TRW Drives Costs Out of Automotive Parts Manufacturing

TRW Drives Costs Out of Automotive Parts Manufacturing



Tucked away in Fowlerville, Michigan, is a world-class blueprint for anti-lock brake system (ABS) manufacturing. It is there that TRW manufactures and assembles millions of ABS systems each year for automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, Chrysler, and Isuzu.

This plant’s ability to deliver a variety of ABS systems to several different customers in such high volumes can be traced to agile manufacturing. The decision to utilize machining centers in a cell configuration, rather than using dedicated transfer lines, was made to support increased demands.


The plant acquired 66 Makino A55 horizontal machining centers arranged into 11 cells. This configuration provides the shop floor with more uptime and flexibility. “Now you aren’t completely stopped if one machine is down for maintenance or to change a broken tool,” says manufacturing associate John Hibbard. “Parts cannot be manufactured at other plants when a transfer line goes down. The cells also manufacture different parts more easily. We can change over a cell to make a different part in about four hours. We just change the tools and the program and it’s back up. We would never have that flexibility with a transfer line.”

“Our projections went through the roof and this plant was created to meet production demands,” says Tom Sliwa, Fowlerville’s plant manager. “The urgency of these demands increased. We are the number two supplier of light vehicle braking systems. This plant’s manufacturing role, and the success of our agile process, is mission-critical.”


The Makino horizontal machining center requires only two setups to machine the three front sides and three back sides. “Depending on the part family, we can get as many as eight parts on each tombstone,” Hibbard says. “This makes a big difference overall in cycle time and throughput.” Part volume adds up quickly with the cells manufacturing enough valve bodies for the Fowlerville plant to ship more than 10,000 ABS units each day.

This demand on output leaves little room for downtime or production problems. Since switching to Makino HMC cells, the plant is getting an average machining center uptime of more than 95 percent. QS9000 information from three audits show no problems, with zero majors, zero minors, and zero observations. And first run yields of ABS valve bodies from the A55s have been 99.94 percent within TRW’s extensive tolerances and specifications.


Makino’s A-Series machining centers are designed with high-performance machining in mind, resulting in high accuracy and incredible flexibility. J-Series machines are perfect for high-volume production and serial process integration.

Get the Specs: A-Series & J-Series