, based in Mount Gilead, Ohio. ``It's not out of the ordinary.''
The job cost Honda $50,000-$75,000 for each machine, he said. All told, Honda paid less than $450,000 for the project.
``When you consider the $1.5 million or so tab for each new press, going the route they did was not a bad investment,'' Troutman said.
HPM does about triple the business in retrofitting older presses than it did two or three years ago, Troutman said. Advances in process controls and mold technology have made the work more attractive, he added.
In Adams' speech, he positioned the work by Honda engineers as a key part of the plant's internal success at trimming costs and waste.
``We saved $10 million,'' Adams said. ``That meant lower-cost cars for our customers.''