their own check fixtures (see Figure 1).
If a customer needs something more
precise, U.S. AutoForce outsources the
design and construction of precision or
certified check fixtures, and its quality
control office is outfitted with a noncontact coordinate measuring machine
Cross-training. As the fabricating ca-
pabilities multiplied, so did the degree of
specialization, with each worker doing
one thing—welding, running a bender,
polishing parts—really well. While this
was fine in the past, these days cross-
training is common. One of the benefits
is immediate: When a team member
takes some time off, the shop can con-
tinue to produce parts. Long-term ben-
efits, which accrue to employer and
employee alike, include a bigger variety
of duties, which staves off boredom and
keeps team members engagement high
with less likelihood of repetitive-motion
injuries. As of October 2017, the pipe
shop had worked 3,000 days without a
recordable injury (dating back to 2009).
“We had a little resistance when
we started cross-training,” Vosters said.
“Now, I don’t think anyone would want
to go back to doing just one job.”
Work Cells. Many manufactur-
ers thrive on using assembly lines and
similar setups, but a fabricator’s work
changes often, and assembly lines aren’t
known for their flexibility. The assembly
line concept has given way to work cells,
and U.S. AutoForce has taken this idea
further than many.
“We put most of our end formers on
casters and installed drop cords in a
few places around the shop so we have
power where we need it,” Vosters said.
By having some mobile equipment, the
staff can create a work cell in just a few
Diversifying. The exhaust business
isn’t nearly as large as it once was. Until the 1980s, most exhaust components
were made of steel, and they lasted just
a few years. It was common that an
automobile needed its exhaust system
U.S. AutoForce built about 300 check fixtures for its decades of
work in making aftermarket exhaust systems.
To say that exhaust systems require complex geometries would be
an understatement. The staff of U.S. AutoForce’s pipe shop has
many decades of collective experience, which comes in handy
when dealing with parts like this one.