Screwing automakers with a screw gauge!

By: Deepesh Rathore

On the subject of skin panels and steel, I remember a conversation I once had with a steel industry executive. His company was heavily into supplying automotive steel and were supplying to a number of Indian OEMs. He confided that the thickness of steel sheets supplied for the same models had been coming down over the years. The reduction wasn't huge - not like 26 mm from 28mm, but more like 27.7mm from 28mm. But when you have a steel shell weighing about 400kgs, even a 2% decrease adds up to a lot. And multiply that by even 50,000 cars a year and we are looking at 400 tonnes in savings on steel.

That's a wow in terms of annual savings and I am not even counting things like savings in power in the moving conveyer belt and the jigs and fixtures because of the lower moving weight.

And the OE demand was also xeroxed by the component suppliers all of who were using thinner and thinner panels to make their components, suggested the steel manufacturer guy.

My idea was simple - take apart the rear doors of a car model of year 2001 and year 1998. Peel off the plastic, rubber and the window and locking mechanisms till all you are left with is a sandwich of inner and outer panels. Now measure their thickness with a screw dauge to get the differences in thicknesses between 1998 and 2001. Voila! We even called the operation as "Screwing automakers with a screw gauge".

However, my editor, blessed obviously with more wisdom and less balls than me, saw this as not screwing but pissing off all automakers simultaneously and drying the ad revenues. "Why don't you go test a Bullet?" was his retort.

Talking of steel, I am not finished yet. Look out for my next post, maybe later today.

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