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Caterpillar supplier reduces weld time & costs

June 8, 2010

Caterpillar Inc. is a manufacturer of heavy equipment used in the construction and mining industry and utilizes numerous subcontractors for fabrication of detail components. One of their subcontractors located in St. Louis, Missouri is a supplier of steel stampings and fabrications. This supplier had undergone extensive management restructuring and was in the process of evaluating efficiencies and processing operations. The challenge facing Caterpillar was to assist them in identifying problem areas and to bring about changes quickly.

This supplier was recommended for an EWI assessment in an effort to improve efficiencies, lower manufacturing costs, and improve the quality of the components supplied to its customers. Caterpillar believed that leveraging the resources of EWI would produce a timely, cost effective assessment of this supplier. A team was sent to analyze the manufacturing operation. One of the projects identified jointly by the supplier and the EWI team involved a fabricated transmission cover. It was determined by team members that the current design was over welded with respect to application requirements. A recommendation was made to reduce the weld size and penetration requirement. A joint project involving Caterpillar, EWI and the supplier was then performed.

The reduced weld size and penetration requirement was tested jointly by EWI and Caterpillar and approved by Caterpillar Engineering. Implementation of this change reduced welding time by 55 percent and overall welding costs 44 percent for this component. This reduction in manufacturing time also translated directly into faster throughput for this part.