The Allis-Chalmers West Allis Works was a vast factory complex in its day. Thousands of machined parts and equipment were being produced by the company day after day. On the northwest corner of the factory grounds, near gate 7, just off of 70th Street, was the tractor division. It was there that the Persian Orange tractors were built and rolled off the assembly line.
Besides the fact that these tractors were assembled there, tractor parts were also built and machined on the premises. Cast engines blocks, torque tubes, and power trains were among the tractor parts made by Allis-Chalmers. To help with precision machining, Allis-Chalmers had up-to-date automated machines to move parts along to be machined to precise specifications.
An article from Computerworld in 1974 explains the details of the automated process of machining power trains for the tractor assembly line. The system was called flexible manufacturing system (FMS). The cast parts would be loaded onto pallets, and then the pallets were placed onto carts that would be towed around to the different drilling and machining bays.The computer could determine which part had to go where by the coded dots on each of the pallets.
According to this article, Allis-Chalmers began upgrading its equipment to the new FMS system in 1972. A total of 51 pieces of production equipment were installed. The Manager of Manufacturing Engineering in the Tractor Division Vincent Stromei stated that the new equipment would help modernize Allis-Chalmers’ tractor assembly line, and help the company maintain efficiency. “We can make a variety of parts, adjust to engineering changes,” Stromei said, ” and even machine a different type of product with a minimum of tooling changes.”
Pictured below are some scenes of the FMS system in the AC Tractor Division. One shows the banks of drilling machines. The other is of workers moving power train parts from pallets and carts.
Finally, shown below is a short clip from an AC produced film called Okay to Ship. The scene shows some of the FMS system and the checking that was done after machining was complete.
This must have been some setup to see. Allis-Chalmers offered tours of their facility when they were still in business. Maybe some of my readers remember this part of the assembly line, if they toured the plant. Or perhaps some of my readers were employed by AC and remember this. I would like to hear what you know/ remember of this.