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Local solution for reconditioning saves time and money

SEW-Eurodrive is expected to cut costs in half by ­turning to the SKF Solution Factory in Tianjin, China, for the ­servicing of its wide variety of machine tool spindles.

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It says a lot about the quality and reputation of SEW-Eurodrive that it was selected as the sole supplier of drive engineering equipment for the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies. The company’s geared motors, equipped with frequency inverters, raised the Olympic rings, opened and closed the main stage, adjusted the roof and provided the power for the lifting equipment that lit the stage and moved cameras and people all around the Bird’s Nest stadium.

Much of the equipment and systems supplied to the Olympic project were manufactured locally, in Tianjin, just 160 kilometres from Beijing, where SEW-Eurodrive focuses its manufacturing activities for the Asia-Pacific region. Here the company manufactures products with the same technology, equipment and quality as at the company’s home base in Germany. Among the manufacturing facilities in Tianjin is SEW-Precision Gears, a 110,000-square-metre factory that opened in September 2007. Although it serves customers and applications all over Asia, one big local customer is the Port of Tianjin, the largest manmade seaport and river port in China.

SKF Solution Factories

An SKF Solution Factory has a wide range of services designed to develop and deliver customized solutions quickly. These services include spindle reconditioning services, application engineering, bearing analysis and remanufacturing, linear motion systems, power transmission solutions, lubrication analysis, sealing solutions, lubrication systems, mechanical and maintenance equipment services, remote condition monitoring and diagnostics, engineering consultancy services, asset management, energy and sustainability management and operator/worker training.

As of mid-2011, SKF has 17 solution factories in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and 13 more are in the planning stage.

After a year in operation, the Tianjin gear plant management was looking ahead, anticipating a heavy manufacturing programme that would require regular servicing of one of the company’s core technology products ­– machine tool spindles. With more than 50 cutting, drilling and grinding machines covering 13 models from 10 different manufacturers, the logistics and efforts needed to set up refurbishing at the original manufacturer would be very time-consuming and costly. Spindles would have to be taken out of the machines, packaged and shipped back to the manufacturers, which were all in Europe. Together with the time to refurbish the spindle and send it back to Tianjin and rebuild it in the machine, the complete cycle time would be months rather than weeks. And because of the number of different machine models, the spindle dismantling process could be expected to add even more time, relearning the process each time a spindle from a particular machine needed repairing. Realizing that a time-consuming and costly road lay ahead of them, the factory management started to look at ways to speed up the service time for the refurbishing of machine tool spindles.

Just two days before the Beijing Olympics began, SKF opened its first Solution Factory, situated in Shanghai. An SKF Solution Factory is a single location that brings together SKF expert knowledge from more than 40 industry segments, its five technology platforms and its complete range of service offerings. One of the service offerings available at the Shanghai Solution Factory is repair and reconditioning of machine tool spindles, which covers a wide range of machine tools and manufacturers, including all those at the Tianjin gear plant. On being introduced to the Shanghai Solution Factory, the SEW-Precision Gears general manager sent a spindle to the Solution Factory for reconditioning. It was returned much more quickly than would have been the case had the spindle been sent to Europe, and was put back into production. At the time SKF opened a second Solution Factory in China, situated in Tianjin, in March 2009, the spindle was still performing well.

The SEW-precision gears general manager was one of 200 guests attending the inauguration of the Tianjin Solution Factory. Subsequently, he sent a spindle for repair along with two senior employees to check out all stages of the process. They observed that all key processes including final noise and vibration testing were available, well executed and well controlled. Encouraged by this, SEW-Precision Gears embarked on a wider test that included eight spindles that needed reconditioning. These came from different machines and included a variety of spindle designs. The work was soon done and the spindles were back in trouble-free operation. Following this, SEW-Precision Gears signed an open-ended contract with SKF in July 2009 for the repair and reconditioning of all its spindles. The benefits to SEW-Precision Gears, compared with sending spindles to Europe, are an expected cost reduction of 50 percent and at least a 50 percent savings on repair cycle time.

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