Meeting the "Challenge of Change" in the Forging Industry

June 6, 2004
TFO Tech and Kurimoto have worked together for 15 years to meet the requirements of the automotive industry for high-quality steel forgings. Kurimoto's scope of supply over the years has included both presses and supporting equipment.

The forging industry faces a wide range of challenges today. To meet these challenges TFO has selected suppliers that were willing to work closely with us to continually improve their products to meet our quality and production demands.

Continual improvement in production equipment
Kurimoto Ltd. is one of the suppliers that has shown a steady improvement in design and functionality over the past fifteen years that TFO has been doing business with the firm. We have asked Kurimoto to design and build several new pieces of supporting equipment for their C2F Series Forging Presses that they supplied us. Like Kurimoto’s forging presses, this equipment has worked out very well for us.

My view is that the industry has changed dramatically over the past fifteen years in regards to both quality and cost competitiveness. Comparing the equipment that Kurimoto was building and supplying in 1989 to today’s product and capability shows that Kurimoto is keeping pace with these industry changes. They continue to meet this “challenge of change” in the forging industry.

Kurimoto and TFO have worked closely together for years to achieve the best operational methods to run Kurimoto presses in the most efficient way within TFO’s production environment. Kurimoto has shown the ability to react promptly to TFO’s changing needs and to develop solutions to improve TFO’s overall efficiency and quality.

Their presses are very capable of producing high-quality parts and I know Kurimoto is investing a great deal of time, money and effort to keep up with their growth in design and manufacturing expertise just as they have been doing supplying TFO over the years.

New transfer system and automatic die-lube spraying
Our latest challenge for Kurimoto was to provide us with a new transfer system and die lube-spraying system to improve our production. This project was recently completed on our 1800-ton press. It included a new servo-controlled transfer system as well as the automatic die lube spraying equipment.

The press is now operating at a much high production rate and the quality is improved. The equipment itself is also very easy to maintain.

TFO has four Kurimoto forging presses ranging in size from 1800 to 5000 tons and each is very rugged and reliable. There have been times when TFO has pushed Kurimoto presses to extreme levels. For example there were periods over several years when we were running a 7-day-per-week schedule, 24 hours a day. There was no time for preventive maintenance and the Kurimoto presses held up very well. That is the kind of rugged reliability I know I can depend upon.

Custom-built to product applications
At TFO we know in advance of an order for a forging press the products we are going to run on that press. This means our design request calls for custom-built equipment specifically to run a certain style of part. But, even then the parts may vary in design but still be the same kind of part.

For example, on our 1,800-ton press from Kurimoto we are running wheel hubs that are typically just a spindle part that may weigh five or six pounds. These drive hubs for cars, SUVs, and minivans are shipped to our customers at a rate of 265,000 pieces per month. This covers a number of different vehicles for our auto, SUV, and minivan customers.

Then we have a 2,500-ton wide-body Kurimoto press. It allows dies to be larger, and it gives more room for supporting equipment on the machine itself. These drive hubs for cars, SUV’s and minivans are shipped to our customers at a rate of 250,000 pieces per month also.

We’ve got two 5,000-ton Kurimoto presses and one of those is a wide body. Both of those presses are running crankshafts. They are both capable of running four cylinder and six crankshafts and the wide body is currently running the V6 crankshaft. We have not run any eight-cylinder crankshafts yet, but I feel we have the capacity to run an eight-cylinder crankshaft. We are currently running approximately 264,000 four-cylinder crankshafts and 24,000 six-cylinder crankshafts per month.

Customized, yet flexible
The first 5,000-ton press we purchased from Kurimoto was for producing suspension arms and we ran seven or eight different styles of products and some of them were quite different. We knew what products we were going to run on the press but we still needed the flexibility to run a wide variety of designs on those parts. We ran two at a time per die.

It worked out very well. But over the years the auto companies went from forged suspension arms to stamped or aluminum parts and we converted to crankshafts. So even though these Kurimoto presses are custom … they are flexible to different part applications.

Planned maintenance and technical support
Kurimoto builds a very durable press, and if it’s maintained properly you shouldn’t expect any operational issues. TFO holds to a very busy schedule but shuts down for one week every July and December for large maintenance projects and inspection of the equipment.

Kurimoto always has technical representatives here to complete the inspection process and help supervise and maintain the equipment. Any items that need to be supplied by Kurimoto are researched and quoted back to us to start planning our next maintenance period. Any items we can complete ourselves we do internally with assistance from Kurimoto if necessary.

Kurimoto has a technical support staff right here locally and a tech person that works with TFO on any issues we have. He is located in Columbus, OH so he can come down any time we have a need. He is in charge of a technical support team that is very familiar with our equipment. On minor issues, he can normally walk us through on how to fix something and he supervises projects during maintenance.”