Cross Hüller enjoys a unique position as a primary supplier of turnkey manufacturing solutions to the Big Three auto makers. April Terreri describes how this company has created a top-level global standing as well.
The pressures of manufacturing equipment for other companies to use to produce components for their end products are threefold. You must manufacture products that meet your standards of excellence and those of your clients so that their customers remain satisfied. Although it appears to be a tall order, Cross Huller built its reputation on meeting and exceeding these challenges. And there is no better testimony to this claim than the fact that Cross Huller is a premier supplier of machinery to the Big Three auto manufacturers – DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors.”We are a supplier of customized medium-volume and high-volume modular transfer-line and agile production systems to the global automotive and off-road construction industries,” says Ronald Quaile, vice president of sales and proposal engineering for the Sterling Heights, Mich.-headquartered company. “Our specialty is designing, engineering and manufacturing metal-cutting production equipment for these companies to produce cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and transmission components.”
But the company provides more than just the machinery. “We offer complete turnkey manufacturing solutions, along with all of the associated systems engineering,” says Quaile. This includes the materials-handling systems, cutting tools and complete systems integration responsibility.
Cross Huller’s numerous certifications and awards underscore its sterling reputation as the manufacturer of choice for the Big Three. The company is ISO 9001-certified, is QS-9000-TE supplement compliant, has received Ford’s prestigious Q1 award, has received DaimlerChrysler’s prestigious TESQA certification, is a CAT preferred supplier, is certified by Entela and will soon be ISO 14001-certified. How did this company get to be this good?
Cross(ing) the Pond
The world today is far and away much different and more complex a place than when Milton (The Skipper) Cross Sr. first began Cross Company in 1891 in Detroit. Cross, along with his father, manufactured brass goods and marine hardware for the first 10 years of the company’s life, and then added marine engines to its list of product offerings. As the gears of the Industrial Revolution pulled the nation quickly to the threshold of the technological revolution, Cross Company marched ahead of the movement, producing transmissions and axles for the galloping herd of horseless carriages Mr. Ford was producing a few miles away. In 1912, Cross invented a new machine that improved the quality of the gears his company produced. A few years later, the company’s gear-making reputation achieved worldwide renown.
From the early 1930s to the mid-1950s, Cross Company developed specialized machining tools. The company achieved continued renown for numerous firsts in the industry, including the first lift-and-carry transfer machine, the first continuous rotary thread-milling machine, the first system for presetting cutting tools, the first sectionized automation and the first differential case-transfer machine. Cross produced numerous machines for the armed forces during World War II. The company established a global presence as it began operating facilities in England, Germany and Japan from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s.
Today, a glance at the company’s “family tree” of customers offers an astounding list from the international automotive who’s-who. “We are there to serve our customers wherever in the world they are,” says Quaile. “While we are an American company, we are completely integrated into a very large German powerhouse and we are able to offer our customers German machine-tool technology in North America, and customize it to the specific needs of our customers.”
Cross Huller’s North American operation is supported by two major sister divisions in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and Knowsley, United Kingdom. These three units provide a common global machine-tool architecture, while offering local application engineering and support to each market area’s unique needs. Smaller Cross Huller facilities exist in Brazil, Korea and Hungary to provide additional capacity and local market support.
The company’s two primary product lines are its agile manufacturing systems and its highly modular global transfer line. “Our agile production systems are CNC-based flexible machining systems comprising machining centers and automated materials-handling systems,” says Quaile. “These are state-of-the-art flexible machining systems allowing our customers to respond to rapid changes in customer demands and ever-changing environmental legislation.”
The agile systems provide quick model changeovers and concurrent production of several part variations. Cross Huller is the global leader in the use of high-performance CNC-based agile manufacturing systems in the production of cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and transmission components. Customers can choose from sequential, parallel or hybrid systems, all of which deliver unprecedented operating efficiencies and cost-effectiveness. Quaile reports that the company just received an order for large-scale agile systems using more than 250 SPECHT(r) CNC machining centers for the production of cylinder heads.
Within the agile systems, Cross Huller offers its SPECHT(r) family of CNC machines. “These are high-performance machining centers designed for continued and uninterrupted operation, and are customized to deliver very, very high levels of reliability and robust manufacturing processes,” says Quaile. The SPECHT(r) machines offer production solutions for cylinder blocks, cylinder heads and transmission and axle components that fully integrate materials-handling, tooling and gauging systems to provide operating efficiencies in excess of 90 percent.
World of Technology
Cross Huller’s second primary line of products is its highly modular global transfer line (GTL). “These are the more traditional in-line transfer machines for medium-volume and high-volume production capabilities,” says Quaile. The latest generation of modular GTL provides customers a common global machine-tool architecture, while offering local application engineering and support to each market area’s unique needs. Cross Huller’s true global standard integrates the best practices from each of its major facilities, which is particularly important in today’s global economy.
“Because we can offer both the traditional transfer line of products and the more flexible agile machining center technologies, we are not in the position of trying to convince our customers to choose one technology over the other,” says Quaile. “By offering both types of manufacturing technologies, we can provide the precise solution to suit our customers’ needs.”
The company’s 40,000 square-foot Sterling Heights facility is home to Cross Huller’s Technical Center, as well as its sales, proposal engineering, project management, service and administration personnel. Its 166,000 square-foot Port Huron, Mich., facility manufactures very large machines and complete machining systems. Its 50,000 square-foot Windsor, Ontario, facility manufactures small subassemblies and small machines.
Standards of Dependability
“We pride ourselves in being probably the only true global supplier of metal-cutting machinery in the world,” says Quaile. “We have one common management group coordinating and managing all of the Cross Huller facilities worldwide. We also have one product range with the same design and manufacturing standards worldwide. And we have one common product development group that services each of the plants.” What this means for Cross Huller customers is constant quality and performance levels, no matter which of the Cross Huller plants in the world receives the order to build the equipment.
“Our global capacity allows us to be close to our customers so we can do all of the engineering very quickly and do the final integration quickly from within the local geographic areas we serve,” says Quaile.
True to its rich heritage over the last century, Cross Huller continues to evolve with the times and is currently developing unique dry and near-dry machining processes for the machining of aluminum and magnesium – a process relatively new to the North American market. “This is in anticipation of ISO 14001 and the need to improve manufacturing environments to eliminate the risk of coolant contamination,” says Quaile. ISO 14001, common in Europe, is an emerging environmental standard in North America.
Further on down the road, Cross Huller would like to be the machine-tool supplier of choice for Tier I suppliers, as well as the Big Three. “As the outsourcing trend increases, that will drive us to diversify our customer base beyond our traditional customers,” says Quaile.