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Production System Combines Core Competency with Complementary Technologies

"While the automotive industry has mainly focused on maximizing productivity to reduce unproductive idle times, agile processes are now increasingly coming to the fore. The goal is to be able to respond flexibly to changing customer requirements," said a HELLER Machine Tools spokesperson.

A recent example is a production system that illustrates the practical implementation of such a project. It concerns the manufacturing of crankcases for combustion engines with different workpiece variants to be produced on a flexible manufacturing line. Starting in 2013, a manufacturing system for the OEM was successively implemented and commissioned by HELLER, followed by another in 2017, due mainly in part to the high quality achieved with the existing manufacturing solution.

One of the future manufacturing systems was planned to be erected in the same plant, while three others were to be installed at a new engine plant. Since the workpiece types were largely identical, it was initially assumed that the machining processes would be more or less the same.

However, the automotive manufacturer in question follows the production concept of "reference plants" in which specific boundary conditions exist that need to be adhered to. While the existing systems comprised up to eight HELLER machining centers using one gantry for loading, the reference plant only provides four machining centers per gantry in the future. The goal of these redundant systems is to enable continued production in case one of the gantry loaders is out of operation. Another difference to the existing systems is that the machines used so far were designed for direct loading. In the future, an adapter changer is to be positioned in front of each machine to enable the decoupling of the automation and the machining center. To increase system efficiency, the adapter changer performs the workpiece change largely independent of the gantry loader. Only for two specific operations, machines with direct loading will continue to be used in the future.

"Numerous disciplines require peripheral expertise; specifically, for the new engine plant, the system layout includes numerous complementary technologies," said the spokesperson. "In addition to the machining centers, it also incorporates machines for assembly tasks, honing, washing and brushing operations or measuring and testing technology required as turn-key solutions. As the general contractor, HELLER therefore has to master numerous and varying disciplines. A key technology, for example, is the coating of the crankcases, using the new HELLER CylinderBoreCoating process technology (CBC). As with the existing system, the automotive manufacturer relies on a HELLER CBC 200 coating machine for its new systems."

Although the new engine plant now exclusively focuses on the production of 4-cylinder engines (gas and diesel), one of the new lines is used for the production of crankcases for 4- and 6-cylinder inline engines. It comprises 163 machining centers model HELLER MC 20, 13 vertical machining centers type MC 20 V and 17 CBC 200 coating machines from HELLER. "With requirements comprising component-related equipment, intensive application engineering and extensive automation solutions, the project is about much more than machines," said the spokesperson. "In addition to the core competencies, the projects also require comprehensive expertise regarding the peripheral applications. That is why project scheduling was a particularly interesting aspect in this context. At the end of November 2017, orders for the additional systems were awarded. Delivery of the machines was November 2018, and the SOP is scheduled for January 2020."

Celebrating 125 Years Making Machine Tools

To learn more about HELLER's 125th anniversary (1894 - 2019), its machines and expertise, visit or click on

For more information contact:

Dave Mondek

HELLER Machine Tools

1225 Equity Drive

Troy, MI 48084



New England

Chris Burns

Compumachine Inc.




Patrick Ellison

Ellison Machinery


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