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Automated Machining Helps Lift Wheel Capacity 42%

Jan. 12, 2012
Accuride cites new operations, investments in successful strategy
Accuride’s Mega-Line in Erie, Pa., is a fully automated operation that has eight robots processing forged and heat-treated wheels through turning, pre-stressing, milling, coining, and surface finishing to produce, high-gloss aluminum wheels for commercial vehicles. The lines uses a centralized, closed-loop system for chip and coolant management.

Accuride Corp. credited a novel automated machining installation among a series of efforts it said expanded its aluminum wheel production capacity over the past year. The Mega-Line at Accuride’s Erie, Pa., plant started up last November, and involves eight robots that handle forged and heat-treated aluminum wheels as they are turned, pre-stressed, milled, coined, and surface finished to produce high-gloss wheels for commercial vehicles.

“The Mega-Line established a new industry benchmark in process technology,” the company stated, adding that it increased Accuride’s total aluminum wheel manufacturing capacity by 42%.

Accuride produces commercial vehicle wheels, wheel-end components and assemblies, truck body and chassis parts, and other commercial vehicle components. Its products carry the Accuride, Gunite, Imperial, and Brillion brand names.

The company described a $35-million initiative throughout 2011 that improved its aluminum wheel production capacity, emphasizing the ability to serve the commercial vehicle market’s rising quality demands.

“Many factors, including fuel economy requirements, residual value and aesthetics, are driving the growth in aluminum wheel demand in the North American commercial vehicle industry,” stated Accuride president and CEO Rick Dauch. “Accuride is investing to ensure that we have the right production capacity in place when and where our customers need it, whether for steel or aluminum wheels. We’re also raising our standards for product dependability and finish to meet customers’ ever-increasing expectations.”

Other highlights of the initiative included buying Forgitron Technologies LLC in June. It’s an 80,000-square-foot rotary forging operation in Camden, S.C. The operation was converted to Accuride manufacturing systems and controls, and now produces Accuride-brand aluminum commercial vehicles wheels, increasing the group’s aluminum wheel capacity by 21%.

Also, last summer Accuride relocated a manual-process aluminum wheel machining line from Erie, Pa. to Monterrey, Mexico. As of November, establishing Accuride de Mexico is that country’s only “single-source supplier” of steel and aluminum wheels for the local medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle market.

Lastly, the company installed more polishing equipment for aluminum wheels at the Erie and Monterrey plants, improving efficiency and productivity at for quality aluminum wheels at both sites.

“By strategically managing our existing capacity and investing in key acquisitions and capacity initiatives, Accuride is fortifying its status as a leading aluminum wheel supplier to the North American commercial vehicle industry,” explained Scott Hazlett, senior vice president and general manager, Accuride Wheels. “Further, with our proven steel wheel expertise and extensive product portfolio, we’re able to seamlessly serve as a single-source supplier for our customers’ aluminum and steel wheel needs.”

Dauch added that the group is planning further capital investments in manufacturing equipment, products, and process technologies during 2012 and 2013.

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