To resolve a difficult situation caused by COVID-19 in Reynosa, Mexico, it was decided to produce a customer’s six most critical parts at Eaton’s Warwick
For more than two decades, a global customer of Eaton has supplied hydraulics and cooling systems to a wind turbine manufacturer. The company designs, engineers and manufactures hydraulic solutions for systems such as pitch control units, yaw brakes and rotor brakes on wind turbines. A strategic customer of Eaton, the manufacturer has seen substantial growth due to the worldwide renewable energy agenda. However, it recently came up against significant challenges caused by COVID-19 which resulted in the enforced closure of its plant in Mexico.
Mexico’s lockdown created unique challenges that had to be overcome. Prior to the pandemic, it would have been possible for the Eaton teams at Reynosa and Warwick in the UK to meet in person, but due to travel restrictions this was clearly not an option. Although the virtual world is no stranger to Eaton, the entire planning process for the production switch had to be undertaken via cyberspace. Bills of materials, knowledge transfer and production information were therefore all communicated electronically.
To prepare the plant for this task, cross-functional teams were deployed working in accordance with the established principles of Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP). This methodology outlines a framework of procedures and techniques which covers production process design and development. Using APQP, the transfer of manufacturing from Mexico was carefully planned to exacting requirements. There was also the issue of sourcing certain components utilised in the production of the valve sets. Again, Eaton’s team in Warwick had to act fast, attaining the required parts from external suppliers. New tooling also had to be produced in record time.
The new production line was set up in just a few days and, in May 2020, 25,000 components and assemblies were produced. The operation is now at full capacity and the Warwick facility will continue to meet demand for the remainder of the summer and into early autumn.
“When a global event such as a pandemic strikes, it’s impossible to plan as every day represents a new dynamic situation,” states Pedro LopezJacoste, Key Account manager at Eaton Hydraulics. “However, it does not mean that business comes to a grinding halt and we had to find ways to ensure that our customer, who are operating in a growing global market, could continue to satisfy demand. The strength and depth of the Eaton group was key in this situation and my thanks goes out to all the internal cross-functional teams who were able to rapidly respond to the needs of this key customer.”