5
Dec

From sample request to full production in two weeks – how we helped avert a flagship SUV launch delay

Vehicles are comprised of thousands of individual components. To meet demand and achieve lean manufacturing efficiencies, every Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) relies on a large network of parts suppliers. To prepare for a vehicle program’s start of production, suppliers are typically awarded with a purchase order many months in advance. In rare instances where the awarded supplier cannot meet production volumes, the OEM will turn to an alternative supplier to fill the demand.

 

The following is a story of how The Woodbridge Group stepped in as an alternative supplier and delivered production load floors to an OEM’s factory within 10 days’ notice.

10-days

A North American OEM was ramping up production for the launch of their luxury flagship SUV for the European market. The original awarded load floor supplier was unable to meet program’s production volumes and would jeopardize the vehicle’s launch and delivery to customers. While in separate discussions to supply Stratas™ Headliner Substrates for an upcoming high volume sedan, our Sales Director was informed of the load floor shortage and proposed the Stratas Load Floors as an alternative solution. Within 10 days, we convinced the OEM to use a load floor technology they had not used before, received OEM validation for meeting technical specifications, set up a new production line and delivered load floors at the requested volume.

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Stratas Load Floor – flagship luxury sedan
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Stratas Load Floor – high volume SUV

The Stratas Load Floor was introduced to the market in 2013. It was benchmarked against paper honeycomb rigid load floors, the most popular construction and standard for many OEMs. By combining our in-house formulated polyurethane foam core with reinforcement layers in a sandwich composite structure, it matches paper honeycomb constructions for strength and thickness while offering significant weight save. Furthermore, Stratas Load Floors have proven to be either more cost effective or cost neutral versus paper honeycomb. Every awarded vehicle program for Stratas Load Floors since its introduction have been conquests from a paper honeycomb design.

Day 1 – Wednesday, October 25th

At approximately 4p.m., an OEM called our Sales Director to inquire whether we could produce and deliver 100 vehicle load floors within one week and scale to full production volume immediately after for a one month duration. From previous discussions, the OEM knew we produced Stratas load floors but was unsure if it would fit their application. We were informed their current supplier encountered production issues and could not deliver any parts, jeopardizing the on-time launch of their much anticipated luxury flagship SUV in Europe.

Since Stratas load floor substrates are currently used by three other manufacturers, we were confident the load requirement, 80kg over 100mm with no permanent deflection, would be met.  However, the short turnaround meant we remained cautiously optimistic in meeting production targets. The CAD drawings were received at 6:28pm and we set to work.

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FEA – Three Point Bend
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FEA – Deflection Analysis
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FEA – Distributed Load (Knee Load)

Day 2 – Thursday, October 26th

Having reviewed the CAD drawings and load requirements, our engineers conducted FEA analysis through our proprietary software and created custom load floor substrate samples from the production line by the end of day 2. To allow for inspection, these samples were cut by CNC waterjet to the load floor’s final dimensions but not finished with trunk trim.

Day 3 – Friday, October 27th

With the physical samples in hand, we sent our Sales Director along with the Operations Manager from the Stratas plant in Woodbridge, Canada on the first available flight to the OEM’s manufacturing facility. Given project’s short lead time and the OEM’s lack of previous experience with Stratas Load Floors, we made certain all technical, manufacturing, and costing concerns would be immediately addressed.

Upon arrival, the first load floor substrate sample was tested and passed the load requirement. Pleased with the results, the OEM’s test engineer wanted to see a finished part with the tested sample to examine fit and finish.

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Operations Manager taking a well deserved break as adhesives dry. Production model uses thermoplastics for carpet wrap to decrease cycle times

Using the limited tools on hand, our Operations Manager was able to create a finished, carpet wrapped sample. The Stratas Load Floor passed fit and finish requirements with no issues. After a short discussion to finalize pricing, we were awarded with the Purchase Order to deliver 100 finished load floors to the manufacturing facility in one week and full production volume in two weeks.

Day 6 – Monday, October 31st

The production team at the Stratas facility worked tirelessly over the weekend to create additional capacity for this program. As the tooling was already in place, the team focused primarily on craftsmanship to ensure the load floor aesthetically befits a flagship luxury SUV.

CNC machined aluminum jigs were built for the carpet trim, load floor substrate and finished load floor. The option to use a faster, lower cost multi-ply die cutter was rejected in favor of a newly installed CNC singly ply fabric cutter which could produce load floor trim with higher quality and precision. Line trials were conducted to optimize cycle times.

Day 9 – Thursday, November 3rd

100 finished Stratas Load Floors were produced over the past three days.  By mid-day, the production target was met. The first delivery arrived at the OEM’s facility on Monday, November 7th. Full production volume began from this point onward.  

See how Stratas Load Floors can save you weight

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Major advances in rigid automotive load floor lightweighting have been achieved through the introduction of new, breakthrough materials as opposed to improvements from existing technologies. A decade ago, heavy wood and natural fiber boards were the most commonly used material for rigid load floors. Over time, lighter paper honeycomb and plastic load floors were introduced to gradually displace all wood constructions, with paper honeycomb currently found in approximately half of all vehicles with rigid load floors. Stratas load floors were developed with the goal of displacing paper honeycomb and some plastic designs because our internal research indicates further lightweighting would be difficult to achieve without compromising strength or increasing costs.

local-reinforcement

For high load requirements, each layer of the Stratas composite structure can be further strengthened. If load requirements are lower and greater deflection is acceptable due to increased support underneath, local reinforcement can be deployed to recognize cost and weight savings. Lastly, for vehicle designs which prioritize cargo volume, it can be formed to various thicknesses on the B-side for optimized balance between thickness, weight and strength. Given the same weight and strength targets, Stratas Load Floors have proven to be consistently lighter and more cost effective than paper honeycomb constructions.

As demonstrated above, Stratas Load Floors go from material validation to finished production part very quickly. FEA analysis through our proprietary software can simulate load testing with high accuracy. The material and manufacturing versatility means samples can be produced with short lead times.

Immediate weight save.

 

We provide free FEA modeling and test samples.