The Many Ways Ford Benefits from MQL
Ford’s Van Dyke transmission plant implemented minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) for the same primary reasons other big manufacturers have done it. MQL lowers machining costs by eliminating not only the large volume of coolant used in conventional wet operations, but also all the ancillary equipment and electrical power necessary to maintain a big, central coolant system. MQL also creates a cleaner, safer manufacturing environment, which is beneficial to the health of both the equipment used on the shop floor and the employees who work there. I suspect, though, that the Sterling Heights, Michigan plant initially didn’t realize how changing the way a cutting tool and workpiece are cooled and lubricated during machining would have such an impactful, trickle-down effect on its large-scale manufacturing process beyond the advantages just mentioned. Switching to MQL to machine three types of aluminum components for the company’s 6F line of front-wheel-drive transmissions has ultimately boosted the plant’s flexibility and efficiency, allowing it to more quickly adapt to today’s rapidly changing market demands for different types of vehicles. It also brought machining “out into the open” so it could be located closer to the transmission assembly area, minimizing wasteful part travel throughout the facility. Luckily for me, I got a chance to see how the tidy Van Dyke plant reaps MQL’s benefits during a visit this summer. While there, I also learned how the plant’s MQL efforts have matured over the past few years as it has become more proficient at near-dry machining.