Neapco Holdings makes the parts that get vehicles moving. It manufactures driveshafts, suspension springs, propeller shafts, aluminum die castings, and driveline components for automotive and heavy-equipment OEMs (it is a major supplier to Ford) and the aftermarket. Neapco serves the automotive, commercial vehicle, farm equipment, and construction machinery sectors. It also makes components for non-vehicular applications such as irrigation systems, mill processing equipment, and hydraulic pump drives. The Neapco name comes from New England Auto Parts Corporation, when founder D. K. Bullens established the company in 1921. Its headquarters eventually moved to Pennsylvania and then in 2011, Michigan.
Neapco Holdings operates through two main segments. Neapco Components makes propshafts, driveshafts, and sideshafts for commercial, light, and off-highway vehicles, while Neapco Drivelines makes propshafts and driveshafts primarily for light vehicles.
The company has about 10 manufacturing and distribution centers located in California, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Canada, China, Germany, Mexico, and Poland. It opened its office in China (Beijing) in 2011 in order to serve as a springboard for serving customers in the Asia/Pacific region and establish a significant manufacturing presence there.
The Problem and The Solution
Neapco originally came to us under the Visteon name, shortly after Ford spun off the new entity. A plant in Monroe, MI was having issue with quality while manufacturing driveshafts. They were producing the parts on multiple machines and occasionally the machine would reject the part, yet the part would make it into the next manufacturing process where it would pass other steps of the manufacturing process, be marked as a good part, and ship out. Quality was an issue. Good parts to bad parts was a real problem. The availability of automated and on-demand, real-time FTT reports (Good Parts vs. Bad Parts charted out statistically) was also a big concern. In addition, they wanted a safeguard to protect against a bad part that was never reworked and retested ever making it out of their factory.
Our solution was to first network their production machines and connect their machines to a server that could be used to collect production data. We then configured each machine (PLC code) to prepare information at the end of each cycle that would allow the system to gather traceability information, good part vs. bad part, and other pertinent information. Once the system was online and collecting data, we then used this data to create labels throughout the production process. The label would print important identifying information as well as process parameters used during the manufacturing process. If at any phase in the process, a label was printed for a part that failed another step in the process, a FAILURE label would be created to catch bad parts that somehow made it into the next step in the process. Reports were custom-designed to so production data, good part vs. bad part, graphs of parameters over time, and warranty level information on a specific serial number. Some reports were automatically printed and e-mailed to staff, and all reports were available on demand.
Visteon sold to ACH, ACH sold to Neapco, and to this day, our solution has expanded to cover most of the manufacturing process on drive shafts, catalytic converters, and more. Our software and solution is relied on as a step in the manufacturing process since our label actually is affixed to the part, and without our label, the part cannot leave the machine. Since implementing the system, Neapco has reduced the failure rate by over 22% and reduced the overall bad parts produced per shift by over 50%. The focus on quality improvement alone encouraged shift managers to watch and manage statistics that could let them make decisions immediately effecting production results. Staff took ownership of issues and took quality seriously once measurables were in place to allow them to quickly adapt.
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