Integrating toolmaking operations within the Group means that the entire process chain – from the product idea through to series production – can be covered under one roof, delivering three key benefits. First, product development and toolmaking are brought closer together. The individual requirements that new product-specific developments pose to toolmaking can be clearly defined in regular consultation meetings between the engineers from the two specialist departments and are easy to fine-tune if required without the need for any red tape. Second, each newly constructed tool serves as a learning experience that the team members immediately involved in the next project can benefit from. In other words, a process of continuous improvement sets in automatically. Third, production cannot run completely smoothly until the production line, the raw materials, and the process expertise are all in synch. “Once the toolmakers and the various interfaces at ElringKlinger are perfectly aligned, we can achieve a significantly higher output with our series production. You don’t usually get that if you outsource your tool work,” says Weingärtner, underlining the differences.
ElringKlinger’s toolmakers are responsible for developing and manufacturing tools for four different divisions – Cylinder-head Gaskets, Specialty Gaskets, Shielding Technology, and, in particular, the highly promising Lightweighting division. This latter is working on replacing metal parts with high-performance plastics to save weight in vehicles. For the series production of cockpit cross-car beams for a premium German manufacturer, which began in early 2015, ElringKlinger’s toolmakers developed the corresponding tools and supplied them to the Group’s sites in Leamington, Canada, and Suzhou, China. And two other major international lightweighting projects that ElringKlinger launched in 2017 are also underpinned by the successful work of the Group’s in-house toolmakers. Both the order for door module carriers made from organo sheets received from a German automotive supplier and the supply of cockpit cross-car beams for a US car manufacturer used tools that were developed and manufactured in-house – they are currently still being tested. “For the door module carrier project, the sites in Hungary, Mexico, and China are each to receive two production lines plus corresponding toolsets,” Weingärtner adds. At the newly built production facility in the Californian city of Fremont, the first stage envisages the construction of a line to manufacture the cockpit cross-car beams.