By Joe Lorenzen, applications engineer at Mazak
Shops throughout the automotive industry face many common challenges from part quality and cost reduction to the most critical factor – on time delivery. While the challenges are the same, the approaches to manufacturing and part machining can differ greatly from one tier to the next.
Tier 1 Suppliers
Shops in this tier are completely dedicated to the automotive industry. They produce parts at incredibly high volumes, and that means their production cells are set up to make one part for the entire length of a contract.
To get the levels of productivity they depend on, Tier 1 suppliers mainly rely on single process machines, such as the HCN series of Horizontal Machining Centers. And almost all of these machines would be equipped with PALLETECH systems and/or robot integration to increase productivity and efficiency.
Because of high productivity, these shops choose machine tools based on optimized spindle utilization. With that said, Mazak machines are popular because of their flexibility – once a contract is done, a shop can use their Mazak machining centers for a new purpose. This is in contrast with dedicated transfer line style machines that are great at pumping out one specific part, but are hard to adjust to either make a new part or even adjust the specifications on the existing part.
Tier 2 Suppliers
In this tier, shops tend to diversify. They serve five or six long-term customers at once. They deal with a wider variety of parts, and while they still focus on automotive, they will also take on jobs for customers in related industries. Diversification enables these shops to sustain stable growth despite potential market shifts.
Because parts are more diverse, Tier 2 suppliers want even more versatility from their machine tool technologies. These shops use many more Multi-Tasking machines than their Tier 1 counterparts. Tier 2 shops get great results from models in the VARIAXIS and INTEGREX series of machines. And while most shops have 5-axis machines, job setups may not use full, simultaneous 5-axis machining, rather these shops will employ the 3 + 2-axis methods to access all facets of a part in a single setup. Whereas Tier 1 suppliers will have production cells running one dedicated job, cells in Tier 2 shops routinely run multiple jobs.
Tier 3 Suppliers
If diversifying is a strong consideration for Tier 2 suppliers, it can be make or break for Tier 3 suppliers. These smaller job shops have similar goals to Tier 2 suppliers, but on a smaller scale. Tier 3 shops have dozens of customers. Their setups maximize flexibility and help shorten cycle times, so they can tackle whatever project comes through the door.
All shops, regardless of tier, that supply the automotive industry have one priority – delivering parts on time. Even more so than shops in any other industry. With that being the case, these suppliers require reliable machines that can help them fulfill contracts. Uptime is critical to meeting the needs of just in time manufacturing, and Mazak’s productive, dependable, versatile machines help automotive shops drive success.