Tohru Kohno
Director General
Tohken Thermo Mexicana
View from the Top

Strengthening from Within

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 15:07

Manufacturing tends to be solely associated with machining processes. While these are important some materials must be treated before or even after being formed into their final shape to function under stressful conditions. Encouraged by several Japanese clients who needed a local partner for their operations, Tohken Thermo decided to move to Mexico in 2012 and become a heat treatment supplier. The company is one of the few corporations in Mexico capable of offering carbonitidring, carburizing, hardening, tempering and ferritic nitrocarburizing at low temperatures. Tohken Thermo can also provide normalizing and annealing services, physical vapor deposition and vacuum heat treatment.

Hardening and tempering processes change the microstructure and physical properties of ferritic metal to increase the hardness of materials and their resistance to corrosion. Depending on the component, an initial hardening and tempering treatment may be required, followed by a machining process and then a final carburizing or carbonitriding to improve surface conditions. The objective is to harden the surface of the material while keeping its interior malleable. This keeps the component from becoming fragile and is primarily for gears, axles and other power transmission components. “We receive products from our clients, and after applying the appropriate treatment, we return them to the customer with the exact same shape. The added value we provide is that these components are improved in terms of strength, hardness and resistance,” says Tohru Kohno, Director General of Tohken Thermo Mexicana.

The company has consistently modernized and diversified its operations to incorporate new technologies, permitting Tohken Thermo to become a crucial partner for automotive manufacturing companies, construction machinery, machining tools, agricultural and other industrial machinery sectors. One of the technical difficulties in high-quality heat treatment is controlling heating, cooling and the atmosphere. “With heating, the difficulty lies in applying heat uniformly and evenly to the material. With cooling, it is difficult to cool the material evenly and within a specified  period of time. Control of the atmosphere requires shutting off the air flow during heating to maintain the optimal mixture of gases, creating a vacuum,” says Kohno. “It is only when these three factors are perfectly controlled that one can attain a beautiful finish with minimal distortion and a smooth surface.” Tohken Thermo has actively pursued research into condition-control technologies.

Although its initial target was to cater to Japanese companies in Aguascalientes, Tohken Thermogradually received business proposals and quote requests from western companies. According to Kohno, the company is a supplier for EXEDY DYNAX, Jatco, Mitsuba and Musashi Seimitsu, as well as a Tier 2 provider for Honda, Beyonz, JTEKT and Nagakura. “We are negotiating with Ford and we are also testing products for companies like Linamar,DANA, Faurecia, Celay, Mahle, Eaton and Bosch,” says Kohno.

Tohken Thermo’s goal is to process 4,000 tons of material per month working for OEMs, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. “To stay abreast of the ever-accelerating technological advances in every field our corporate strategy is based on two concepts. Firstly to rethink our company through ISO accreditations and the building of an overseas network, and secondly, to conduct our business under a flexible corporate philosophy,” adds Kohno. “Although we source our know- how and expertise from Japan, we expect to train Mexican technicians soon to take over our operations. Both of these objectives are linked to an ultimate goal of being the first to spring to mind for our potential clients in Mexico.”

There are companies in the automotive industry that have in-house experience in heat and surface treatment processes. Kohno explains that for companies just establishing their operations in Mexico, it is more effective to build a relationship with a supplier with the right expertise in these processes. Tohken Thermo is ready to meet the challenge. While the company operates at 80-90 percent capacity in Japan, Mexican operations leave an even bigger safety margin to be prepared for unforeseen situations and have back-up furnaces to ensure punctual deliveries.