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Super-Sized Ecoat for Oshkosh Finishing Services

Article From: Products Finishing, Tim Pennington, Editor

It never fails. When Josh Verdon gives a tour to prospective customers of the finishing area at Oshkosh Corp.’s expansive facility in Wisconsin, the topic always comes back to quality.

“It’s always the No. 1 topic that comes up,” says Verdon, sales manager for Oshkosh Finishing Services, a division of the large manufacturing entity. “They want to know about our quality, and whether we can meet their specifications, from either the fabrication shop or from the OEM.”

But a 360° view of the Oshkosh facility quickly sets any customer’s mind at ease, as they see top-level coatings and finishes applied after—if needed—custom fabrication that meets some fairly stringent standards of other Oshkosh customers, namely the U.S. military.

After all, more than 20,000 U.S. Army vehicles can’t be wrong.

“We can show that we have the flexibility to meet any of their requirements,” Verdon says.

It has only been since November that the 90-year-old company launched its Oshkosh Finishing Services to provide high quality manufacturing, corrosion protection and top coat services for heavy duty industrial, specialty vehicle and commercial products companies throughout the Midwest.

Created in 2010

The finishing area was created in 2010 when Oshkosh Defense won the U.S. Department of Defense contract to build the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV), which provides crew-protecting armor and advanced technologies to provide the capability, versatility, mobility and protection to move military troops and supplies, recover vehicles and weapon systems, or to haul equipment wherever the mission requires.

With the launch of Oshkosh Finishing Services, the company is banking on its expertise in the manufacture, fabrication and finishing of high-profile components to help others who want to partner with them.

“We’ve coated more than 20,000 of the FMTVs already, so it certainly is a great start for us,” says Don Bent, Oshkosh Defense V.P. of operations and business group leader for Oshkosh Finishing Services.

“Most of all the major components of those vehicles—from the frame rails to cargo bodies—go through this ecoat line before heading to our defense assembly area,” he says. “So this line is being used to some pretty stringent standards.”

In addition to the military vehicles, Oshkosh has also been working over the past few years with other manufacturers, both in fabricating and coatings. Some of those projects have also included welding, fabrication and assembly, which the company is happy to take on.

150,000 Sq. Ft.

Operating out of one of the largest electrocoating facilities in the U.S., Oshkosh offers corrosion protection services in a 150,000 square-foot facility that is home to one of the country’s largest programmable hoist systems (PHS), as well as a hi-tech slide rail square transfer system (SST), which allows processing of parts of virtually all shapes and sizes.

The PHS tanks are 36 feet long, 3.5 feet wide and 8 feet deep, with a maximum weight capacity of 5,000 lbs. The SST system capabilities include parts 8 feet long, 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep, with a maximum part-weight capacity of 2,500 lbs.

In addition to the two ecoat systems it has in place, Oshkosh has linked its paint topcoat lines directly to the pretreatment and ecoat line to minimize material handling and contamination, improve efficiency and reduce cost and time.

“Both ecoat systems have multiple inline liquid spray topcoat booths, which offer us great flexibility,” Verdon says. “It’s just an extremely efficient system.”

Oshkosh has installed comprehensive prep-stations along the coatings lines to provide masking and caulking capabilities to ensure an effective and consistent top coat. On the back end, forced air drying ovens provide a more efficient and consistent drying process for all top coats, and allows parts to be handled and assembled in less time.

Bent says the advanced painting systems include a wide assortment of color applications, pattern and camouflage painting, sand and non-slip painting, as well as chemical agent resistant coatings, commercial colors, urethane, acrylic and rustproofing technologies.

Built-in Capacity

“We built these lines initially for our defense segment, but we also built in capacity to be able to expand in the future,” he says. “Even when we are at our peak defense capacity, we still have excess available capacity to work with on these lines.”

Last December, Oshkosh won a $104 million modification to its existing $281 million contract awarded to build the FMTVs, a contract it won over bidders Force Protection, General Dynamics, Navistar and BAE. The new contract calls for an additional 545 medium tactical vehicles and 79 trailers, due by the end of 2015.

To date, the FMTV deal for Oshkosh has been a $4.8 billion, five-year requirements contract for 22,749 trucks and 11,500 trailers as well as all associated support and engineering services.

The Oshkosh FMTV is a series of 17 models and 23 configurations—ranging from 2.5-ton to 10-ton payloads—that introduces a commonality of parts. More than 80 percent of the parts can be exchanged across chassis variants, which Oshkosh says significantly reduces the logistics burden as well as operational and support costs.

And with Oshkosh’s Long-Term Armor Strategy-compliant cab and other advanced technologies, military personnel get the enhanced protection they need to confidently complete their missions.

“Our number one priority is providing soldiers with very high quality vehicles that meet the Army’s needs,” says Mike Ivy, V.P. of Global Integrated Product Support (IPS) for Oshkosh Defense. “Delivering the 10,000th vehicle within two years of starting production demonstrates Oshkosh Defense’s commitment to our nation’s defense.”

Ace and Safety

And that commitment is what Bent and Verdon are showing off to prospective new partners when they provide tours of Oshkosh Finishing Services.

Verdon says they are working with several manufacturers who are also in the defense contracting business, including one who is building military trailers. They are also heavily involved with several agriculture and construction equipment makers.

“We’ve been working with several fire and safety equipment industry companies, as well,” Verdon says. “We run those parts through our ecoat line, and then they go offsite for assembly.”

That includes doing the ecoat work on Oshkosh’s Pierce division, which is one of the largest fire apparatus OEMs in the world located in nearby Appleton, Wisc. Oshkosh added Pierce in 1996, and today makes custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks, minipumpers, elliptical tankers and homeland security apparatus.

Oshkosh Finishing Services also does work for several other Oshkosh divisions, including JLG Industries and McNeilus. JLG makes access equipment that lifts people and materials into hard-to-reach areas. These aerial work platforms are available from 10- to 150-feet-high. McNeilus is a maker of concrete mixers and refuse trucks, used by more concrete producers than any other on the market.

“We do have some internal work that we do for Oshkosh entities, but we still do a lot of work for outside companies as well,” Bent says.

And that includes smaller parts that are not as big as, say, a fire truck, a cement mixer or a refuse vehicle. Verdon says he shows potential customers that the ecoat and finishing line can be customized for their projects and parts.

Flexible Operation

“We densify by running our smaller parts on our SST system, and that allows us to use flexible tooling for any customer,” he says. “We’re also flexible even in our pretreatment, since we have an acid-wash capability. But if a part doesn’t require an acid wash, we can hold up over that tank so we don’t give it an acid wash. It’s good to have that flexibility built into the system.”

The line also has blasting and an off-line parts cleaning area to provide a wash when the need arises.

But one of the biggest selling points for Oshkosh Finishing Services is certainly the ability to provide fabrication, welding and assembly for customers under the same roof. Advanced laser cutters and high definition plasma cutters just steps away from the finishing line provide potential customers an option to outsource fabrication needs to Oshkosh’s experienced team.

The area features heavy-duty forming presses, as well as specialized tube bending and punching machines that enable fabricating of a wide assortment of materials. Oshkosh also has an in-house fixture design and calibration team, in addition to flexible modular tooling that Verdon says reduces the overall production lead-time and improves change-over between components.

Manual and robotic welding processes include a wide range of welding machines and capabilities on a moving production line that includes gas metal arc welding pulse, robotic and robotic spot welding for parts of any shape and size.

In the assembly area, highly-skilled workers who put the finishing touches on sophisticated military vehicles are also available for assembly of a diverse range of product lines. That includes what Verdon calls a highly effective “Quality Gate” process that works to reduce defects from downstream customers and provides real-time quality feedback to upstream suppliers.

One feature of the assembly area is that it uses torque monitoring systems to analyze fastener run-downs, which Verdon says provides the operator with torque verification indicators, ranging from as little as 6 inch-lbs. to in excess of 1,000 foot-lbs.

Meeting Capacity Needs

“It’s another way for us to help customers with capacity needs, in addition to the ecoat and topcoat services,” Bent says, adding that what attracts some of their partners to bring work to Oshkosh Finishing Services is the expansive coating line, but also their existing work with the military.

“Obviously, our background in defense work requires us to perform at a much-higher quality in all areas, including fabrication and finishing,” he says. “So when we start partnering with some agriculture and construction manufacturers, they see that what we have done in the past allows us to easily meet and surpass their quality standards, and that increases the confidence of our customer base.”

The company has also incorporated a 5S continuous improvement cycle in its operations, a lean manufacturing principle that stands for sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain the cycle. “We talk very openly to our customers about our 5S system, and in the end they know they are getting a quality product,” Verdon says.

Ultimately, the company realizes that, quality and efficiencies aside, a lot of customers will partner with them if there is an economical advantage to the deal, and Bent says that hasn’t been an issue so far.

Price Advantages

“We made the investment into our finishing systems early, and that has allowed us to see a strong price advantage today,” he says. “Especially in the ecoat segment, we are strong.”

Verdon says that a benefit when he walks potential customers through the facility is how well the operations are run, and the quality of the equipment and fixtures that Oshkosh Finishing Services has, albeit much is due to the enormous contract work with the military.

“This place is a showcase,” he says. “When our customers walk through, they can see the quality. They think about quality all the time, and they can see it on display.”

For more information about Oshkosh Finishing Services, call 920-235-9150 or visit oshkoshfinishingservices.com