Bringing it all back home
In order to deliver a product that consistently meets the rugged requirements and extreme payloads of the Australian freight task, Dana Australia has invested in a new drivehead assembly process. It’s the first of its kind in Australia.
Heavy vehicle loads in Australia dwarf those of the rest of the globe.
Assembling components for driveheads and driveshafts for US application, where 38 tonne loads are considered the limit for trucks with a tandem axle, might well fail to provide an equivalent sense of confidence when applied to the same equipment here in Australia.
In Western Australia it is common to see prime movers carting 180 plus tonnes of raw materials in quad-tipper applications, down outback highways of 600 kilometres or more from excavation point to port.
By making the decision to build its own driveheads locally at its Keysborough plant, in southeast Melbourne, Dana Australia has doubled down on its commitment to equip fleet owners and heavy vehicle manufacturers with a product designed for the unique, ongoing demands of the Australian industry.
Dana Australia currently supplies driveheads for multiple applications including agitators, waste management, line haul and bulk fuel, in addition to heavy-duty and off highway (50t gross mass vehicle) applications for the mining industry.
Its driveheads are in everyday use across interstate line-haul operations, merchandise, fresh produce and other general freight commitments.
Dana Australia, until recently, had been purchasing its driveheads from a sister Dana company, where all individual components, such as the pinion, crown wheel, diff centres and power-dividing unit for various driveheads, were already assembled.
As it no longer requires that its assembly be supplied, according to Tony Robinson, Dana Australia, Engineering Manager, localising its drivehead assembly now provides additional quality control and consistency, among many other advantages, during the drivehead build.
“All components in the differentials are a Dana proprietary design,” he says.
“Dana has a number of facilities around the world where they forge, cast, machine and prepare individual parts for usage.
Our gearsets, differential centres, power diving units are all made in a Dana facility within our global supply chain.
Instead of buying specific assemblies from other Dana facilities, we actually now purchase all the individual components and build a range of driveheads ourselves to suit the needs of our customers.”
Being an International Automotive Task Force (IATF16949) certified company, Dana, confidently relies on the components it purchases, from each of its Dana facilities and suppliers, all of which are strictly quality controlled.
“It assures us we have consistency and repetitiveness in our product,” Tony says.
“It’s of upmost importance that the components and assemblies Dana supplies to market are up to task. What’s imperative is that the drivehead assemblies Dana Keysborough produces are certified, stable, consistent and importantly, build repeatable, so that a customer who buys our products today knows in two years’ time, he can expect the same or a better product and performance.”
It’s up to Dana’s purchasing department to source individual components made by Dana Global purchasing network to meet the monthly build quantities the local market requires.
Key focuses are quality control and price, so that Dana Australia can maintain volume and competitiveness, when compared with North American volumes.
Because IATF requirements are stringent, a number of criteria must be adhered to for Dana products to meet corporate compliance.
Even so, the local market brings with it a set of additional considerations and advantages, as Dana sets about assembling its driveheads in Australia where the application differences in heavy vehicle cartage with the US are pronounced.
It has given Dana’s sales, purchasing and operations team, knowing they have complete ownership of the product, an added sense of confidence says Tony.
“Now there’s a lot of pride in specifications we apply to it to ensure that our driveheads are consistent for Australia’s market and conditions,” he says.
“Our sales guys have absolute confidence now knowing that we are building our own driveheads that are suitable, practical and durable for our variety of on and off highway applications.”
On the assembly line, Dana Australia has invested in a poka-yoke system – a mechanism, more commonly associated with light vehicle high volume manufacturing, which eliminates the potential for error in the assembly process, and ensures every assembly comes out identical to the previous.
The system prevents a product moving forward on the line until the specific operation is completed.
“The machine will do most of the work. For example, DC nut runners will torque up the fasteners to Dana’s Engineering specifications, and our gear pattern testing machine not only assesses the gear pattern, but will also record the noise characteristics of each drivehead, assessing bearings, run out and of course gear tooth contact noise,” Tony says.
“We also have qualified mechanics who have been educated in our machines and processes - they are experienced in how to manually build our differentials and they know how to tear down and assess them. They’re there to support the build and confirm the assembly processes have been completed, and they are integral to the quality of our product.”
Dana Australia, Tony says, would rather have educated operators on the assembly line to ensure the product is of the best quality.
“The Australian heavy vehicle industry with the market requiring higher gross combinations masses than anywhere else in the world means the products here need to be stable and strong,” Tony says.
“For us, a component manufacturer and an assembly facility, it’s essential to ensure we have control of quality.”
The new poka-yoke Drivehead assembly line has already greatly improved the speed of the assembly flow compared to the manual assembly.
It will absolutely increase productivity, through-put and mitigate quality risks, says Tony.
“Our capability is now much higher,” he says. “It’s a great investment by Dana Australia to support our customers, new and old, to deliver a product that is being developed, engineered and assembled in Australia, which puts us at an advantage over our competitors.”