Improvement Of Piston Ring Quality : A Case Study
Automobiles have become an integral part of our daily life as more and more mopeds, motor cycles, cars, trucks, busses and trains are being used for transport. The main parts of an automotive engine are cylinder, piston assembly, connecting rod and crank shaft. The piston assembly consists of Piston, Piston rings and Piston Pin. Piston rings are important parts of a piston assembly. Any non-conformance in any quality characteristic of the piston ring leads to deterioration of engine performance. M/S Goetze (India) Limited a medium scale industry and a sister concern of engineering giant M/S Escorts Limited is manufacturing "GOETZE PISTON RINGS" and is producing about 800 varieties of piston rings ranging from 35.00 mm to 228.5 mm nominal diameter. The management was facing serious problem due to high scrap rate in certain types of their manufactured piston rings. Hence instead of trying to handle all of them at the same time, it seemed reasonable to tackle and find a suitable approach to solve the quality problem by taking the most notorious ring first, so that once the methodology is understood, documented and applied to the quality problem of this ring, the same can also be invoked for other rings to improve upon their quality, and thus reducing the scrap rate. One particular ring of 83.0 mm diameter which is delicate and costly, having an average scrap rate of 36.2% in past three years is selected for the study. No systematic effort was made in the past to identify the quality characteristics and the processes which were responsible for this high scrap rate and thus no immediate measure could be recommended. As a matter of fact at the beginning of the study it was not even clear which quality characteristics were mainly responsible for such high rejection. So in July' 1999 a pareto analysis was done for the first time to identify the culpability of each quality characteristic for the rejection of the ring. From the Pareto analysis it was observed that maximum proportion of rejection was due to nonconformity in axial thickness. The scrap rate due to nonconformity in axial thickness were collected for each month from Jul’ 999 to Jan'2000 which averaged at 8.7%. Since in every month the major malefactor for rejection was the nonconformity of axial thickness it was decided to first try to improve the quality of axial thickness, before trying to tackle other quality issues associated with this particular piston ring under study. Once the most problematic quality characteristic namely the axial thickness was identified, as a first step towards the goal of improving the quality of axial thickness, it was necessary to pay attention and isolate the manufacturing processes or operations affecting the axial thickness and study them in detail. So first, the entire manufacturing process flow diagram of the piston ring was studied. From the process flow diagram it appeared that there are 4 operations affecting axial thickness viz. Rough Grinding ,Medium Grinding, First Lapping and Finish Lapping. So each of these processes was critically observed to assess whether they were under statistical control or not. Studies were conducted at each of these 4 operations by collecting samples using the rational subgroup method and control charts were plotted. From the control charts, it was observed that the Rough Grinding and Medium Grinding operations were in statistical control with acceptable Cp, Cpk values. But First Lapping and Finish Lapping operations were not in statistical control. Thus we finally identified the two critical processes namely the First Lapping and Finish Lapping operations which were not in statistical control but were crucially affecting the quality of axial thickness. Since the First and Finish Lapping operations were identified as the major source of the quality problem, an in-depth study was undertaken to analyze these two processes. A brain storming session was conducted with all concerned personnel from production, maintenance, design, quality assurance and tool room to get all possible causes which might be affecting the axial thickness variation at these two processes. During the brain storming session the team suggested that the First Lapping process can be processed in medium grinding machine (DFS machine) instead of Lapping machine. The reasons behind this were two fold. First since the aim of the First Lapping is just to remove excess material which was deposited during chrome plating, the same operation can be performed in DFS machine. Since the required surface finish on axial surface was any way being aimed at the Finish Lapping operation, a similar precursory First Lapping'operation in a Lapping machine was really felt not necessary. Secondly since the performance of the DFS machine was found to be under control, albeit for the grinding operation, it was hoped that the Lapping operation in the same machine would also exhibit a similar performance. For this purpose a study was conducted on the First Lapping operation with the DFS machine. It was found that the process was well within the control limit with decent Cp and Cpk values. Thus this procedure of performing the First Lapping operation in a DFS machine took care of the first one of the two problematic processes affecting the quality of axial thickness. Next for tackling the problem with the other critical process, viz. the Finish Lapping operation, various causes were suggested by the team for axial thickness variation in the Finish Lapping operation. Based on these causes, an Ishikawa diagram (cause and effect diagram) was prepared. This Ishikawa diagram had thrown light into number of possible deficiencies in Man, Machine, Method and Material which were responsible for axial thickness variation at finish Lapping. The Ishikawa diagram was carefully analyzed. The causes were narrowed down to 6 factors. These are Grinding wheel rotating speed, Grinding Time, Grinding pressure, Holding plate, Holes (fixtures) within the holding plate and Positions within a ring. The 3 factors namely grinding wheel speed, time and pressure were identified as the control factors. Holding plate, Hole position within a plate and Checking position within a ring on the other hand were the noise factors whose different levels might exhibit a variability of axial thickness. Since there were only 3 control factors, it was decided to conduct a full factorial experiment with each control factor at 3 levels. Hence altogether there were 27 experiments at a fixed given combination of speed, time and pressure. There were 4 holding plates with each plate having 6 slotted holes leading to machining 24 rings at a time during the finish lapping operation. Next 3 measurements were taken for each one of these 24 rings. Thus altogether there were 72 observations for one of these experiments. Each experiment was replicated twice by taking measurements for 2 consecutive batches of rings. From the analysis of variance of the results of these experiments for both S/N ratio and mean it was observed that all the three main factors and their interactions were significant. The Normality assumption of standardized residuals for the S/N ratio and mean was validated by normal probability plot and Kolmonogorov-Smirnoff test. The homoscedasticity assumption was validated through Bartlett’s test and residual plots. It was found that the experiment no. 23 (Speed 84 RPM, Time 10 sees and Pressure 300 daN) yielded highest S/N ratio (η) with mean within the specification limit. That the mean and S/N ratio for the experiment no.23 were significantly different from others was established by means of Tukey's multiple comparison test. Next control charts for experiment no. 23 were plotted and was found to be well within control with acceptable Cp and Cpk values. Hence we concluded that the non-conformance in axial thickness can be substantially reduced by using the following optimal setting of factors i.e. grinding speed with 84 RPM, grinding pressure with 300 daN and grinding time with 10 seconds. Using this optimal setting the earlier average rejection rate of 8.7% due to non-conformance in axial thickness was reduced to 0.05%. Under this optimal setting, the process capability index (Cpk) of finish Lapping operation was estimated to be 2.5, which is well above acceptable standard. Due to this reduction in rejection rate in one quality characteristics of one particular ring out of 800 types, the net savings to the organization is approximately Rs. 10,44,000 per year.