Can't be done? Yes it can!

How did CHIRON succeed in commissioning six MILL machining centers at UAC's new manufacturing facility in Vietnam? Even with a strict travel ban? With proven digital service tools, good teamwork, a lot of night shifts – and not least thanks to new service partner HTC, which passed its "baptism of fire" with flying colors.

read time: 10 min

The original plan of the CHIRON Group service team was for one application technician and two service technicians to fly out to the Vietnamese city of Đà Nẵng at the beginning of July, to check into a hotel or apartment for eight weeks and stay within a few minutes' travel of Universal Alloy Corporation Vietnam Co., Ltd situated at the High-tech Park just outside of the city. They would then work together with the customer step by step to commission the new machines – four MILL 4500 and two MILL 8000 machining centers.

A good plan and, in fact, the only possible approach.
Maybe the three employees from the CHIRON Group service team could already see themselves at the famous Bac my An beach after their day's work, dipping their feet in the sea and taking a quick selfie for their friends and family back home? And maybe even going on a Sunday excursion to the ancient imperial city of Huế?

But COVID-19 thwarted all these plans, as travel to Vietnam was not permitted for an indefinite period of time. A further obstacle to commissioning the machining centers on time was the fact that HTC, now the service partner for Vietnam, had not yet been included into the CHIRON Group network since the contract had not yet been signed. While the service managers at HTC had already successfully commissioned a number of machines, none of them had been CHIRON models.

Nevertheless, the machines delivered on 1st July 2020 were to start manufacturing workpieces in large quantities for a renowned aircraft manufacturer as soon as possible.

What was to be done? Delaying the commissioning of the machines was not an option. Even if no one wanted to admit it to begin with, there was only one solution. HTC had to "dive in at the deep end" and commission the machining centers in Đà Nẵng with, at least initially, constant remote support from Samuel Baur of the CHIRON Training team. Baur had no idea how this would work, since all new service partners usually have to undergo an extended period of training before their first assignment for CHIRON. The MILL experts were equally perplexed. But Jörg Schmidt, CAD/CAM manager at UACV and project manager gave the idea the green light. And so the cooperation between Germany and Vietnam began on 1st July 2020, starting with weekly web conferences with the participation of multiple CHIRON experts from the sales, service, application and training departments. For HTC, sales manager Kevin Hinh took on the role of project manager.

9 a.m. in Asia/Ho Chi Minh City time. 4 a.m. CET (Central European Time).
For Samuel Baur, who was working from home at the time due to coronavirus restrictions, there was at least one silver lining to such an early start – he did not need to travel to the CHIRON premises during the night, it was just a short walk over to the living room where he would open up his laptop, a cup of coffee in hand, wearing his headset. The only thing left was to say "Chào buổi sáng" ("good morning" in Vietnamese) to the six HTC service personnel, who were already in the large hall at UACV, ready for a fast-track lesson in the steps required to correctly commission a CHIRON machining center. The team was assisted by future operators at UACV, who could also learn a few things about the new machining centers in the process.

Working from home, CHIRON training manger Samuel Baur used phone calls, live chats and remote operation to assist the team from new Vietnamese service partner HTC with commissioning the six MILL machining centers.

So that no time was wasted, UACV project manager Jörg Schmidt ensured that the company was optimally prepared. This included making sure that the machines were in the right place and that preparations were made for anchoring the machining centers. After a few small teething problems, a stable Internet connection was established and Samuel Baur could explain, correct and optimize every action by video conference or phone. To begin with, this was not the easiest of undertakings since the English language skills of the Vietnamese service technicians and even the interpreter were limited with respect to clearly communicating complex specialist topics. However, over the course of the project, HTC quickly built up its own expertise and staff gained thorough practice in the English technical terms.

Better every time.
The HTC service team led by Kevin Hinh were quick learners, requiring less and less time and support each time to carry out the necessary measures to successfully commission each MILL machining center, as outlined below.

  • Connecting and commissioning the attachments and additional units (control panel, hydraulic unit, vacuum pump, air extraction system, cooling unit and coolant system)

  • Aligning and leveling the machine

  • Measuring and evaluating the machine geometry

  • Adjusting the tool changer

  • Measuring and adjusting the five-axis kinematics

We did it! The first MILL 4500 is installed and the HTC service team is rightly pleased.

»The circumstances were anything but easy but we still found a good solution and showed that, with good teamwork and skilled partners, machines can be effectively commissioned, even under challenging conditions across borders and time zones.«
Jörg Schmidt
CAD/CAM manager and project manager at UACV

The first CHIRON MILL 4500 machining center was accepted four weeks after its delivery on 31st July 2020 and the final acceptance date for a machine was 25th September 2020. In the meantime, all of the machines have now been commissioned. The MILL 4500 machining centers manufacture nose beams for the nose section of aircraft, with each system producing six units per month. Over the same time period, the two MILL 8000 machining centers each produce 60 component families for stringers, which are installed in the fuselage section of aircraft. During the initial phase of the project, a three-day online operator training course was held for six employees. The trainer taught the course from Tuttlingen, Germany, and an HTC employee interpreted.

»We provide online support to our customers and service technicians all over the world as standard. But remote commissioning was also a first for us. We are now reviewing the UACV project so that next time – and there will surely be a next time given the new travel warnings and restrictions – we can be even better and quicker.«
Samuel Baur
CHIRON Training team

Each time a machine was accepted, Samuel Baur needed to give less and less real-time support, instead coordinating the upcoming work and checking the measurement results and setting dimensions. He is now working regular hours again and, needless to say, still acts as a contact for HTC for any questions about troubleshooting and quality assurance. And, after three months, he has his living room all to himself again!

From delivery to successful commissioning

 1.) The CHIRON MILL machines, having just been delivered at the UACV plant.
1.) The CHIRON MILL machines, having just been delivered at the UACV plant.
 2.) Work can start right away as the anchorage points for the machining centers are already prepared.
2.) Work can start right away as the anchorage points for the machining centers are already prepared.
 3.) Time to get started...
3.) Time to get started...
 … service partner HTC starts assembly work.
… service partner HTC starts assembly work.

 4.) The first MILL 8000 is installed. What makes it unusual is that it has two travel columns
4.) The first MILL 8000 is installed. What makes it unusual is that it has two travel columns
 5.) The first workpiece was successfully manufactured with a high degree of precision a week after the machining center was first commissioned.
5.) The first workpiece was successfully manufactured with a high degree of precision a week after the machining center was first commissioned.

CHIRON service team for Vietnam:

HTC Vietnam Construction Technology CO., LTD
189 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street,
Phú Hoà Ward, Thủ Dầu Một City, Bình Dương Province

Total number of employees: 43
Service team: Ten CNC engineers,
seven application engineers, three IT specialists

UAC Universal Alloy Corporation®

The Universal Alloy Corporation® started as a company manufacturing tools and molds in southern California. UAC is now a member of the Montana Tech Components AG group and one of the world's leading manufacturers of extruded profiles made of hard alloys for the aerospace industry. UAC employs around 1800 people at four sites, the city of Anaheim in California, the city of Canton in Georgia, the Romanian town of Dumbravita and, since August 2019, the Vietnamese city of Đà Nẵng.