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Ford F150. Frame Weld Data

2003 - 2004. Ford F-150 Truck
Frames Defective Welds.

A Condensed Weld Report from Ed Craig:


It's the intention of this report to deal with the root causes of the numerous robot / manual weld issues found on the Ford F-150 Frame truck robot line at your facility.

At this time your robot frame weld productivity is only 50 % of your goal and your weld repair personnel report that the majority of the MIG welded robot frames require rework. Of the 140 robot welds on the frame typically 60 to 80 of these welds require manual weld rework. Of the sectioned critical welds that daily require macro examination of the weld fusion, an average of 20 to 30% of the welds revealed lack of weld fusion. As the photo below indicates, many of the robot / manual weld repairs are poor quality. The numerous manual weld repairs are providing a patched product which provide both poor weld integrity and a poor visual weld appearance. The general management / engineering lack of weld process control expertise in the plant, and the poor robot cell equipment / consumable decisions are negatively impacting your robot weld productivity and quality potential.



Poor manual repair welds on top of poor robot welds.



USING THE WRONG WELD TRANSFER MODE: The MIG weld transfer mode used for the majority of your robot and manual frame welds is the "globular weld transfer mode". This weld transfer mode produces poor weld fusion, poor weld deposition rates, erratic weld transfer and extensive weld spatter. None of the traditional controlled MIG weld transfer modes, short circuit, pulsed or spray are being utilized.

Globular Fillet Welds on the Frame.

This globular, robot fillet weld with extensive lack
of weld fusion was considered an acceptable
weld and was not subject to manual weld rework


Management / Engineering Issues:
While in the plant I had many opinions presented to me on the causes of the extensive robot / manual weld process issues. In the eighteen months since this robot project commenced, the lack of management resolutions for most of the weld issues comes from the fundamental fact that the plant's managers, engineers and supervisors involved, including your corporate project management, were simply not qualified on the subject of robot / manual weld process controls.

[a] Robot Efficiency:

Of the 140 arc welding robots utilized for the frames, 88 are dedicated to subassembly components and 52 robots provide the frame welds. At this time, many of the frame robots average a down time of > 60 minutes per- shift. This is a loss of an average of 50 robot hour per or you could think of it in terms in which 6 of the 52 frame robots per shift are none productive. None of the robot cells had weld report logs to report the real world robot down time. You cannot optimize robot efficiency without awareness of the robot / weld issues.

[b] Weld Gaps.

In general and from a typical auto / truck robot weld perspective, the majority of the frame parts that I have viewed did not have oversized weld gaps. However of concern in the robot cells was the lack of effective robot weld process data that that can compensate for the numerous moderate gaps.

[c] Missing necessary equipment. Unacceptable weld joint dimensions and operators making unnecessary changes to the robot program.

In general the dimensional tolerances were close to acceptable however small deviations cause problems. Also the ABB robots should have been purchased with the optional Bulls Eye (BE). The BE provides automated TCP control. The BE is one of the key outstanding patented features of an ABB robot. With optimum robot program points established, the BE automatically maintains the programmed points (weld wire position and weld gun angle to work) through control of the robot's tool center point. At this time with no controlled TCP the operators almost hourly shut down the cells to make what they believe are effective program point adjustments. Many of their adjustments are poor, yet without a TCP program there is no way to go back to optimum pre-established robot program points. The operator involvement creates a band aid approach. resulting in extensive manual intervention in the robot cells creating numerous productivity / weld issues.

Note: From a product launch perspective. The investment in the purchase of the automated TCP equipment (approx. $3000 a unit) makes a lot more sense than the purchase of the 140 Miller Invision "pulsed power sources" As the pulsed arc was found to be unstable, the Pulsed MIG is turned off on this application. Frankly if individuals could see through the salesmanship that surrounds the costly pulsed weld equipment they would be aware that it's not been as well suited for high weld speed, steel applications as the lower cost traditional CV equipment. If a Miller, Delta Weld with built in interface had been purchased instead of the Invision, the savings generated would have paid for the Bulls Eyes equipment.

Note there was no use of touch sensing or through the arc tracking (TAT) used. Its illogical on some of the weld joints why there was no use of the TAT

[d] Robots, Consumables and process issues:

Your corporate project management selected the 0.052 (1.4 mm) MIG wire. This large diameter wire was an incorrect wire diameter. As the pulsed mode was erratic you were left with the spray mode. The 0.052 wire spray current t requirements was simply too high for the gage frame parts. The robot weld data used is therefore in the erratic globular mode, resulting in poor weld quality and excess weld spatter that impacts both the parts and contact tip, (increasing robot down time). This wire size selection is a prime cause of your daily process issues.

As extra shifts commence at this plant, and the facility ramps up to attain it's target robot weld production, without a major change to the consumables / process and without the implementation of effective management influenced weld process controls, there will be a rapid increase in the manual weld rework and further loss of productivity. The robot down time has the potential to increase from 60 minutes per-shift to a minimum average range of 90 minutes per-shift.

[e] Management Engineering driven issues:

From a mechanical / weld quality perspective, the daily manual over welding that takes place on these frames is simply masking the frame weld problems that daily jeopardize the frame structural integrity. Also the frames produced indicate to your customer Ford, a lack of management control and lack of engineering expertise in your organization.

There are many reasons as discussed in this report for the extensive weld issues that prevail. With many robot automotive / truck installations the last thing that is often given consideration for the robot line are the actual welds. After 50 years of use, it's inexcusable in 2003/ 2004 to find the universal MIG weld process confusion and engineering apathy that surrounds a simple, two-control weld process.

Robots require "optimum process data" . Before the purchase of a robot that data should typically be developed from a pre-qualified robot weld process control program. In the case of this plant more than a 100 robots were purchased and correct weld data was not established before the purchase. Surely your management and engineers can figure out that it's the welds that determine the equipment, process, consumables and tolerances required. It seems on this application that minimal confederation was given to the welds


Management and engineers have a responsibility take ownership of the processes critical to their manufacturing requirements.
With a short course in one of my robot weld process control programs, any of your managers, engineers or technicians would immediately attain the ability to simply look at the part's gage thickness and determine the optimum weld wire diameter, the desired weld transfer mode and optimum robot or manual weld data.

Management.Qualifications, Accountability, and Responsibility.

If as in your case, you hand over the factory process keys to confident yet untrained workers, inexperienced managers, supervisors or engineers, it should not be a surprise to find that your plant has extensive robot / manual weld process issues.

In any established manufacturing environment, it's natural to find on the shop floor great resistance to manufacturing changes. The required changes at this plant have to first be understood, supported and driven by all managers, engineers and supervisors involved.

I met with your robot line production manager. After a five minute conversation I knew this manager has no weld process control experience. With the millions of dollars mounting up in production and rework losses, not to mention the fact that every day frames were shipped to ford with extensive weld quality issues, your manager revealed he was not interested in anyone else's opinion on his weld problems

After 18 months of robot weld process chaos you now have a plant in which you have "why change the way we do things mentality". To make changes to an entrenched process in which a daily acceptance for third world weld quality and productivity is now the norm requires experienced management that will guide and support the weld teams. At this time I am sorry to report that management is lacking.

The closed mind manager you put in place for Ford's best selling product is the classic type A auto / truck fire fighter manager. He actually said to me "he would allow me 30 seconds to tell him the root cause of his problems". Of course I told him if he wanted to know the root cause he simply had to look in a mirror
, which took 3.5 seconds.

It's important to note that the weld issues at this plant never derived from the weld shop floor. The weld shop personnel did not select the inappropriate pulsed weld equipment or the incorrect size weld consumables. The robot personnel have no control over the parts or the fixtures. The robot personnel did not turn down the automated TCP equipment or the through the arc tracking option, and the hundred plus personnel that daily make robot weld process changes did not turn down any robot process control training.

To address the root cause of the primary robot / manual weld issues, all involved with the weld decision making process have to walk the same process control path, agree on the root causes of the issues, the necessary actions, take responsibility for the process ownership and then provide the leadership and time frames necessary to make the weld changes successful.


My Recommendations and Weld Resolutions:

[] Provide robot weld process control training for all those involved, "including your management supervision, technicians and engineers".
[] Change the 0.052 MIG wire to an 0.040 ( 0.035 second choice) weld wire.
[] Use the spray transfer mode and short circuit when applicable.
[] Reduce the CO2 content in the gas mix from 15 to 10%.

The process changes I recommend will increase the robot weld production by 30 to 50%. If you wish I will make the required changes in any of your cells. As I do not play around with robot weld data, my changes will be made quickly. The data I provide will ensure you attain your desired production in a consistent manner. The new data will greatly reduce the required weld rework, to less than 5% and reduce the weld spatter by at least 70%. As the new robot weld programs are produced, I will develop 4 simple standard weld schedules that will be applicable to all the robot welds.

Note: Before the ABB robot programs are changed, it would be highly beneficial to get control of the TCP with the installation of Bulls Eyes in the cells

During the new robot programming, it would be beneficial if your key robot personnel and tooling manager worked along side me. The tooling manager understands the parts and fit issues and is hungry for positive changes. I would use his expertise to ensure that the process changes made are geared to address the future dimensional issues.

For the manual weld repairs. I would change the wire sizes for the manual welders. Provide them with an 035 or 040 wire and provide them with weld data that is actually designed for manual MIG weld repairs.

The Process Control Training Program.

I provide effective, unique, simple robot weld process control training and have already developed the necessary training resources. Another key issue to the success of the process changes is accountability and responsibility. I would not consider taking on this project unless I was given full responsibility for the robot weld changes.

Obviously the robot process control training is an essential part of this package. Who attends the training is key to the long-term success of this project. I will repeat that it's essential that all personnel including managers, supervisors, QA, engineers and technicians should be given the robot weld process control training. The bottom line with the F-150 frame welds, when it comes to weld decisions that impact the weld production or quality, all the plant's weld decision makers should walk the same process control path.

The large 0.052-weld wire used at your plant may be influenced by the Ford Dearborn approach to welding frames. At Ford, the management believe bigger weld wires mean more production. You are likely not aware that for more than a decade every Ford Dearborn built frame has required extensive manual weld rework. Not one single Ford Frame has ever had a 100% optimum weld quality, optimum robot weld production / quality has simply been beyond their grasp.

With robot weld issues when the root causes are not addressed, there is a tendency in the weld shops towards looking for an easy quick fix, or look for a "sales influenced solution" like changing to a more costly MIG power source, try the magic three part weld gas mix or the special coated contact tips, etc. As I sit here writing this report the production manager who does not want to hear about my low cost solutions to his problems is hinting that he believes changing the weld wire to a "copper coated MIG wire" or changing the gas mix to a three part mix will be the solution to your plants woes.


Note on Ford: In 1997 I was asked by Ford to analyze there numerous (over 160 weld issues) at the Dearborn facility. I not only analyzed all the issues in a 10 day period I had the opportunity on a weekend to set up the future 1998 frame line with my new recommendations for the prototype frames. At the end of that weekend, for the first time in the Dearborn history of the frame line, frames meeting both the robot weld productivity and quality expectations were produced. However due to union issue and management / engineering indifference my changes were never implemented.



E-mail July 2006

Ed I wanted to send update about that plant that you visited a few years ago: As you know on your first visit to this plant, our robot lines were producing less than 40 truck frames per-hour and the majority required extensive weld rework. Thanks to your weld process and consumable recommendations that I have been slowly implementing the results from our employees are today staggering. Yesterday this plant hit very close to a record of 76 frames jobs per hour. We daily attain our average goal of one frame per-minute. We had two recent weld audits. One weld audit had a total of two failures (one offseam), and the 2nd weld audit was the first 100% pass weld audit in the history of the F-150 line.

Many thanks!

A Grateful Employee
Dana Corporation>

Note from Ed: It's great to hear of a robot welding success like this, especially as the unusual frame weld quality and productivity results were attained with process / consumable logic and spray transfer attainable from any low cost traditional MIG equipment.
The robot process control data I provided this plant is available in my Self Teaching and Process Control Training CDs, both materials located here. However this site is called Weld Reality, so lets get back on track continue to call a lame duck a "lame duck".

It was 2003 when I delivered the Ford F-150 frame report to the tier one corporate management. The report correctly pointed out the root causes of the robot weld issues and provided simple low cost resolutions. The report was not well received by a corporate management unaccustomed to out side expertise. The bottom line, it took over three years for the management to finally agree on process changes that should have taken less than a month to implement. My costs to this company to fix the weld problems was, less than $20,000. My guess at the costs incurred in lost weld robot weld production and weld rework during those three years has to be somewhere between 10 and 20 million dollars. Who's accountable? Doe's anyone at the major auto / truck manufactures and the tier suppliers read this stuff? Does anyone see the need to put an end to this ridiculous, common, global loss of profits that occur annually with robots and a simple two control, 50 year old weld process?

Ed Craig.

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Email Ed Craig at ecraig@weldreality.com   -  Phone Eastern Time. USA.