St. Peters, Mo.—What is old is new again at Axleboy Enterprises’ remanufacturing division, which adds new life to end-of-life components by mixing big production ideas with small-business agility, Owner Scott Carline said.
As a successful full-service and off-road shop, Carline said Axleboy searched for additional revenue streams when the economy began to sour and entered general auto and truck repair as a CARQUEST Tech-Net Professional Service Center. Axleboy Remanufacturing soon followed, he said, which now refurbishes steering, drive axles, and gear-driven components, specializing in light truck and airport ground services equipment.
“Remanufacturing now represents 70 percent of our business,” Carline said.
He also stressed that using remanufactured parts leads to a “greener” environment.
“In the original manufacturing process, it’s necessary to extract ore out of the ground, then it has to go to a foundry and be poured,” he said. “At Axleboy’s we recover 60 to 80 percent of that energy used during the casting process by remanufacturing products.”
Carline said his customers realize savings by purchasing remanufactured parts because a remanufactured axle is easier to install and a more complete product, compared to a new one that has to be finalized with all its necessary additional components to make it functional. Remanufactured parts can also be improved from the original, he added.
“Axleboy’s remanufactured casings and parts are equal to, or better than, original parts when they leave our shop,” said Carline, who cited the use of unseasoned cases as the cause of many bearing failures he sees, even after a bearing has been replaced in an original housing.
Lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing has led to a reduced seasoning time, whereas in the past, axle manufacturers would let assembled housings age in a yard, he said. The aging process would allow the housings to expand and contract and finally settle on a permanent set of dimensions, but with lean manufacturing, the housings can “practically come right out of welding to assembly and right onto the OEM for install, Carline said.
As a result, the housings get put into service without ever settling on their final dimensions. “When we take a seasoned housing, it has undergone countless heat-up and cool-down cycles, and the sizing is locked and not likely to change. The result is a more permanent build with little fluctuation in sizing,” he said.
Axleboy produced 800 remanufactured axles in 2011 on equipment designed and built in-house, Carline said. The 9,000-square-foot shop also has a BrakeQuip brake hose machine that allows them to build brake lines from scratch at any length and of any material, he said. The machine allows them to make a brake hose in a “matter of minutes” and enables them to deliver remanufactured axles to its customers that are completely assembled and ready to install.
“The sheer volume of our remanufacturing makes us one of the largest bearing and differential distributors in the area,” he said, “which gives us the ability to stock and resell differential and driveline parts more competitively than the average parts store or driveline vendor.
“What we’re doing now in the remanufacturing line is similar to some other remanufacturers, where we have products stocked that we sell on an exchange basis.”
Axleboy employs 10 technicians, two of whom work in general repair and the remainder on the remanufacturing side, he said. His general repair technicians are ASE certified and all his remanufacturing technicians are Timken certified, said Carline, adding that he is a master auto, master medium/heavy truck, and master truck equipment specialist, as well as automotive L1, automotive service advisor, and parts specialist.
Carline said he developed what he calls a “cellular reconditioning facility” to remanufacture drive axles and steering axles. The triangular-shaped cellular reconditioning facility includes a teardown area (or cell), a bearing pull area, and an assembly area, each staffed by a technician, he said. A holding area is located in the middle, where parts are placed once they’re torn down, taken for cleaning, and moved to the assembly area.
“That way, with the holding area, the rear axles keep their identity, and all its parts go back into it,” he said. “Unlike front axles, the rears have more precision measurements, so we think it’s more important to keep those together.”
Carline said Axleboy is taking more of a manufacturer and recovery approach to what they are doing, rather than a field approach an average technician would be expected to perform. The difference is considerable, he said.
“The field approach isn’t efficient, and we find it easier to do an exchange unit in our own environment than it is to do field repair,” Carline said. “In the field, it would take days for a rebuild without the proper holding fixtures and equipment because the parts are so awkward and heavy to deal with — there are time and cost savings, as well as improved accuracy.”
Carline said supplying area parts houses with his products and parts is in the process of being implemented but is not yet fully realized.