Case Studies

Automotive

Johnson Controls, Inc.

Mercedes SUV Seat Belt Component

Johnson Controls, Inc (JCI) in Athens, TN has the capacity to produce 60,000 automotive seat frames per day. When JCI could not find a supplier for a Mercedes SUV seat belt hardware component, they came to Protomet. With a target price in hand, Protomet was given the task of finding a solution. After 4 weeks of evaluating different manufacturing options, Protomet presented a concept to JCI engineers that required a slight design change and this would need to be accepted by the Mercedes engineers.

At stake for Mercedes was the potential for a 38-percent cost reduction which was later improved to a 43-percent cost reduction. On a $4 million contract, this becomes a tremendous amount of money.

The Mercedes engineers quickly agreed to allow Protomet to make the necessary changes to produce the part using an innovative combination of manufacturing processes.

Initially, the part was designed to have a vertical perimeter. During installation, this edge was to be welded. With the allowance for a tapered edge, Protomet proposed to blank out the part via a 2-stage stamping operation and then generate the finished part with a secondary machining operation.

As this required stamping 10mm (.390″) thick material, this process required some process development to hold features in their proper location.

To control these process variables, Protomet designed a stamping inspection fixture which was able to provide real time feedback to the press operator.

Over five years, Protomet produced approximately 1,000,000 seat belt bushings. This was a challenging project to get up and running but the cost savings were significant and the rewards for all involved were worth it.


Industrial

Heritage Log Homes

Log Locking System

Log settling is a natural challenge for anyone owning a log home. This can lead to loose-fitting logs and air infiltration. Heritage Log Homes effectively solves this problem with an engineered and patented solution. The solution is provided via a spring loaded compression system that preloads the stacked logs. A threaded rod runs from the top to the bottom of the house through precision pre-drilled logs. The rod is terminated with a nut and spring on one end and a patented Self-Aligning Log Locking Yoke (SALLY™) on the other end.

Heritage initially approached Protomet with the challenge of lowering the cost of this system. After an onsite review of the application, Protomet engineers submitted 4 different design options. Heritage liked features on two of the design options and requested that they be combined. This entire process from concept to prototype took about four (4) weeks and resulted in a lower cost and improved design.

Figure 1 depicts the original design, Figure 2 shows the new CAD design, and Figure 3 is the new production part. The new version introduces a knurled section to simplify the assembly process by eliminating the need for nails to hold the SALLY™ in place.


Marine

Xtreme Tower Products, Inc.

Kitting and Kanban

Xtreme Tower Products, Inc. (XTP) is a cutting edge wakeboard tower manufacturer that furnishes OEM specific products direct to the OEM wakeboard boat manufacturer market. Protomet Corporation and XTP have teamed to provide innovative products to satisfy this demanding market.

Recently, XTP approached Protomet to develop a Kitting and Kanban system focused on one line of wakeboard tower products. As Protomet furnished the machined components to XTP, there were 60+ part numbers in this particular product line. XTP wanted to be able to receive a kit of parts specific to a particular wakeboard tower. Protomet engineers put together model specific kits and were able to reduce the number of part numbers from 60+ to 12 different tower models. A typical kit is shown in Figure 1.

The second major benefit was a reduction in inventory. As shown in Figure 2, to track the individual parts numbers and their respective kit assignments, a Kitting and Kanban system was developed.

The third major benefit was to reduce the lead time from 15 days to 2 days. As shown in Figure 3, kits are staged and shipped on a weekly basis. This reduced the XTP work in process inventory by approximately $50,000.

XTP is the largest wakeboard tower manufacturer in the United States and is continually striving to be at the top of the wakeboard game.


Engineering

Precision Ladders, LLC

Extend-A-Rail

Precision Ladders is a premier manufacturer of custom aluminum ladders, disappearing stairways and fixed stairs, guard rails, and roof access systems for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. They primarily provide code compliant products to the commercial construction industry. Recently, Precision decided to develop a proprietary ladder “safety post”, which aids a ladder climber once they reach an opening in the roof.

A ladder safety post is beneficial for someone transitioning from the top of an installed ladder through an open roof hatch or other opening. With the obvious need to close the roof hatch, when not in use, this requires the application of a collapsible safety post. In these situations, Precision Ladders had been relying on a competitor’s off the shelf product. It was expensive and, more importantly, not Precision’s own product. Therefore, Precision needed an engineered solution to provide a simplified but elegant and cost effective solution.

They approached Protomet with this challenge and, within a few days of the initial discussion, we were discussing various design options. Working with Precision’s applications engineers, Protomet designed various options and we quickly identified a concept that we wanted to prototype. Within a couple of weeks, Protomet manufactured the first prototype and it was tested. A few minor tweaks were incorporated to achieve the final design as shown in Figure 1. The red telescoping handle fully retracts to allow for shutting the roof hatch. A simple low friction design provides an elegant and cost effective solution. Figure 2 depicts the roof side view as the worker approaches the roof hatch. Precision is now offering this new product in these applications. For every Extend-A-Rail purchased from Protomet, Precision saves 45% compared to their previous cost. This allows them to offer this solution at a more competitive price to their clients while maintaining an acceptable profit margin.

Precision Ladders has this to say about working with Protomet… “Working with Protomet has been a great experience. Their engineers provided an elegantly simple solution that incorporated ‘design for manufacturing’. They really understand the manufacturing process resulting in an optimized and cost effective design. We have more new product ideas on the way and we will continue to work with Protomet to make these a reality…”

Andrew Combs, National Sales Manager

Precision Ladders, LLC