ASNT Site visit to Hayes Lemmerz.
As part of the Southern Africa chapter of ASNT’s mission to promote NDT and uplift the industry, we visited the South African branch of Hayes Lemmerz on 15 April 2010.
This company, situated in Alrode, manufactures Aluminum wheels as original equipment for car manufacturers like Toyota, Mercedes Benz and VW just to mention a few. Most of the wheels produced here are destined for the international market.
The first thing we wanted to know; is if there was a factory shop where we could buy wheels at “manufacturer’s prices”. No such thing. That was a disappointment.
We had Stephen da Souza Alegria as a tour guide. What makes this facility so unique is that they perform everything in-house. From an in-house foundry through to final shipping.
The furnaces where the Aluminum is heated to 750ºC was quite an experience. Red-hot liquid aluminum is a unique sight.
The casting processes where the dies are filled through air pressure were equally impressive.
We also had a look at the real time X-ray section where most of the units are fully automated. Each wheel is 100% radiographed and accepted or rejected in less than 30 seconds. An indication of the quality of wheels produced by Hayes Lemmerz is the percentage of wheels rejected by radiography. Very little!
Scrapped wheels are destroyed and the raw material goes back into the furnace – no waste, brilliant!
From the X-ray department we went to final heat treatment then to final the machining section where almost everything is automated and human intervention is only required as supervision and a bit of de-burring here and there.
The painting section has a drying oven 25 meters long! We saw some wheels “rejected” due to bad paint quality. Stephen explained that a single paint imperfection of 1mm and bigger results in a complete chemical paint strip and re-paint. Unbelievable quality standards.
On the final shipping side we saw personnel wearing gloves to pack the wheels – not even fingerprints are allowed!
We would like to thank Hayes Lemmerz and its personnel, especially Stephen, for the hospitality shown. We enjoyed a refreshing cold drink afterwards and discussed industry’s participation in promoting NDT. If we don’t do something, nothing will be done.
Our very first site visit had only three participants. The latest one had seven. Yes, we do have a small industry compared to the rest of the world and participation in visits like these plays a major role in promoting good NDT. On the way back we were already discussing our next visit.
Things are looking up in South African NDT.
Hennie de Wet.