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ahead Rob Harris investigates how MFC Group is using new innovations in automation, cellular manufacturing and lean manufacturing to increase market share and customer satisfaction
ephaestus was the ancient Greek god of craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, fire, blacksmiths and metallurgy. He served as the blacksmith for the gods of Olympus and was always working at his forge, which was under the volcano Etna in Sicily. His symbol was the hammer and anvil, which eventually became synonymous with the craft of blacksmithing. Throughout the ages mankind has identified technological and historical advances by the ability to form, finish and manipulate metals. The Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Industrial Age all have similarities in that men fabricating metal helped move each generationâ€™s evolution forward. The art of metalworking has gone from religion to a science, but it is still a skill that is invaluable to society. Meadville Forging Company is a firm that has mastered that skill and uses todayâ€™s technology to partner with its stakeholders to the fullest.
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Meadville Forging Company is a third-generation, family-owned business; the Keller Group has its offices in Chicago. The original company and corporate offices are located at the firm’s Meadville facility in northwestern Pennsylvania. The company opened in 1940 as a small hammer shop and was originally named Palmer Tool. The name was changed to Meadville Forging Company in 1955, and the Keller family bought the company in the late 1960s. Today the parent company, MFC Group, consists of four plants: there are two Meadville Forging Company plants in northwestern Pennsylvania (forging operations in Meadville and the CNC machining operations in Cambridge Springs), a Virginia Forge Company plant in Buchanan, Virginia, and a Carolina Forge Company plant in Wilson, North Carolina. Jim Toy, vice president of operations, talks about the historical development of the Meadville facility. “The first conventional forge presses like we have today were installed in the early 1960s. Before that time all they had were hammer-type forge presses. Today, Meadville operates 14 manual forging presses, Virginia Forge operates two automated Eumoco transfer presses, and Carolina Forge operates two automated Hatebur transfer presses and one automated Sakamura transfer press.” The MFC Group specializes in impression (closed) die forging. Closed die forging presses the metal between two dies (also called tooling) that contain a precut design of a particular part. As the dies close together around the forging stock, the desired part is formed. The advantages of this method are the ability to yield a much more complex shape and having closer control
tolerances than with hammer-type forges. This process is further enhanced by MFC’s use of many innovative processes such as 3-D solid modeling and flow simulation. MFC also has the capability to manufacture all the dies and tooling in-house to control the quality of the parts. One of the main parts that MFC produces is the hub and spindle components used in front and rear wheel bearing assemblies in cars and trucks. The company also makes ring gears, which are used in differential assemblies and internal transmission components. MFC’s customers include General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota and Nissan. Currently, 98 percent of the company’s sales come from forged and machined bearing and power train components for automotive and light truck assembly. Last year’s poor performance in the auto industry was stressful to carmakers as well as their suppliers, but MFC took the opportunity to evaluate its systems and invest in the future. Toy says, “The Auto Show this year was great—it was exciting again. The new products coming out from the car manufacturers are amazing. Right now we’re extremely busy—a complete turnaround from a year ago.” MFC is continually evaluating its manufacturing processes. Incorporating six sigma strategies, such as DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) and lean manufacturing methodology, into its everyday work systems, MFC is continually striving to improve productivity and quality. The company is using such lean processes as single-piece flow and cellular manufacturing with automation. Toy explains, “We just finished an automated line for one of the major Japanese automakers where we’re
“The Auto Show this year was great—it was exciting again. The new products coming out from the car manufacturers are amazing. Right now we’re extremely busy—a complete turnaround from a year ago” installing robotics. We believe in automation and the efficiencies and repeatability that automation brings. That’s why we invest in automation, to keep us competitive in the world market.” MFC has also adopted value-added value engineering (VAVE). By using VAVE, engineering teams from the customer and Meadville Forging join forces to look for ways to improve product performance and customer service. Management at MFC also places a great emphasis on the importance of the supply chain. Toy continues, “Supply chain management is taking on a much greater role than it ever has. The importance of that process in integrating from the raw material suppliers to the customer is becoming a huge undertaking, and it’s vital to the success of any company.” The process of making various metals stronger is
called tempering. The metal is softened by heating it to the point where it is malleable and can be hammered into the desired shape, then cooled and reheated again. Businesses are also tempered and forged. Managers are the blacksmiths, and the processes they use are the hammer by which a company is forged. Time and events can give strength and add resiliency to a firm, but without the proper foundation this tempering can also make it brittle and cause cracks to appear. Toy says, “We treat our suppliers as partners, and we treat our customers as partners, because we all know we’re dependent on each other. We’re not just a forging business; we’re a people business.” At MFC, the foundation is fairly simple: the firm’s best assets are its stakeholders, customers, employees and suppliers. www.meadforge.com
Published on Sep 28, 2010
Businessexcellence C O R P O R AT E B R O C H U R E ONLINE ACHIEVING a Forging H Rob Harris investigates how MFC Group is using new innovati...