Episode 10: Launching a machining line straight out of college, the incredible fragility of tool setup tolerances, and managing bottlenecks effectively.

Season 1 Episode 10, Jun 30, 2021


Joey Screnci, Lead Engineer for Case Machining at Ford Motor Company talks about his love for engines and ATVs, how he led a launch at Ford as a fresh college graduate, and what one pothole can do to machining tool equipment in a truck.

Topics in this podcast

Quality control, Stage logic & parameter thresholding, Machining, Bottleneck design

Show Transcript

Joey: We're dealing with positional tolerances, you know, in microns. It's a fraction of the depth of a piece of paper. You're driving a machine two hours on the highway. I mean, just the slightest pothole can mess up where the fixture is sitting on the machine.

Siddhit: Pashi presents, the means of production. A podcast, about what it really takes to build, maintain, and scale the processes that produce the physical products that power our world. Every episode, we ask a manufacturing expert to walk us through the nuts and bolts of how they do their job. We explore how and why they got into manufacturing. Dive deep into the hardest problems they've solved on production lines and discuss their thoughts on what's broken in manufacturing today and how those things can be fixed. This podcast is hosted by me, Siddhit Sanghavi, Pashi's US operations lead and former assembly engineer at Ford motor company. If you're a part of the manufacturing world and you're interested in being a guest on the means of production, email me at siddhit@pashi.com

Siddhit:Welcome to season one episode 10 of the means of production. With me today is Giuseppe Screnci lead power training engineer for Ford motor company. I also know him as Joey. Welcome Joey.

Joey: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me on here.

Siddhit: Glad you could make it Joey. Before Joey and I have this conversation, he's going to read out a quick disclaimer.

Joey: I work at Ford motor company, but this is my own opinion and is not the opinion of Ford motor company. I am not a spokesperson for Ford motor company official or otherwise.

Siddhit: Perfect Joey. Thank you so much. Firstly, how is it going? How are you working in this remote situation? How is everyone's health and in general, just give us what you're doing these days.

Joey: It's going well. Ever since March of 2020, we've been working from home. At first it was a little hard to get adjusted. We're used to seeing people in person. If we have a question, we go to their desk. But now it's either on a like WebEx teams, instant messenger or relying heavily on email and phone calls. Recently, I have been going into the plant. We have had some work that needed to be done to finish up a couple of programs that I'm working on. I've been trying to go in one to two days a week, sometimes even more just to kind of get out of the house, change the scenery. Trying to keep sane during this time.

Siddhit: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's a good strategy and I'm glad that you do get to move out and I'm glad that the situation here is improving, unlike some other countries and unfortunate things that have happened to other people. I guess if you're all blessed, awesome. Good to hear that, Joey. Why don't we dive in? Joey, what I know is very little about what you actually do, and all I know is that you worked on case machining.

But I know there's a whole world over there, right? Can you just tell us what you do at Ford motor company and how you got your in, in the first place and what was your journey? You can go as far back, as you feel like to explain to us what it was, or what were the situations and developments that led you to this position?

Joey: Yes, I'm a lead powertrain engineer at Ford. Pretty much what I do is, we work with implementing the processes for machining. Currently I am in the 10 speed transmission. Anything rear wheel drive, we have implemented four brand new machining lines in Livonia transmission plant. When I first started at Ford, the first thing we had to do is work with our suppliers to design a machining process, purchase all the equipment, and then implement that equipment in Livonia transmission plant, which is very high level because we have over 60 machines that had to be installed. We had to get capability on these machines, the tool engaging automation. There is a lot involved.

As far as how I got in the manufacturing field, growing up, I was always fortunate to be a mechanically inclined. I loved working with my hands.I've always been interested in cars, trucks, basically, anything with an engine. My dad and I used to work on our family vehicles growing up, which is something that I really enjoyed. I also raced motocross as a kid. Working on my own four-wheeler dirt bikes, it was just something that always held my interest. In addition, I really liked the fact of seeing a raw product come in the front door, like a transmission casting, go through multiple machining processes and leave the building as a complete assembly.

Such as the 10 speed transmission, like I said, that I'm working on. Manufacturing is also very fluid. There's a constant change, whether it's continuous improvements, new products being introduced to the machining assembly lines, or just new equipment being implemented into those lines as the process grows and grows.

Siddhit: That is fantastic Joey, and I know little bit about you mentioning, you know, things with engines and motocross and stuff. I've seen you talking about it and I've seen in the parking lot of Livonia transmission plant, you have your ATV and you're pretty much ready to go for the weekend. Absolutely I see where that comes from, and I'm glad that your childhood experiences, led you to a field that you really enjoy and love. Tell us a little bit about like how you face a technical problem that you found very challenging and how you faced it. It doesn't have to be one incident or one particular problem. It could just be a series of like bad days or tough days, or even like a tough launch or something and how Joey went through it, just put us in your shoes and walk through it.

Joey: The hardest technical problem I faced. When I started in Ford, started at Ford in 2013, the machining modules were not fully designed. Jumping on board in the middle of that process was a huge challenge for me. I just graduated college. I went to Penn State. Working in the industry was brand new as a professional in the engineering field, learning the Ford lingo, who to contact, and the processes was a large task in itself with Ford being such a huge company, completing the design of the machining lines for the 10 speed transmission was probably the most difficult technical problem.

We had to perform multiple studies and simulations on each step of the design process to ensure that we planned for the correct JPH cycle time. We had to ensure that we placed the theoretical bottleneck where we wanted, that we have enough CNCs at each operation. Did we need five or six? Maybe four? As the automation, such as gantries, conveyors. Are they all correct? Are they in the right spots? Are they fast enough? Do we want two I-gantries instead of an H-gantry.Those types of details that you don't think of at a high level when you're just looking at the surface of the program. Coming into Ford and pretty much being handed to design a machining line, it was quite difficult for me, but the team that I had at Ford, very willing to help teach and help me learn, the Ford ways of doing things and design the process on how we wanted it to be.

Siddhit: Thanks Joey. There's a bunch to unpack there just for our audience. Can you explain what I-gantries and H-gantries are? Also, can you explain why you would need like a bottleneck? What is the purpose of this bottleneck and just the whole relation with the JPH.

Joey: Sure. An I-gantry is pretty much just a single gantry that comes down, picks up apart and it to the next station. If you have two of those, they can move at different times, not so much simultaneously.

Siddhit: What you're saying is that when there's two of them, it becomes an H-gantry or is that like a separate thing?

Joey: Yeah. When two, I-gantries are connected, that's basically an H-gantry, so they do move simultaneously. If you have to call them workstations within a machine, one gantry, the leading gantry will pick up the finished part. Then the trailing gantry will drop in the part that needs to get machined.

Siddhit: In this way they can work in tandem rather than the same gantry going back, wasting diamond, then picking the finished part and putting it in. It's basically a way to increase utilization of the gantry space, overhead and in the time that you have essentially.

Joey: Correct. Yes.

Siddhit: Can you talk about what a bottleneck is and why you would need it in a line?

Joey: A bottleneck is basically a point of congestion in an assembly line or in a machining line occurs when the workload arrives too quickly for the production process to handle. You don't necessarily, want a bottleneck, but in most processes, you're going to have a bottleneck. If you have one machine that has a cycle time of say 50 seconds, the next machine has a cycle time of 80 seconds. The bottleneck can develop within that 80 seconds cycle time, since parts are coming out of this of the previous machine faster than the next machine can handle.

Siddhit: Okay, I get it now. What you're saying is that a bottleneck is going to come regardless, but here you are being deliberate about which machine you want the bottleneck to be. Is that what you meant when you said that you have to, fix on the theoretical bottleneck?

Joey: Yeah. Designing these lines, chances are, there's going to be a bottleneck. However, you kind of want to have a design bottleneck in an area that won't affect JPH or jobs per hour, as much as it could affect JPH if you have it in a different part of the line. That's what I meant by kind of planning out the theoretical bottleneck.

Siddhit: No, that's extremely interesting to me. I'd like to note that, Joey and myself are both industrial engineers. This is like a very important part of our job. For the audience, JPH is what they use in auto companies, at least in Ford, which means jobs per hour and in other places they use parts per minute and so on and so forth. But I should put in a link for design bottlenecks.

It's a great way to ensure that the congestion happens in a part of the line like Joey said, where you can handle it, or maybe when you expect it to be there.That is what Joey had to do coming straight out of college, which is how many gantries and where the congestion will occur. It sounds like a very interesting and even tough challenge that you had straight out of college, right?

Joey: Yes. It was for sure, as you said, luckily I had the industrial engineering degree and so we had a few classes actually most of my classes were dealing with the JPH the cycle times. I was definitely familiar with the process. It's just dealing with it from a textbook point of view to real-world was, was a hard adjustment for sure.

Siddhit: I'd like to acknowledge this as well, that when I came to Ford as well, it took me six months just to understand all the acronyms and know what people are talking about. With large companies, when you come out of college, and this is for all of you, like young people still in college, what you study is not exactly how it's going to be, or, I mean it's going to be far from what you actually studied. When you do get to the floor, there'll be so many non-technical adjustments that you will have to make when trying to put a theory that's in your head into practice.

I guess that is what Joey is also talking about, that it was a hard adjustment and it will be so for you as well. When you see it on the floor, that's when your interest will become, 10 times as much as it was when you see what you've made in action, and what you design be actually implemented on a real shop floor, very real things are getting machine out of metal. I'm glad you got that experience, Joey. It sounds like something that would make you grow and really challenged you and your theories about what it is to work in a big company.

Joey: Absolutely. Seeing what we learned throughout college all the classes, the labs that we've taken, seeing that put into the real world scenarios, definitely holds your interest more than, you know, doing a homework assignment out of a textbook. I'm a hands-on visual learner. I like to see it in front of me. It definitely made it a lot easier to work on this problem as it's right in front of me in person, instead of, reading it out of the textbook.

Siddhit: Agreed, agreed.Joey, moving on to, you know, other aspects of like work, right. Industrial engineers work with a lot of people. With Ford there's always big teams or large teams or lots of departments and cross functional tasks. What has been your greatest non-technical challenge and how did you face that?

Joey: Sid it's funny, you mentioned a cross-functional task, because that is exactly what my hardest non-technical problem I faced. With that, the hardest part, non-technical problem that I had is probably communicating cross-functionally during a program launch to ensure every little detail is covered. We do communicate with so many different teams. Although we have many means of communicating, whether it's email, phone, call, text instant message, or in-person, still difficult to have everybody on the same page to communicate in such a large company.

I mean, most of us are in the same building, but you know, there's some of us that aren't. Which makes it even more difficult. To launch a machining program, you have the tool engineers gauging engineers, the process and dunnage engineers, controls and safety, industrial engineers, and many more that we need to communicate with in order to have a successful launch. Myself as a process engineer, we need to ensure that everyone's on the same page for delivery. As far as timing.

Everyone knows the process, what tools engages, go where. Do all the different part models fit on the dunnage rack or the fixtures in the machines. If not, how can we accommodate all of these to fit on one rack, to simplify the process and not have as much complexity as possible throughout the machining line?

Siddhit: Absolutely. Well, thanks for that, Joey. This has been something that previous guests on the podcast have also mentioned that, you know, as a company gets larger, it is becoming more and more difficult to ensure that they all know what has to be done or, you know, pass on the message in a way that there is no translation loss, but sometimes it's just inevitable. The subject matters that you mentioned tooling, gauging, dunnages, fixtures. These are all headed by people who are experts in those fields, but they may not know anything about the other fields and may not know what the concern or urgency is. That's where things can get a little dicey when you know, something in the dunnage is not fitting well, and the dunnage engineers are extremely worded, but it wouldn't make the gauging engineers flinch even a little bit.

Because it's not their area, but then the whole program is kind of delayed it. That is areal thing that you mentioned there,. Joey moving on. You mentioned several issues technical and non-technical, if you had a magic wand and you could fix one thing about your work or your industry, or just manufacturing in general, what would that be and why? Of course this would be within reason. So no saying I want more time or more money for my program. Joey: I actually have two items that I would change about, you know, work the industry or manufacturing in general. I'd have to say I changed the documentation process. Documentation is very important as we all know, especially with mass production. However, I feel documentation process can be a little repetitive especially in Ford. Some forms that we use are essentially giving/using the same information as others, just in a different format, or just worded a little differently and as much work as we do already being a process engineer, we don't need to fill out multiple forms that gives similar similar information.

Second I'd also change like the approval/decision-making process. This level of engineering and the level in our careers. There are so many approvals and sign-offs that we have to go through in order to make a final decision. Whether it's purchasing tools or a piece of equipment. At this point, we have the best interest of the company in our minds at all times. We treat every dollar like our own, especially in the times that we're going through now. Most decisions I feel should be made at the lowest level possible instead of having approvals, going all the way up to director level. Especially when you're in such a time crunch, because these approvals can take you no more than a week to be finalized. By having five or six levels of approval, you're only slowing down the process and creating more delays which could affect the overall program timing.

Siddhit: This is absolutely a real pain point Joey. I'm glad you brought it up. The two pain points, right. One was documentation, and one was approval. With documentation did you mean that you're essentially performing like redundant actions where the amount of administrative tasks that you have to do is increasing? Is that what you meant by that?

Joey: I guess you could say they are increasing, but just some of the forums you know, whether it's EVP or some checklists that we have to do within Midas, which is an internal program to Ford. Some of the questions that are in just those two documents together are very similar. It gets kind of a nuisance filling out one document, sending that in, and then also filling out another document within Midas that asks for the same questions. It just gets to be a nuisance when we're doing redundant work, just answering the same questions, just in a different form or a different layout.

Siddhit: Absolutely. I feel that. For the audiences, MIDAS is just like an internal software and this is not something that would be plaguing only Ford. This would be any company that is very large.They would have these organic processes in which two different procedures or documentation methods have been independently growing. They may not know that they are overlapping and then it, because they're so specialized and so mature, it's hard for them to change. This is normal. It is natural. But at some point there has to be some kind of method to find out that, hey, is this causing more work or is this absolutely necessary?

I completely understand that. I myself worked with some of these software and I do know what you mean by that? Now EVP for the audiences is an equipment verification document in which the machine is being checked totally, from every possible angle and done physically, right? In this case, what Joey is saying is that he would go physically to the machine and try it out and try to break it and try to test it in every possible manner. Then note down all of these things in the sheet, many of the industry, which have verification, they may have very digital verifications, but with machining or with manufacturing or assembly, this is very physical. There's no way to do this without being on the machine. it gets very difficult to avoid some of the physical checks.

Once you have these physical checks, the last thing you want is to keep performing those administrative tasks in which you're saying okay, this is okay in more than one document. This is what the trouble is. As it is, the verification is quite difficult. I know for a fact, because we used to keep pulling in and pushing in pallets containing like the transmission in and out likely 10, 20 times, just to verify something. Then you had to write on this piece of paper, that this was okay, so you don't want to do that like two, three times. I completely get that as well.

Joey: Most of the times, the EVP we'd have to do an EVP at the machine supplier. We went down to our machine supplier with our EVP, we had to check the cycle time temperature of the parts coming out because in aluminum machining, current temperature is very key as to, you know, if you machine a part at 80 degrees versus 70 degrees for aluminum, it can be a drastic difference with the whole position diameter. We would check part temperature, cycle time. We ensure every feature in that operation was being machined correctly.

It's definitely a lot of work. Then once the machine comes into a Ford facility, we have to do that process all over again, because transferring these machines by a semi-truck two hours north, especially on the Michigan highways, the machine, can change a little bit, but we have to redo all these tests once the machine gets set up in a Ford facility.

Siddhit: I know exactly what you're talking about and here what Joey is referring to is the process that many, large automotive companies like GM or FCA or Ford use in which they would "run off" the machine at the supplier or the integrator of these lines. But then when it comes time to put them in the Ford facility, they are actually torn down and then taken to Ford or, some kind of knock down a semi knocked down state, or even the whole machine, depending on the size or whatever, and then brought to Ford.

But then when you are reassembling it, it is possible that while reconfiguring it or restarting it, the controls, or some of the settings are not exactly the same. It's an absolutely critical thing to make sure that they are. That is why we do this run off again, once in Ford as well. I would guess that this is true of any company in which the integrator is having these facilities built, having these equipment machinery, conveyor robots built in their own facility first. Because any changes would then reflect on the production and you don't want that. You want to make sure that they are tested all over again. Essentially you're doing these tests twice.

Joey: Yeah. It's definitely very important. I forgot to mention, in machining I can say this for, you know, whether it's 10R, 8F, 9F, we're dealing with positional tolerances in microns. It's a fraction of the depth of a piece of paper. You're super tight tolerances and driving a machine two hours on the highway, I mean, just the slightest pothole can mess up where the fixture is sitting on the machine. Yeah, it's definitely important that we go through these processes at the machine supplier and when they get installed in our plant for run off.

Siddhit:That is absolutely blowing my mind. I guess let's put it in perspective for the audience, right. Before I do that, I just want to say that the 10R, 8F 9F are like models of the Ford transmissions that it says F, it's a front wheel drive. Then it says audits it's a wheel drive. These are not new. These are already running and transmissions already informed vehicles. The tolerance, as we all know, is the permissible limit or limits of the variation in like the process or the physical property of that product and so on and so forth. In our case, it would relate more to the process in terms of what Joey is saying, because with machining, everything is extremely precise and microns being factions of the depth of the paper.

Now, just imagine that this thing is fastened to a holder. The tool is fastened to a holder, and that holder itself will have its own tolerances, its own slack and its own movement. If it goes on a pothole on a road, you can imagine what it might do to that arrangement. Very meticulous planning. Now I understand, why we need to have dunnage engineers because this could be true of even the parts.

It could be true of just transferring anything from here to there. It could just disturb things. It is absolutely amazing what kind of decision levels you guys work at. Thanks for that. I really have a new appreciation for what care goes into building these machines Joey. Joey,for like the last question in closing. Please let me know if you have any other challenges or cases or if you've wanted to expand on anything that you said, but if not, the last question before closing is, if this was 2051, or you could travel to 2051 through time, what would the factory of the future look like? Or what would manufacturing look like in general?

Joey: Oh, that's a interesting question. The first thing that came to mind was everything was automated. I can definitely see, you know, the, most of the operators would be, I don't want to say it, but kind of replaced by robots. I think that's been something that has been talked about for many years now and I mean, we could see it already especially in the large mass production plants, such as Ford, GM, Chrysler. If you walk down an assembly line, you walk down the machining line, you see robots in almost every operation. In 2051, I think that, you know, there may be one or two people per line just for maintenance or other preventative maintenance tasks. I think automation would be number one as far as in the plant.

Siddhit: Yep. Fantastic. That's what the hope is that we are not doing like work that is drudgery or just mind numbing work for a whole shift and all those people have more creative jobs and maybe they are more involved in the actual design of the machinery, right. An operator with 30 years of experience assembling something can then move on to becoming like a consultant to on the robot that then does the same job because that person would have so much knowledge on how that job should be done. Hopefully that is more fulfilling for them. That is less backbreaking for them. Absolutely. I agree with that vision.

Joey: Yeah. It's actually great that you mentioned about the machine operators. When we do run ops at our machine suppliers, we actually do bring a few operators with us because like you said, they know the equipment, the best. They work with it 8, 10, 12 hours a day, you know, 5, 6, 7 days a week where we don't as engineers. Bringing the operators with us too, the machine supplier run ops is great. It's great to have them there cause they tell us like, we've always had problems with this logic in a CNC machine, you know, maybe XYZ machine supplier can work out something with this problem. Or the tool changer gets caught up on tool number 32. Maybe there's a glitch, you know, somewhere in that process. It's always great to have the operators with us.

Siddhit: Absolutely. Well that was, our set of questions. Joey, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and thank you for explaining to us a lot about machining and what it takes to, to really build a successful line. You learn that straight out of college. It was, I can imagine how difficult that is, as a recent college graduate and then also just the whole precision level that needs to be achieved with some of this machinery that cuts all of these very, very precise features on a case. It really brings a new light to do the machining world. Thank you so much for explaining all that to us.

Joey: Not a problem. Thank you very much for having me on again. I really enjoyed this. It definitely gives me a better outlook on what I do day to day. What I like, what I don't like to just by having these open conversations.

Siddhit: I'm glad you enjoyed it Joey. All right. Take care. Bye.

Joey: Thanks Sid. Bye.

Siddhit: If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe to the means of production podcast. For more stories from people behind all the manufactured goods we use, love, and depend on. This episode was made possible by Pashi the operating system for manufacturing. Pashi unifies the entire production process for any product emcompassing operator instruction and data end interfaces, stage logic and parameter thresholding, machine interfacing and configuration, robot programming and coordination, and stage to stage to production flow control into a single Pashi program. Check us out at pashi.com. Until we meet again, have a fantastic day and take care.

Music from Uppbeat: "Falling" by Zayner. License code: SYFMAQN9WWBAPCSU


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