Industry Insider: KW Suspension Factory Tour, part 1

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KW Suspension Factory Tour
Received raw material awaits processing to turn it into KW shocks.  Stainless steel tubing is made into shock bodies, billet becomes shock shafts, extrusions become Motorsports spring collars and top hats.  You can see it all here.  The raw material is documented down to the lot number and the manufacturing process can be traced down to individual lots of raw material.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
These raw aluminum extrusions become spring seats and collars with a little machining.

KW’s process starts with receiving.  Raw stainless tubing, aluminum extrusions, valve components and shaft material are all held in an impound area until they can be inspected for quality and released to go into inventory.  The stainless tubing is cut to length and machined and polished to be turned into shock tubes.  Some of the shock tube operations take place outside of KW and when the completed machined and polished tube comes back to KW’s facilities it must be inspected again.  The dimensional quality of critical machined parts is tracked using statistical process control, or SPC.  SPC is a data analyzing process that catches out of spec conditions where they can be corrected before they lead to defects.

KW Suspension Factory Tour
Strut tubes getting their ears tig welded on.  This guy welding here is one of the original welders who has worked for KW ever since the days of Klaus’s garage!
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Strut shafts being machined on a CNC lathe.

Production orders generate a work order which is a complicated document that includes the complete step by step process to build a coilover kit with process instructions and operator sign offs for each step done.  This work order travels with the production run and serves as a record of the manufacturing.  All processes, all inspection and all operators are recorded on this document.  If there is ever a problem with a KW part, it can be traced back down to the component and operator level.  Traceabilty makes trouble shooting warranty issues much easier and corrective action can be directly applied to the root cause.

KW Suspension Factory Tour
The paperwork you can see with each shock batch being staged here is called a traveler.  All processes and operators are documented here to maintain complete traceability throughout the manufacturing process.  The process specs and instruction documents go along with the traveler so the operators have an exact reference on how to perform their processes.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
KW makes extensive use of cellular manufacturing.  Cellular manufacturing was pioneered by Toyota as an efficient way to make many different small batches of components.  Each cell assembles a step of the process as a sub assembly with all quality checks in place at the component level.  This works out better than the traditional assembly line as there is no wait time as some processes inevitably take longer than others making it easier to balance the labor operations of assembly.  Having inspections for each part at this level also improves quality and allows more sub steps to be done with fewer operators.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Cells use bespoke fixturing and ergonomic design to improve efficiency and quality.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
The pictures in this cell are not ISO required process documentation but the instruction sheets below them are!
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Parts of the foot valve assembly are put together in this cell.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Piston bases await assembly with valve parts.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Klaus Frank explains how cellular manufacturing and traceability works to the other journalists who sit glassy eyed.  No problem for MotoIQ, we have industrial engineering experience.

KW uses a cellular manufacturing process.  Pioneered by Toyota, cellular manufacturing is an ideal way to efficiently produce parts with fewer operators with higher quality. Ergonomically designed cells each with a single operator, assemble sub assemblies out of discreet components.  Each cell has the operation broken down with process documents and controls such as fixturing and inspection devices to ensure good quality and repeatability.

KW Suspension Factory Tour
An assortment of valve parts.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
These parts become an adjustable footvalve for a KW twin tube shock.  This controls compression damping.
KW Suspension Factory Tour
Mike ponders the fluid flow and the adjustment mechanism of the piston rod assembly.

Stay Tuned, in the next edition of the KW Factory Tour, we will take you deeper into the heart of KW’s plant.

 

READ PART II

WATCH THE VIDEO TOUR

Sources

KW Suspension

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