Detroit Truck Manufacturing Gets Its Factory Rolling with Bluco
Modular fixturing and teamwork make for a successful solution
To make big changes, companies often have to overcome even bigger obstacles. When faced with such a challenge, Detroit Truck Manufacturing (DTM) called on Bluco and their expertise in modular fixturing for a solution.
In his role as Director of Welding Engineering for Oakland Standard Company, Todd Stoughton got an informed perspective on the entire project from beginning to end.
A manufacturing shift with major potential benefits
The cabs for Spartan Motor fire trucks were being manufactured by another company and then shipped to Spartan’s assembly line. To become more vertically integrated, DTM was launched as a captive-channel supplier of fabricated aluminum cabs for Spartan Motors fire trucks, as well as the cab and chassis product it supplies to over 40 OEM fire truck manufacturers.
The specialty vehicle manufacturer brought in Stoughton and Oakland Standard to design a new facility in Madison Heights, MI so DTM could manufacture multiple cab configurations on its own — eliminating a costly step in the supply chain.
But as Stoughton quickly learned, the change would require a highly flexible fixturing solution. “My first challenge was to understand what it was I was building,” said Stoughton. “I came into the project thinking we were just building one kind of cab. It turned out to be a huge number of models and options. I quickly realized that if I was going to use hard tooling to build these things, it was going to be millions and millions of dollars.”
After confirming that suspicion by getting quotes on dedicated fixturing, Stoughton had to start thinking outside the box to come up with a better solution — one that not only fit the budget, but could get them operational quickly while accommodating different cab sizes, variable part shapes, and strict GD&T tolerancing despite tight floor space requirements. Stoughton wondered: “How are we going to make these subassemblies and marry them together with the accuracy that we require?”
The solution is modular
Having worked with Bluco, Spartan’s CEO, Daryl Adams, was already familiar with their high quality, quick turnaround and team of experienced engineers. So Adams asked Stoughton to share the CAD designs with Bluco’s engineers.
“I started out with a door. And what most impressed me was that about 3 hours after I sent in the SOLIDWORKS design, I was looking at a fixture model on a video conference call with our Bluco engineer, Todd Bennett,” said Stoughton. “It was literally faster than the other guys could even call me back. I looked at the model and thought, wow – that will work.”
After the initial virtual discovery sessions with Bluco, Stoughton put a door in the back of his truck and he and the Spartan team visited Bluco’s Validation Center in Naperville, Illinois for several hands-on demos that provided proof that the fixtures they designed for the CAD models worked on the actual part. “At that point I knew that regardless of what I was trying to build, I had a guy that could put it on a fixture for me,” said Stoughton. The answer was indeed going to be modular fixturing. Now it was time to start designing.
Quick results, easier workflow, budget met
Bluco’s engineers worked side-by-side with DTM to design the custom solutions needed to produce a complete cab. Using ALM lift and rotate positioners and a number of other modular solutions, they came up with a process that worked with the variable part shapes needed, and large final size of the cab. Leaning on Bluco engineers with deep manufacturing knowledge and years of modular fixturing experience, the team had 14 weld cells designed and the full process mapped out in a week.
After the quote was presented and approved, installation kicked off less than three weeks later and DTM was ready to hit the ground running. Multiple cab configurations could be produced and welders were able to safely and quickly access all sides throughout the process.
“It saved a tremendous amount of money,” said Stoughton. “I really don’t even know if this project would have been financially possible without Bluco. In the end, I was able to blow everybody out of the water with what we came up with. It was literally just one good idea after another. A fantastic solution to a giant challenge.”
For more information, or to get a quote on a customized solution for your part, call 1-800-535-0135.