Eaton Doubles Productivity For The Long Haul




In an effort to improve processes and drive out operational costs, the truck transmission plant of Eaton Corporation in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, needed some updated equipment. Transmission cases were being machined on 10 stand-alone CNC machines with each machine dedicated to one operation and requiring a special setup for each operation. At best, cases could be completed in about 70 minutes, although bottlenecks at any one of the machines frequently extended that time.


Eaton investigated and purchased Makino high-speed horizontal machining centers for its manufacturing cells, representing a very efficient process improvement for machining cast iron transmission cases. The new cell components consist of six HMCs lined up three by three on each side of a pallet shuttle system. Workpieces enter and leave the cell via a two-station load and unload area.

The tactical advantage of the Makino cell for Eaton lies in the virtual elimination of setup time and minimizing non-cutting time. The chief strategic advantage lies in the flexibility to handle any mix of castings and to easily accommodate CNC program changes. Also, HSM techniques translate directly into reduced processing time, as there is no time wasted moving workpieces or changing tools, faster feeds and speeds and higher metal removal rates are immediately evident.

According to Lonnie Pettit, product line coordinator, chatter was also an initial concern, which the acquisition of Makino machinery negated. "We wanted to take some heavy cuts on the face milling operations, so we looked for HSK-100 style spindles." Other important Makino features were high-pressure coolant through the spindle for fast hole drilling and minimal spindle runout for rigid tapping operations.


The performance was impressive. The 40-hp HMCs were able to finish a family of cast iron transmission cases in about 25 percent less time than had previously been required. Production costs for each transmission case also dropped substantially on the new cell.

But the cell’s performance has improved significantly since installation, thanks to a remarkable approach to continuous improvement followed by the Eaton operators and programmers. They have found ways to reduce tooling costs, boost speeds and feeds, enhance flexibility, add a critical engraving step without sacrificing process time, and exploit the circular interpolation feature of the HMCs. As an example, the switch from 8-inch to 6-inch face milling cutters significantly reduced carbide insert usage, which represented savings of more than $26,000 per year. Total improvements with this Makino equipment and process enhancements have yielded an annualized saving of $340,000, while tooling costs per case have dropped from $8.71 to $6.49.


If you’re tired of having to choose between productivity, reliability, and affordability, Makino’s new 1-Series is for you. The 1-Series is a line of horizontal machining centers designed from the ground up to meet the special needs of medium-to-high-volume manufacturers.

The 1-Series is engineered for value, so it helps drive costs out of your operation. It does this through a design philosophy that emphasizes simplicity and productivity. In addition, when you get a 1-Series machine you also get access to the renowned Makino application engineers who can help you get the most out of it. Thanks to these experts and the highly productive 1-Series, no one is doing more to lower your cost of manufacturing than Makino.

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