Eaton Hydraulics UK takes over wind turbine component manufacture in wake of Mexican COVID-19 shutdown18 September 2020

Due to COVID-19, Eaton’s Reynosa, Mexico plant was forced to close. Through its production there, Eaton supplies several core components to a global customer of Eaton supplying hydraulics and cooling systems to wind turbine makers.

This company designs, engineers and manufactures hydraulic solutions for systems such as pitch control units, yaw brakes and rotor brakes. The shutdown threatened the customer’s ability to fulfil orders.

Instead, Eaton Hydraulics decided to produce the customer’s six most critical parts at Eaton’s Warwick, UK site. Its production lines remained open with extensive COVID-19 preparations in place. The combination of a long experience in the manufacture of hydraulic valves as well as local permission to continue operating during the pandemic, meant the plant was best placed to meet this challenge.

Before the pandemic, Eaton teams at Reynosa and Warwick could have met in person, but due to travel restrictions this was not an option. The entire planning process for the switch had to be undertaken via cyberspace. Bills of materials, knowledge transfer and production information were all communicated electronically.

To prepare the plant for this task, cross-functional teams were deployed working in accordance with the established principles of Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP). This methodology outlines a framework of procedures and techniques which covers production process design and development. Using APQP, the transfer of manufacturing from Mexico was carefully planned to exacting requirements. There was also the issue of sourcing certain components. Again, Eaton’s team in Warwick had to act fast, attaining the required parts from external suppliers. New tooling also had to be produced in record time.

The new production line was set up in just a few days and, in May 2020, 25,000 components and assemblies were produced. The operation is now at full capacity and Warwick will continue to meet demand for the remainder of the summer and into early autumn.

“When a global event such as a pandemic strikes, it’s impossible to plan as every day represents a new dynamic situation,” states Pedro LopezJacoste, key account manager at Eaton Hydraulics. “However, it does not mean that business comes to a grinding halt and we had to find ways to ensure that our customer, who are operating in a growing global market, could continue to satisfy demand.”

William Dalrymple

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