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Successful commissioning of a new bumper assembly cell for Stadco

Stadco : 17 January, 2004  (New Product)
Stadco, the leading European supplier of body-in-white stampings and sub assemblies to the automotive industry, has announced the successful commissioning of a new bumper assembly cell at its 'just in time' facility located adjacent to Jaguar's Halewood plant.
At 500,000 the new bumper assembly cell represents a major investment by Stadco and underlines the company's commitment to support Jaguar with the latest technology and processes. Importantly, the cell will allow Jaguar the manufacturing flexibility to use alternative materials on recently launched and freshened model variants, for example, the switch to an all aluminium extruded bumper for the X400. In addition the cell has been designed to allow Stadco the capability to accommodate any future design variants required by its customers.

The new cell replaces the existing bumper assembly cell at Stadco's 'just in time facility'. The facility was opened by Stadco in 2000 at a cost of 1.1million to help support the launch of the X-Type and improve efficiency of the delivery of the 75 individual parts required direct to Jaguar's body-in-white assembly line.

Working in partnership with Jaguar and material supplier Alcan, Stadco first undertook feasibility studies for the new bumper assembly cell back in 2002, while Alcan supplied the Aluminium bumper beam Stadco developed and manufactured the Steel 'Crush Can' welded assembly. As aluminium cannot be welded to steel, the switch to an aluminium bumper for the X-Type for example, posed an early challenge for Stadco as the new assembly cell had to be capable of bolting together the required components whilst maintaining efficient cycle and production times.

To meet Jaguar's specific requirements, Stadco appointed the UK arm of Comau, a company with particular expertise in automated welding and joining services, and who are a major equipment supplier directly to Jaguar, to help design, manufacture and install the assembly line. The job was handled through one of Comau UK's offices based adjacent to Stadco's stamping operation in Shrewsbury. Comau has also worked with Stadco on other major automotive projects.

'Comau played an important part in the successful completion of the project', commented Graeme Cowey, Stadco Group programme manager. 'By combining Comau's expertise with our experience in pressing & sub assembly processes, we have been able to deliver a highly automated, flexible cell, with four state-of-the-art robots that are capable of a productive cycle time of thirty five parts an hour.'

The new cell has also benefited from the introduction of Stadco's new quality assurance strategy. The new system, developed by Stadco, combines proprietary software and hardware that ensures no defective parts leave the assembly cell.

'We believe that our systems are cutting edge and will lead to a new era of quality control in vehicle manufacturing', adds Mr Cowey. 'Unlike traditional methods of quality testing, which are subject to human error, our automated systems check 100 per cent of the parts we make and will detect a defect before the part has even left the line. In addition, the line is automatically stopped and cannot be re-started until the cause of the defect has been eliminated.'

As well as overcoming the challenges of working with a new material, Stadco also had the task of working closely with and managing Alcan to ensure the successful completion of the project. Commenting on the timescales set by Jaguar Mr Cowey concludes: 'There is growing pressure today on all vehicle manufacturers around the world to bring new products to market faster. Our flexible joint project management approach enabled us to successfully complete each major milestone for this project in partnership with Alcan on time and to Jaguar's specification'.

Stadco is a leading European supplier of body-in-white stampings and sub-assemblies to the automotive industry and supplies many leading vehicle producers including Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, MG Rover, Peugeot, Volkswagen and BMW. Stamping, welding and painting are the company's core activities. These are supported by a complete project management service covering all functions from product design and development, tooling and facility planning and procurement right through to the launch of volume production for the life of the vehicle. Stadco has four operating plants in the UK, one in Germany and a joint venture in Germany.
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