While vehicle manufacturing is on hold across the globe, corrosion control and packaging specialist, Cortec, presents the auto industry with previous success stories about build-ahead programmes of sub-assemblies such as engines and transmissions, with custom designed corrosion-free packaging being applied to protect these units until they are needed on the assembly line.

In unpredictable times like these, many manufacturers may find themselves with unintentional ‘build-ahead’ programmes on their hands. Sadly, much stock that has been produced to meet normal order demands may suddenly be sitting unshipped or unused, waiting for assembly to start up again. While it is difficult to change the circumstances, steps can and should be taken to preserve the inherent value of these idle goods for when the world sees brighter times. An excellent way to do so is by learning from the example of big-name automakers, which have tackled the problem of corrosion for short-term storage and longer-term build ahead programmes in years past.

Layup Insights from automotive build ahead programmes

Cortec’s purpose-developed vapour corrosion inhibitor VpCI®-126 HP Bags and sheeting are used for wrapping engines and lining pallets.

More than 20 years ago, one major US automaker needed a failsafe system to protect approximately US$2-billion dollars’ worth of components from corrosion in a two-year engine build-ahead programme. Knowing from experience that some vapour corrosion inhibitor (VCI) papers and films were inferior and inadequate for the project, they worked closely with the Cortec® Corporation to develop and test a reliable VpCI® protection method that would not interfere with their assembly line process.

After large-scale testing of the solution in one of the largest humidity chambers ever built, the plant adopted a specialized VpCI packaging programme for partially or fully assembled V8 engines, heads, crankshafts, and blocks. Each component had specific quantities and types of VpCI products prescribed per pallet, although the same general preservation materials were used overall:

The programme provided flexibility and cost containment and was slated for adoption by other build-ahead programmes and major cross-country inventory transfers within the company. In fact, one year later, it provided the basis for a solution at one of the automaker’s other plants, which had a similar need but a slightly different problem.

The other engine plant had just been sold but still needed to fulfil a contract to build between 25 000 and 30 000 engines before vacating the site. To meet the demand within the limited timeframe, the engines needed to be built up to two years ahead of time. Following the example of the previous build-ahead programme, the plant made the engines and packaged them in VpCI-126 Bags with VpCI-131 Foam inside. Three engines were stored per metal container and the containers were housed in a warehouse – with no climate-control – until they could be put into assembly. This provided a simple and flexible means of preserving over $200-million worth of components while accommodating the sale of the plant.

Other situations may be shorter-term and call for different approaches depending on circumstances and user preferences. For one transmission manufacturer, the challenge was avoiding corrosion that would appear during interim storage of one to nine months in a warehouse without climate control. By implementing BioCorr® ATF – a rust preventative that is compatible with transmission manufacturing and leaves behind a virtually undetectable dry film – during their washing process within the past few years, they have been able to solve the storage problem so the transmissions can be protected until they reach their next destination, where they are packaged in VpCI-126 Film for export shipping.

These are hard times for economies around the world, calling for clearheaded decision-making and foresight to help minimise losses where possible. By following the example of big-name automakers who have been able to maintain flexibility and preserve value, manufacturers of all sizes and industries can lessen the long-term impact by protecting the value of their stock both now – when they may have no choice about building their goods ahead of time – and in the future when a brighter market gives them the freedom of choosing a build-ahead programme of their own.


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Peter Middleton
Email: peterm@crown.co.za
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Elmarie Stonell
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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.