Ford's Steering Plant Wins Governor's Award
Ford Motor Company's Steering Gear Plant in Indianapolis, IN is a 1.8 million square ft.
manufacturing facility for the production of steering columns, gears and automotive components.
Recently the Indy plant received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Pollution Prevention.
The primary production operation at the Steering Gear facility involved the rough grinding of a
ball groove thread on the power steering gear worm shaft. The XLO grinders used for this operation
used a 1:1 blended oil mixture for grinding wheel lubrication in the wet grinding process. The
grinding created an intense heat because of the abrasive grinding friction, and the lubricated oil
created a particle-laden flammable mist.
FORD MACHINES AT LEISTRITZ
The oil mist collector required an air emission permit and was the worst source of air pollution
from the plant. Additionally, the used oil had to be treated and eventually disposed as a non-renewable
Because of the heat generated in the grinding operation and the flammability of the oil mist, fire
protection was required for both the grinders and the mist collector. During a six month period three
fires had occurred, two involving ignition of oil vapors in the exhaust ducts and mist collector. The
explosive force caused extensive damage to the mist collector and potentially endangered employees by
throwing mist collector parts a distance of thirty feet.
Each fire incident also necessitated complete changeout and disposal of the lubricating oil because it
became contaminated with the carbon dioxide and water used to extinguish the fires. Cleaning of the
fire incident area and replacement of the lubricating oil required an average of 16 hours of non-production
time after each incident.
Ford Motor Company responded not only to employee safety concerns but also to environmental concerns,
with a $2,600,000 capital appropriation project, replacing six XLO grinding machines with five new CNC
Whirling Machines from Leistritz.
The environmental benefits of the project affect two major areas: air pollution reduction, and waste
disposal reduction. Because whirling is a dry cutting process, the use of coolant and lubricating oil,
as well as, a flammable oil mist, has been eliminated, terminating particle emissions of approximately
18 tons per year.
With that, the elimination of oil waste disposal was reduced by about 50,000 gallons of used oil per
year. The change in the machining process produced less chip waste, and chips are now recycled, further
reducing the annual waste disposal quantity by 75% (1,000 cubic yard reduction).
By changing this operation to Leistritz Whirling technology, a dry machining process, the risk of fire
and explosive ignition of combustibles has been eliminated. In addition, the number of occupational
exposures were reduced, and the safety of the workplace was greatly improved.
Installation of the five Leistritz Whirling Machines will result in operational cost savings of
approximately $665,000 in the first year. Calendar year pre-tax profits are expected to increase by
$400,000 in the first year of operation, and should double to over $800,000 by the fourth year after
installation. The calculated payoff timeline for this project is expected to be three years and five
The workforce impact of this project has been most visible in improved worker morale since workplace
conditions have improved and occupational safety risks have been reduced as a result of Whirling
Leistritz CNC Whirling Machines combine high productivity and superior quality with enormous cost
savings, by eliminating the need to purchase and dispose of costly coolants and cutting fluids.