sapa’s one-shot® parts are revolutionising the automotive sector and turning the classic notion of production process upside down: by producing in one shot you can reduce waste, costs and improve quality.
I have a very clear image in my mind: Carnival Sunday, a small village all dressed up for the celebrations, the carts and a small child dressed in light-blue colour. He looks like a Smurf.
Carnival is celebrated everywhere in Italy – local traditions may vary slightly but the concept and the implementation are similar.
I don’t remember who showed me the pictures of that event, but I do remember that particular shot: it surprised me so much that I am still here today talking about it.
Imagine the carts decorated according to a theme, with children on them throwing confetti and paper streamers.
That picture was taken from below and it shows the Olympus cart parade: a big foam Zeus leaning forward surrounded by a sea of clouds that covered the side of the cart.
The children are excited. There’s Hermes with his little wings glued to a moped helmet, a small Dionysius with grapes coming down around his ears, and there’s a little girl with an arch, maybe the hunt goddess.
And there’s him, the child in a Smurf-blue suit.
He’s completely blue, he’s standing on the side of the cart and he has nothing to do with the others, he’s out of place, he’s on the wrong cart.
Or at least, so it seems at first glance.
Luckily, the photographer had the same thought as me and was captivated by his look, so much in fact that in the end he gave in and asked the child.
“I am the sky”, replied the child.
“And what is the name of the God of the sky?”
“I am not the God of the sky. I am the sky. Gods are in the sky, even Zeus – he is the God of all Gods and the God of the sky, but without the sky, even he would be nothing.”
Needless to say, I was surprised by this story, otherwise I wouldn’t be here talking about it.
But there is also another reason why I shared this story with you. I think that, in a way, it has something to do with the way we work.
I am talking about the One-Shot® Method, currently the world’s fastest method to produce car parts, which was patented pending by SAPA. I know that you have already heard about it. It is the only method that allows to produce car parts with:
- Less weight
- Better cost efficiency
- Less waste
- High quality standards
Why I am saying that it has something in common with the story above?
When we decided to dedicate ourselves exclusively to the automotive sector, we knew that we would be dealing with giants, with long-standing businesses who were much bigger than us. Basically, the Gods of the Olympus.
For this reason, we decided to concentrate on something totally different, that would be our unique feature. A new way to do the usual things.
Clearly, this new way also had to bring results, so we could compete on the market.
This is how the idea of revolutionising the method came to be, instead of only acting on the results.
To be honest, the One-Shot® Method is something we generally apply to our way of working, not just to the machines.
what changes in comparison to the traditional METHOD?
Everything and nothing.
The One-Shot® Method rests on the belief that it is necessary to reduce the number of production phases and when the process is optimised, we can already talk about One-Shot®. But the objective, anyway, is to get to producing the part in just one shot. This has huge consequences:
- Process automation and subsequent reduction of human error;
- Faster delivery, so as to meet deadlines and the customer’s expectations;
- Waste reduction because everything takes place within SAPA;
- Money saving, which you can reinvest in other parts.
But this is not all.
Since the focus is on the process, the idea is to act on certain product features, for example the weight, already in the designing phase.
Parts produced with the One-Shot® Method are lighter, therefor:
- Less polluting, in compliance with the Horizon 2020 standards;
- Most of them are created with innovative materials, designed to be more functional;
- They solve several aesthetic and functional issues, such as noisiness and joining issues.
Do you think that I am exaggerating? Let me present them one by one.
One-Shot® patented pending parts
One-Shot® Window Frame is the name we use for a plastic part that is hollowed out, generally with nitrogen. What we did was to obtain the same result with a thermoplastic cooling process, whose advantages are to save time and to produce lighter parts.
What are the positive consequences of this?
- The part is lighter than with the traditional method by 8%, so you reach the objective of lightweighting the car;
- You can now mould in one piece what you would normally mould in 3 pieces, which improves the quality perceived in the car;
- Deformations are reduced by 70% in comparison to the traditional method.
SAPA’s One-Shot® Window Frame is a patented pending system and in 2017 it was awarded among the 5 best patents at the Automotive TPO Conference organised by the Society of Plastics Engineers. It is already used by Volkswagen on the Arteon.
When it comes to the One-Shot® Bicolor A Pillar on the contrary, we started out based on the requirements of Jeep Renegade, which required a less oppressive cabin that was more focussed on the car safety. So, we patented pending a pillar where, using a single machine, two pieces of two different colours are joined, thus producing a more solid part, faster and deploying less manpower.
Here are the results:
- Lighter parts and improvement of the car dynamic and stability;
- The bi-injection single part does not require to be assembled: in this way the risk of assembly imperfections is reduced;
- Waste reduction with subsequent reduction of the environmental impact;
- The part is ready in just 70 seconds, so you save a lot of time during production, which is 2.1 times faster.
The stories of the One-Shot® C Lower Pillar and of the One-Shot® Beauty Cover are similar: these are fundamental parts whose production processes were not updated in the past 20 years and which are very often still produced manually by many manufacturers.
When it came to the One-Shot® C Lower Pillar, we simplified the process that is traditionally carried out by specialised workers, that is to say the upholstering, and we got to produce 1,000 C Lower Pillars per day with 80 seconds cycle time (against 40 C Lower Pillars per day with 12 minutes cycle time in the traditional process!). By automating the entire process we were able to obtain:
- Better quality and a robust, standardised and GUARANTEED process: the machine-based process is 100% guaranteed, while the operator-based one yields lower quality and higher possibility of there being differences among the pieces. Now you no longer need to worry about imperfections, and you can save on specialised workers.
- High production capability and high volumes: 1,000 C-Lower Pillars/day means meeting a demand of 500 cars/day or 120,000 cars/year. This means you that will improve your company’s quantitative performance.
- Process and technology being applied to big parts like the C-Lower Pillar for the first time: this is an innovative technological investment for you and your car maker.
- Less costs: if you draw a business case and analyse manual production vs automated production – even with equal manpower costs, you will see that automated production costs less. This means that you can invest on other parts that you are experiencing issues with.
Regarding the One-Shot® engine cover, what was innovative was creating a single mould whereas traditionally you need several.
- 60 seconds to create one Engine Beauty Cover, with a reduction of the work phases and therefore less time and resources needed;
- Zero transport costs (since everything is produced in one single production unit) with 120 seconds’ breaks;
- Lighter part also thanks to the elimination of the joining phase – this avoids imprecisions and errors;
- Productivity increase by 300%.
the new one-shot® aerodynamic shield
I have decided to also give you a preview of the new One-Shot® part that we have been working on over the past months.
Like the other One-Shot® parts, it has innovative features especially with regard to the way that it is produced.
I am talking about the One-Shot® Aerodynamic Shield, the underbody shield, which was designed with the objective of making FIAT 500 and Panda more aerodynamic and reduce the friction.
In the typical One-Shot frame of mind, we have optimised the process and researched alternative solutions to the traditional process that would create shields with the following features: resistant to impact and temperature, compact and aerodynamic. And that would possibly reduce costs. The result was surprising even for us. We were able to develop all these aspects, and to bring about innovation, in true One-Shot® style. Here is how:
- Moulding takes place in just one shot, with Back-Injection technology, and in an automated way, so no manual operator is deployed.
- The material used for moulding is polypropylene, which does not require heat shields (unlike with the traditional system, where the part is made of polyethylene);
- The part is more lightweight (1.8 mm vs 2.2/3 mm of the classic thermoformed material);
- Since no assembly is needed, the noise goes down and more comfort is guaranteed.
Working with a One-Shot® frame of mind means changing the very concept of a part and making it efficient from its designing phase.
In a way, it’s the same story of the child at Carnival: his originality lied in creating the perfect content for the event but in an utterly original form and implementation.
We believe that this is possible and, most of all, that this attitude can bring many advantages especially to the customer, but also to us, who dedicate daily commitment, efforts and passion to this job that we love.
Executive Director and Member of the Board of Directors at SAPA