DEARBORN - - Have you ever looked at the hem on a piece of clothing? It prevents the fabric from unraveling – a concept that also works in the automotive industry.
The process of hemming seals the inner and outer panels of hoods, deck lids, doors and sun roofs on vehicles by folding over the outside walls of the panels, first at a 45 degree angle that is then flattened out. The hemmer die’s function is to hold the inner and outer panels (outer is underneath and inner is on top) and then stamp down on the outer flange. Hemming is a very critical part of the overall quality of a vehicle, because if the hem is not correct, the vehicle lines will not look right.
“This is the first time the Dearborn Tool and Die Plant (DTD) will be trying out hemmer dies,” said Terry Henning, plant manager, DTD. “This will help eliminate the hand-off and allow for body construction to have full ownership of the process under one roof. This is one vital step of our goal of producing Best in World closure panels”
“The main goal of starting to tryout hemmer dies at DTD is to improve the overall process,” said Ken Schmidt, tryout plant manager, DTD. “Now we can get instant feedback. We can have the inner and outer panels hemmed right on site and see how they are fitting. Also, the quality increases immensely.”
Schmidt also noted that communication between the body shop and the body construction will improve 100 percent.
This initial tryout has been done with body construction, engineering and Dearborn Tool & Die personnel. The body construction team, led by Marc Foresi, commodity supervisor for Ford Vehicle Operations, have been very instrumental in driving this initiative.
Right now, there are two die makers working on the tryout of the hemmer die.
“These UAW workers will follow the hemmer die down to Louisville Assembly Plant to help launch the die in the plant,” Henning explained. “We have never sent people to travel with the die to the production plant where they own the job and it is their responsibility. This is a testament to the upscale work these UAW workers do here at this plant.”
Once the panels are hemmed together, the now married panels are put onto an assembly gauge. This mimics the entire build and the die makers are able to see the quality of the assembly.
Currently, DTD is still in the try-out stage with the hemmer dies using a mechanical press to test everything out. The possibility exists for DTD to build the hemmer dies. DTD is getting a production hemmer press to simulate the assembly plant environment. This will improve the quality of the dies in real-world situations.
“This is another way that the plant is going further with Ford to help insource the work, utilize the UAW workers skills and increase the quality for launch,” Henning said.
DTD is the only tool and die facility Ford owns in the United States.