48-hour equipment upgrade future-proofs blast operations at Winhere

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An Equipment Modernisation Programme (EMP) carried out over a 48-hour holiday shut-down has enabled Winhere Auto-Part Manufacturing Co. Ltd in China to instantly deliver against increased output targets. The upgrade of one of the company’s hanger-type blast machines was planned and implemented by Wheelabrator Plus and has future-proofed operations in addition to increasing production.

Established 20 years ago, Winhere is now the largest professional manufacturer of brakes and brake discs worldwide, supplying the global automotive OEM and aftermarket. The company ships more than 30 million high-end brake discs every year.

Winhere Auto-Part Manufacturing Co. Ltd

Winhere began its partnership with Wheelabrator 10 years ago, after selecting it and sister company DISA as its complete foundry supplier. Since 2005, the two companies have installed eight hanger-type shot blast machines, three through-feed type shot blast machines, 12 sand mixers and four DISA 240 moulding lines at the company’s headquarters near Yantai, Shandong province.

Success and stretched blast operations

As the business opportunities for Winhere continued to grow and production increased, throughput of one of the hanger-type (HT) shot blast machines gradually fell out of step with production targets. This resulted in bottlenecks and issues for the company that had to be addressed in order to continue to fulfill orders.

While attending this year’s Metal China exhibition in May, Winhere approached Wheelabrator Plus to discuss the machine.  The machine was only able to process 60 tons per shift, but demand had increased to 85 tons per shift. Winhere was looking for ways of getting the machine to the desired productivity level – and urgently. The Wheelabrator Plus team recommended an EMP to boost performance of the machine and future-proof it at the same time.

EMP - maximizing on investment, adapting for higher outputs

Equipment modernization from Wheelabrator Plus are about upgrading or converting existing surface preparation equipment in a strategic, structured and comprehensive way, achieving considerable efficiency, reliability and quality improvements.

The idea behind EMPs is to maximize on the initial investment in the machine, extending its life and adapting it to changed production requirements. It’s popular with customers who need a “new” machine faster, or who need to improve production with minimal disruption.

An EMP goes beyond exchanging individual machine components and looks at the whole process of blasting, forensically analyzing the existing configuration to tweak, optimize and add what’s already there - making the most of the opportunity to increase machine performance.

Mission Impossible?

Winhere had one special requirement regarding its project delivery time: it needed the EMP to be completed within a very specific and very tight timeframe to minimise the disruption to its production schedule.

Mr Liu JianFeng, Winhere #1 Workshop Manager, said: “In China, we have holidays during the Dragon Boat Festival (June 9-11) and we hoped that Wheelabrator could deliver the equipment before we closed for the Festival and complete the installation during the break. As the process usually takes one month, we knew that our request was close to impossible but Wheelabrator pulled out all stops to ensure that, when we returned to work on 12 June, the installation was complete and the improved machine was ready to use.”

Wheelabrator Plus rose to the challenge, completing analysis, design, purchase, production and shipment in time for the Dragon Boat Festival. The installation was then carried out in the 48-hour window, with two installation teams working in non-stop shifts.

Performance is good, future-proof performance is better

Following the EMP, the HT machine was back at its original blast performance level, but with cycle times reduced to 5 minutes per batch compared to the previous 7 minutes per batch. Total output was now at the desired 85 tons per shift.

Fred Sun, Installation and Project Manager at Wheelabrator Plus, said: “Before the EMP, Winhere was struggling to complete its orders on time, to the point that, since the end of last year, they were having difficulties meeting customer requirements. By May the situation had become critical.”

While the upgrade of the HT machine was urgent and geared towards solving a bottleneck issue, the team from Wheelabrator Plus was able to future-proof the machine at the same time, maximizing the time window they were given to achieve the best possible outcome for Winhere’s operations.

During the installation, the team fitted four U70x500 heavy-duty blast wheels, to deliver the same blast results as the six original BMD 380 blast wheels they were replacing.

Leon Gu, VP Wheelabrator Plus Asia-Pacific, explains: “We installed the new wheels to prepare the machine for a change from batch-type to through-feed operation. When Winhere is ready to switch to through-feed, all the key components will be in place, saving it a lot of time and money. This means that the machine is not just up-to-date, but ready for the future.”

Liu Jian Feng at Winhere added: “The EMP, carried out by blast equipment experts from Wheelabrator Plus, allowed us to solve our productivity problem without causing additional disruption to production – and at a lower cost than a new machine. Time is the most important factor for us and the quick solution from Wheelabrator made the difference between delivering a contract and not delivering a contract. We’re back at full steam now – and future-proof to boot!”