We designed and manufactured a fleet of custom-made bumper racks for a Tier 1 North American automotive supplier’s assembly line, streamlining their production and saving them over $1 million.

The Challenge

Automakers increasingly rely on their suppliers to fulfill requests for parts on demand, often within a forty-eight hour window. Knowing our reputation for taking on the most complex challenges, a Tier 1 supplier that makes bumpers for Volkswagen asked our Duluth, GA office to create new bumper racks that would simplify their assembly floor, opening more space for additional production and saving time and money.

The solution needed to fit the towing system on the assembly floor, which could handle up to 300 loaded racks at a time. The client’s existing set up required ten specialized racks to accommodate bumpers for all the different models. Their goal was to reduce the ten specialized racks down to just two universal racks: one rack design for front bumpers, and one for back bumpers.

On top of that, the racks also needed to fit within a tight space and meet strict ergonomic requirements for the operators. It was an extraordinarily complex undertaking, but a necessary one for the supplier to continue to fulfill orders on time for Volkswagen.

The Solution

The success of this project was a direct result of the Duluth team’s ability to coordinate people and resources. Nine members of the Duluth office, including structural designers, engineers, and quality control experts shepherded this project from start to finish. They leveraged Stephen Gould’s vast network of manufacturing partners to identify the right suppliers. Throughout the process, the client was invited to visit suppliers, who were spread out across a number of states, and weigh in during the review and quality control processes.

The design of the racks was refined over more than twenty rounds of revision. The final design incorporates a drawer system that reduces the potential for damage while operators are loading parts. Each rack is designed with a spinning function that the operator controls with a pedal. This allows the operator to stay in one fixed position and load three bumpers on each side of the rack, increasing efficiency and safety for both the operator and the parts.

The Duluth team coordinated twelve different suppliers and over fifteen different manufacturing processes to bring the design to life. Each rack was made via traditional steel fabrication and wireform mounts dipped in a plastisol coating. Every surface of the rack was coated or covered with Class A surface or specialized foams and tapes to make sure the bumpers would not be damaged during loading, unloading, and transit in a rough and tumble industrial setting.

The Result

The Duluth team achieved the goal of designing and manufacturing two rack styles that accommodated all the bumpers assembled at the facility. They ultimately produced fifty of each bumper rack design, reducing the fleet of racks in the facility to a third of the original amount without reducing the overall output of the assembly line.

The new fleet of bumper racks is not only easier to manage, but offers robust protection. Our solution enabled the client to open up valuable space on the assembly floor. On top of all this, the Duluth team produced the new fleet of racks at a third of the total cost of the old fleet, representing around $1 million in cost savings. On every level, the solution we delivered was a huge win for the client.

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