An interior products supplier recently clamped down on commodity craziness by eliminating more than 2000 fasteners from its design bins. The purging process concluded with 39 different connecting devices being deemed cost- and performance-appropriate.
“Thirty-nine was not a predetermined number. The number reflects the results of an extensive consolidation effort to highlight best-in-class fasteners in various categories,” said Maurice Sessel, Vice President of Product Engineering for International Automotive Components (IAC) Group North America, formerly the Interior Systems Division of Lear.
Hundreds of screws, clips, pushpins, rivets, pal-nuts, push-nuts, carpet clips, and visor springs were discarded in the inventory sweep. “It is difficult to quantify savings due to the wide range of advantages, but we will realize a number of benefits, including reduced design time, standardized tooling, increased reliability, as well as piece price savings and complete sample availability,” said Sessel.
IAC’s fastener fixation is “specific to North American products thus far. However, monthly meetings were initiated earlier this year with our global partners to review worldwide sharing opportunities,” Sessel said. Although recent design programs for Dodge, Cadillac, and Lincoln models had IAC engineers making selections from the new standard fastener library, current production programs will not be changed because “they were already tooled and validated,” said Sessel.
An independent-minded product-development process was a primary reason that as many as 2163 unique fasteners filled assembly plant bins. “The selection of fasteners was driven by the program team, so each team was working independently and essentially working in a vacuum—removed from the other teams. Today, the engineering and design communities start with common parts and then package accordingly,” Sessel said.
Engineers are—quite literally—putting their hands on the 39 fasteners. Now, whenever a new product program begins, each engineer is given a box that contains the 39 approved fasteners. In certain instances—such as a customer mandating a specific component—a customized fastener solution will be designed and used.
Also put on the cost and performance review scale were five categories of adhesives (polyolefin, pressure-sensitive, amorphous poly-alpha olefin, polyamide, and reactive). Instead of 110 different adhesives, IAC now has 29 approved ones. “Only the top-performing materials in each category were included in a selection matrix for future applications,” Sessel said.
Fasteners and adhesives are the first commodities to undergo a consolidation review. “The next commodities that will be studied include film coverings and buzz-squeak-rattle materials,” Sessel said, adding that the “main benefit is developing new products with proven technology in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost.”
The condensing of commodities is part of a best-practices initiative at IAC, a company that formed in April 2007. (WL Ross and Co. and Franklin Mutual Advisors own 75%, while Lear has a 25% stake.)
"If you're a new engineer or designer, you don't have to reinvent the wheel," Jim Kamsickas, President and CEO of IAC Group North America, said about the company's current best-practices portfolio.