Few industries are as competitive as automotive, where safety, consistency, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness are paramount. Even small inefficiencies in the manufacturing process can slow the pace of progress.

One daily challenge for automakers? The frequent, rapid tool changes required to respond quickly to changing market demands. This is a complex operation: before the bolsters move to and from the transfer press to change dies, the dies must be lifted onto and off the moving bolsters – no small feat considering that a typical die weighs between 6 and 30 tons.

It's a challenge that Toyota knows well. The company's Toyota Production System (TPS) manufacturing approach has earned it a reputation for producing the highest-quality vehicles in the shortest lead times at the lowest possible cost. The company's UK manufacturing facility, Toyota Manufacturing UK (TMUK), follows this philosophy to the tee

The Derbyshire-based plant had been using heavy steel wire rope slings to handle the cumbersome process of lifting press dies. However, the extreme weight of the slings made them difficult to handle safely and efficiently … and with up to 128 lifts on a typical day, this was a problem that urgently needed to be solved.

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Ultra light, ultra effective

The TMUK team found the solution it was looking for in the Ultra Light lifting sling. Manufactured by Gleistein Ropes, a rope technology leader, this sling is based on a unique design using Gleistein's 12-strand braided and heat-set DynaOne HS® ropes made with Dyneema® fiber. Heat setting is used to increase strength and minimize design elongation and cross-sectional dimensions, making it easier to connect and disconnect to and from die-lifting equipment. What’s more, Ultra Light slings are CE marked to EN-1492 Part 4, to comply with the European Machinery Directive 98/37/EC.

While equal in strength to traditional alternatives, DynaOne HS® ropes are just one-seventh of the weight of steel wire rope, making them easier and safer to handle. For TMUK, this meant an immediate increase in efficiency.

“With steel wire rope slings, we needed two lifting team members during a die change. With the Ultra Light slings, a single team member can handle two slings at the same time. That means we’ve been able to free up a member of each lifting team to focus on quality.”

Dave Aston, Press Group Team Leader at TMUK.

Bolstering the bottom line

There have been other notable benefits for Aston and his team. In the past, the daily process of connecting and disconnecting heavy steel cable slings to and from the die lifters resulted in frequent shoulder and back injuries to crew members. Because the Ultra Light slings are lightweight and soft, they reduce the injury risk – as well as preventing damage to the dies. As a result, the costs associated with both medical care and corrective maintenance have fallen greatly since the switch.

And that’s not all: the Ultra Light slings have helped TMUK’s bottom line in other ways. First, the slings are highly resistant to internal and external abrasion – especially around the eyes and other areas where abrasion and cuts can occur. Second, they also offer high resistance to chemicals, including the oil and grease commonly used around automated transfer presses.

Driving toward success

For TMUK to maintain its competitive edge, long-term durability is paramount. Extensive evaluations have shown that braided ropes made with Dyneema® fiber have a longer tensile fatigue life than steel ropes in wire rope constructions – and testing on the Ultra Light sling configuration confirms the longer life of these high-performance slings.

With Gleistein and Dyneema® behind them, TMUK can keep its foot firmly on the accelerator – allowing the plant to move with the times and reap the full benefits of its TPS approach!

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