Vol. 4
January Issue
Year 2003


in Vol. 4 - January Issue - Year 2003
One Focus: Customer Satisfaction

Dominique Schwab (left side) and Alain Portebois (right side)

Alain Portebois, Sales and Marketing Manager USF WSL

Dominique Schwab, General Manager USF WSL

Interview with Mr. Dominique Schwab, General Manager and Mr. Alain Portebois, Sales and Marketing Manager of USF Wheelabrator Sisson Lehmann.

Founded in 1911, USF Wheelabrator Sisson Lehmann / France is now at the leading edge of USF Surface Preparation Group for Airblast Shot Peening and Precision Blasting Technologies.
USF Wheelabrator Sisson Lehmann is constantly anticipating the new market demands in aerospace and automotive industries for flexible equipments, “in line” integration for turn-key projects, advanced process control systems and overall support & service.

(?) MFN: USF Wheelabrator Sisson Lehmann (USF WSL) belongs to USF Surface Preparation Group, which is today the largest corporation for mechanical surface treatment  in the world, what is your company’s role inside this organization?

(!) D. S.: Answering your question brings us briefly back to USF Surface Preparation Group's (USF SPG) recent history and vision. First USF SPG is the result of the merger at the end of the 1990’s of a number of the leading global surface preparation companies throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. We are all sharing a world strategy for surface preparation and the group’s vision, which is to be: “The global leader in providing the environmentally preferred solution for surface preparation needs”  With over 2500 employees in 26 manufacturing facilities and 47 sales and distribution centers, we are committed to offering the broadest range of technologies, products, services and technical know-how.
Our daily challenge at USF SPG is to make sure that our customers receive anywhere the full benefits of our overall goal, which is to offer the best and most efficient systems available for surface preparation.
Regarding USF WSL in particular: When the former “Sisson Lehmann” company joined USF Wheelabrator, the engineering competence and experience of our French factory was recognized and developed in order to become the group leading center for Airblast Shot Peening and  Precision Blasting Technologies. Our business unit team is committed to offering, designing and manufacturing innovative systems for Automotive and Aerospace Industries. Since 1994, we have heavily invested in research and development, accelerating the availability of new concept products that will help our customers improve their performance.

(?) MFN: You put forward your R & D efforts, what kind of benefits are you bringing to the industry?

(!) A.P.: First, USF WSL has provided quality shot peening and surface finishing equipments and services to the industry for more than 90 years, and therefore has contributed largely to establishing and to improveing the standards which are now applied to the surface preparation technology.
Having built for so many years all sorts of airblast, wheelblast and wetblast systems, we have available in our research and development department a powerful database from which we can extract major information regarding test results and equipment performances for orientating quickly any customer demand to the appropriate technical answer.
Today, even if we are focussing as a manufacturing center mainly on airblast peening systems, we are also carrying out in our laboratory tests for many industries comparing airblast and wheelblast efficiency in order to provide the customers with a clear answer and to propose the best solution to his application taking into account all technical and economical parameters.
As a support to the industry, USF WSL is also offering access to its “Official Training Center” N° 21 08 00247 08 (for shot peening and shot blasting techniques) and its “Subcontract Shot Peening Service Center”.
This last activity is a great opportunity to fully understand the importance of seeing customers needs through their eyes to deliver outstanding quality and superior service at a competitive price. Furthermore to include this experience while assisting our customer in developing a process or while engineering innovative solution.
Finally, working permanently in close cooperation with European Universities, we are of course developing and comparing alternative peening methods for answering future needs.

(?) MFN: You were highlighting your partnerships with Automotive Industries and Aerospace, can you tell us more about state-of-the-art shot peening in this fields?

(!) A.P.: Both sectors are facing similar constraints for maintaining competitiveness, for financing innovation and for developing faster new economic transportation means in an uncertain and fast changing market. Looking at the influence of this situation for a machine supplier, we have to deeply integrate the following trends while answering customer demands for new equipment: -Universal and flexible shot peening solutions /-Allowing the treatment of various component in several batches /-Unitary peening with dedicated parameters/receipes /-Minimum set-up operation (while changing reference).
This together with cost effective solution for: -Peening only where necessary / -Using the right quantity of the appropriate media / -Reducing maintenance / -Increasing machine up-time guarantee.
And overall, in validating the quality and reapeatability of the shot peening operation by: -Accurate control and regulation of all process parameters /-Reporting and supervision of the peening process.

On average over the last 5 years our activity was always balanced 50% Aerospace and 50% Automobile, this gives us an excellent mix of culture with two major worldwide activities.
While the aerospace is driving us for “High Accuracy” installations with advanced supervision software systems for unitary treatment, the automotive is looking for “User-Friendliness” and “High Productivity” machinery with integrated production management system for full flexibility.
We, at USF WSL, are intending to bring to our customers in Aerospace the benefit of our knowledge and manufacturing standard for the Automotive Industries using robust construction with easy access and low maintenance requirements for maximum efficiency.
And vice-versa to offer to our customers in Automotive Industries the benefit of our knowledge and proven solutions in the Aerospace using advanced supervision and management systems for automatic control of the peening operation.

(?) MFN : You mention supervision software and advanced management systems for automatic control of the peening operation, our readers will be very interested to learn your particular offer on this particular item.

(!) D.S.: In the aerospace and automotive industries, safety is crucial. On one side, shot peening is an established process in the aircraft industry and is used extensively during manufacturing and maintenance procedures to increase the resistance to fatigue of critical components of aero-engines, landing gears and airframe structure.
Our equipment offer is mainly made of multi-axis CNC gantry type machine and polyarticulated robot installation. These installations are designed to offer the most precise results and utilise state-of-the-art computerised process control and automation technologies that can handle the most complex component geometries. On the other side, the automotive manufacturing and subcontracting sector is largely using shot peening to improve power-to-weight ratios and increase the fatigue performance of critical components of engines, transmission, suspension and vehicle structure. To achieve the high degree of automation and control necessary for automotive manufacturing situations, USF WSL peening machines incorporate programmable control and automated handling systems. These operate in line with pre-set programs to ensure the precise reproductibility of the peening effect which is essential for volume production. For both, it is crucial that process parameters remain constant throughout the peening cycle. To achieve this result USF WSL employs a wide range of computerised control systems that monitor and adjust the machine set up.
These systems continually observe the processing pressure and media flow and make the necessary adjustment to ensure strict compliance with the pre-set conditions.
Process reports detailing the machine set up and the operational process characteristics are produced for verification and audit trail purposes in line with quality control requirements for each industry. In order to keep this process computer supervision systems (PCSS) as user friendly as possible, USF WSL has developed the different application under Windows and offers the following functions: -Edit & storage of programs / -Manufacturing, process control, printing and automatic data stacking follow up / -Machine maintenance supervisor (with mimic diagram of the machine + zoom on specific element) / -Control of Process (Almen graph, Media analysis) / -Statistical Process Control (SPC).
The customers are then free to complete and input  additional data for machine control and survey.

(?) MFN: All this seams quite complex to use and to survey,  does the customer’s personnel  get particular training on machine operation and maintenance?

(!) A.P: Of course, and this issue is fully understood and covered from the beginning of the machine concept discussion, along with the definition of the customer’s project team, we provide up front the suitable USF WSL experts for an accurate training during the different phases of equipment test and acceptance. Working with customer qualified engineers, the training objectives are always clearly defined and easy to fulfil as specialists are talking with specialists, even if they are from different continents. In a continuously changing environment, after machine installation, a regular periodic training of new production teams, machine operators and maintenance personnel is a key factor in maintaining the appropriate level of performance of the equipment. This is part of  the combined USF WSL and USF SPG quality of service and support offered to our customers in any country.
Firstly complete training is also provided in parallel to our local distribution center maintenance engineers, when a new machine is being installed, this in order to be able to carry out upon customer’s demand: -Regular site visits and expertise / -Machine performance checks /-System maintenance and updating of machine software /-Service contracts /-Additional training programs /-Fast availability of spare parts.
In addition to this  USF WSL has a team of expert engineers available for tailoring on site, upon customer’s demand, new specific peening programs for components arising in production lines.
Similarly yearly machine qualification checks can be organized with our team of experts when customer resources are not available. As a matter of fact the quality of our equipment and service is our main focus for reaching: Customer satisfaction.

(?) MFN: In terms of future applications, what prospective do you see for the “Airblast shot peening” process and your own division?

(!) D.S.: Aerospace is already and will remain a large user of this technique for most of the critical mechanical component. In recent years, peening specifications have become more and more demanding in terms of accuracy and traceability, generating the need of upgrading or replacement of old equipment. For new aircraft, in spite of growing integration of new composites elements that do not request peening, we still notice an increasing demand for precision peening for more and more sophisticated metal parts.
Also, the emergence of new peening techniques as laser and ultrasonic process represents a motivating challenge. In spite of general economical concerns, automotive demand is still rapidly growing, as the manufacturing methods of previously casted, forged and machined components  are changing and peening benefit specifications are appearing for a number of  these.
So we are quite optimistic for the future, and we will continue to do our best to provide the market place with the best technical and economical offer.

MFN would like to thank Mr. Schwab and Mr. Portebois for the interview.

For Information:
USF Wheelabrator Sisson-Lehmann in France
USF Surface Preparation Group
Tel : +33.3.24 33 63 00, Fax 24 37 39 37
E-mail : wslcom@aol.com