Use of Lasers Brightens Tooling Picture
Source: Working, a GM Plant Newsletter
Millions of dollars have been saved so far as a result of Lansing’s Employee Development Center (EDC) that trains employees to align spindles and tooling more accurately by using laser beams.
The technique has resulted in dramatic improvements in quality, productivity, throughput, tool life and scrap rates with a potential of saving over $1 million on each machining operation where it has been applied.
John Gillman is administrator of technical training at the EDC, which studied the potential benefits of the training and then sold the idea to Lansing-area managers. He said the payoff illustrates the EDC’s philosophy that training should be used as a strategic investment to help keep B O C and GM competitive.
Laser beam alignment has been used in GM for about five years, but previously, its use was limited and not applied to machining operations at all, said Gillman
In the laser alignment process the operator first checks for linear motion straightness and makes sure that the spindle is parallel to the piece on which the slide assembly rides. This assures that the slide assembly is square to the master, said Darel Ford [now HLI Training and Service Manager], technical instructor at the EDC. The result is greater all-around accuracy.
“It has a number of advantages,” Gillman said. “Misalignment of spindles and tooling has resulted in a lot of problems. Proper alignment means less deviation from specifications, which results in less wear. In one area, for example, only 75 parts could be machined before retooling was necessary. That same operation today, using laser alignment, can machine 5,500 parts before retooling is necessary.” That improvement, in turn, resulted in an increased throughput of 20 minutes a day.
On the plant floor, Joe Boone, core maintenance business unit manager at Powertrain’s Lansing V6/V8 plant, credits laser alignment with the improvements the plant has made in quality and productivity.
“Using dial indicators resulted in a number of problems that laser alignment has solved,” he said. “Every employee had his own idea on how to align properly. That resulted in big changes from employee to employee and from shift to shift. Using laser beams allowed employees to use a set process to get things done.”
In just one of the V6/V8 plant¹s operations, using laser alignment resulted in a 30 percent increase in tool life; a 20 minute a day increase in productivity; a 20 engine per day increase and tighter quality specifications.
Improvements like that have allowed the plant to place increased emphasis on troubleshooting and preventive maintenance, added Boone.
For Eric Simon, fixture repairman and Local 652 member at the V6/V8 plant, the laser alignment class was his first at the center.
“The class is great because it’s hands on,” he said. “Laser alignment will definitely help me in my job because it’s a more precise method.”
The Employee Development Center — the only training center of its kind in GM — will train 950 millwrights, fixture and machine repairmen, engineers, and managers. Where possible the EDC operates on a return on investment basis, Gillman said.
In the case of laser alignment, justification for in-house training was easily documented.