The injection molding shop at the heart of an award-winning production system for Ford Motor Co.'s Mustang is refining that process to help it win more business - as well as potential buyers.
Visteon Corp. created its two-color system at its Saline, Mich., facility in 2004. In 2005, the site was one of more than 20 plants that split from Visteon to create Automotive Components Holdings LLC, controlled by former Visteon parent Ford.
Ford plans to continue existing operations from the facilities within ACH while also seeking potential buyers for the holdings.
The knowledge developed in Saline now is giving the site and ACH a key technology it can continue to develop.
``It's really leading us on, and from that first small innovation, we're going to see other innovations moving beyond that,'' said Henry Whiting III, quality and manufacturing engineering manager for ACH Saline, in a Jan. 12 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
ACH LLC, based in Dearborn, Mich., already has its first independent contract using the system, which takes advantage of sequential valve gating to shoot two different-colored resins into one mold in a process it terms sequential-shot injection molding.
ACH will make a two-tone lower instrument panel for Ford's new Shelby GT500, an upscale version of the Mustang, going on sale this year.
The Mustang program has given new life to the Saline plant, which measures more than 1 million square feet and turns out millions of interior parts per year, including cockpits and door panels.
Saline always has had an innovative angle within its massive production capabilities, Whiting said. It was the first place to turn out Visteon's molded-in-color instrument panels and the first to make an instrument panel with a seamless passenger-side air bag. It played an important role in helping Dearborn-based Ford upgrade the look of the interiors in its F-150 pickup trucks.
With the Mustang, the company was able to turn around a troubled instrument-panel production design within 14 months through the sequential valve-gating process on a press with two barrels - using existing tooling and equipment, Whiting said.
Future product launches are being created around the process capability, with molds designed to take full advantage of the manufacturing, allowing ACH to fine-tune the look of the final product.
``It's very important for us that we have that knowledge and technology,'' he said.
The production also allowed the plant to redefine its manufacturing floor, creating a production cell that takes the instrument panel from pellets to final parts within one hour.
``You don't think of something with a million square feet as having lean manufacturing, but we do it,'' Whiting said.
The next generation of sequential-shot products probably will not show up for two years, he said, but ACH and the Saline workers are eager to show what they can do with a product designed from the start to use the process.