Five at once
"The Czech Republic remains an important part of the international motor vehicle value creation chain" concluded Germany Trade and Invest, the foreign trade agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, in a 2009 portrait of the industrial sector in that country. There is nothing about this assessment that has changed, even though the international economic crisis has in the meantime reached central and eastern Europe. All the same, the Czech automobile market has maintained above-average figures: the number of new vehicles increased by 4.7% in 2008, but has remained at a relative standstill over the last year, according to the Czech automobile industry association. Motor vehicle construction in this country is, however, heavily dependent on foreign companies that have reacted to the international crisis by reducing production. Deliveries from the Czech component and part manufacturers to automobile companies have therefore also dropped. As a manufacturer of pulleys, E.C.J. is well aware of the difficult situation – and has already reacted successfully: application of the Pentatec indexable insert from LMT's alliance partner Boehlerit has reduced production costs for each component by about 55 cent. When a typical production series for E.C.J. is around 80,000 parts, this has an enormous effect. This is made possible by the special geometry of the tool.
In the light of the current situation in the USA it is no longer appropriate to call the Czech Republic the "Detroit of eastern Europe". But it does still throw a light on the role and significance of the country. Only Japan manufactures more cars per head of population. The geographical position of the Czech Republic is important to the European automobile industry – on one side it is close to Western Europe, while on the other side it is a "bridge" to markets in eastern Europe and Russia. A whole range of important OEMs have large sites in the country. This also means, however, that Czech vehicle and vehicle supplier industries all move with the times, and their production facilities must meet high standards. Until now this has been successful, as the assessment from Germany Trade and Invest shows: "Due to its modern facilities and the wide range of services it offers, the sector is flexible and competitive."
One tool replaces five others
E.C.J. fits into this picture. The company, based in Slin in the Czech Republic close to Brünn, produces about 100 different types of pulley wheel. Factors such as piece costs and process reliability are, of course, day to day matters of concern for these belt drive specialists (and most particularly in the automobile field), and are closely watched by production planners. Engineer Petr Redl from E.C.J. explains: "In recent years we have used a variety of tools in our machining centers, in order to improve plant efficiency, depending on the application. The tool manufacturers must, of course, first give us convincing arguments for any new tool." LMT alliance partner Boehlerit did exactly this in 2008, when engineer Otto Slezak from Boehlerit gave an on-site presentation of a new tool type: the Pentatec tool. "Because of its special geometry, the Pentatec can perform five machining operations with a single tool – face turning, external turning, drilling into solid material, internal turning and counter bore milling. One tool replaces five others. This of course brings many options and advantages to the user", is Slezak's description of the product's performance.
- Pentatec Tool
44,000 euro saved per series
It is quite clear that the multifunction tool saves enormous amounts of time, since on the one hand it reduces to a changeover times, while on the other hand machines less often run with under-utilized tools. Slezak confirms that "in the ideal case, machining times are reduced by up to 30 percent". And then there is a second, perhaps crucial, advantage: anybody who can, thanks to Pentatec, work with four fewer tools makes a massive saving in tool costs. For E.C.J. the new indexable insert saves the company 44,000 euro.
Machine operation becomes easierAs a side effect, the significantly reduced number of adjustment procedures improves the quality of the products. The entire production process is, moreover, simplified. If a machining fault occurs, it is only necessary to correct the setting of one tool, instead of five as in the past. "In the end, this not only means that auxiliary process times are reduced, but the process reliability involved in machine operation is higher. There simply are fewer adjustment errors that can be made," explains Petr Redl of E.C.J..
For Redl, the application of Pentatec is a clear example of the contribution that tools can make to the effectiveness of production. "At the moment we are turning all the screws to reduce our costs. Tools are an important aspect of how we can successfully meet the current difficult situation in the automobile industry. High-quality together with the lowest possible parts costs are paying off. This approach gives us a crucial advantage over our competitors."