Tailored furnace upgrade at Ford


Smooth modernisation of dosing furnaces increases productivity and efficiency at the carmaker’s aluminium foundry

Turning something old into something that’s as good as new: to bring productivity, availability and energy consumption up to the latest standards, the Ford factory in Cologne (Germany) has modernised several key pieces of production equipment. The carmaker relied on StrikoWestofen’s know-how once again to carry out a number of strategic furnace upgrades, following successful conversions to ProDos 3 controls and speedy relining projects the previous year.

After two years of reliable operation, the Ford factory saw improvement potential in its Westomat dosing furnaces. That’s why it has now had another half dozen of them overhauled by StrikoWestofen. The project has improved dosing accuracy, energy consumption and system availability.

“Thanks to the rapid completion of the work, we had practically no production downtime,” summarises Klaus Herweg, in charge of maintenance at the Ford die-casting plant in Cologne. Replacing old Westronics controls with new ProDos 3 controls was the first step towards increasing productivity. With constant monitoring of all relevant parameters, the intelligent ProDos 3 adapts the Westomat’s dosing process precisely to the specific production cycle. It thereby increases dosing accuracy by up to 35 percent, contributing significantly to the reduction of scrap. And it is easier to operate, too. “Over the last three years, we have had seven of our dosing furnaces converted,” Herweg explains. “We also installed an additional new system as part of the general overhaul of one of our die-casting machines.”

Old furnace, new performance

Depending on maintenance and usage of the Westomat, relining becomes necessary sooner or later. StrikoWestofen offers three options, depending on the downtime the customer is happy to accept. The first one is relining at the supplier’s premises, which takes about four to five weeks including transport to the factory and back. A more time-saving option is removal in situ followed by insertion of a pre-sintered relined replacement part. This option only requires seven working days of downtime, heating-up phase included. Thirdly, when time is of the essence, a relined replacement furnace body can be supplied. Even when taking into account the heating-up phase, this option can be carried out with no more than three working days’ downtime.

Ford decided to go with option one and have the relining carried out at StrikoWestofen. The delivery of a fully dried new lining then ensured rapid commissioning of the dosing furnace, making rinsing runs unnecessary. For one furnace, the customer decided to have a complete replacement furnace body delivered, enabling even faster recommissioning. Once the relining was completed, the older Westomat furnaces easily matched the performance of the younger machines: the latest insulation materials make sure they keep up with comparable new systems in terms of energy consumption. The cost of the upgrades were recovered within months.

StrikoWestofen offers a number of made-to-measure modernisation services – from a simple reline through to complete modernisation programmes, including controls, switch system, pneumatics, sensors and cabling. It is also possible to retrofit many of the new options introduced in the last few years on existing systems: such as riser tube edge cleaning, a self-cleaning transfer launder, a flanged riser tube, biscuit correction, increased dosing accuracy, Webserver 4.0 and more. “The conversions to ProDos 3 and the relining were worthwhile investments. That’s why we will be continuing to modernise here at Ford,” Klaus Herweg concludes, adding: “New is not always better, after all!” 

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