Quality en bloc – Software-Supported Production Quality Protection and Monitoring
Halberg Guss produces engine blocks, cylinder heads and crankshafts which are used worldwide in both automobiles and trucks. The company’s ever-stricter quality criteria is satisfies by a number of testing facilities on the one hand, and its reliance on software- supported quality assurance which combines the advantages of a modular core with the possibility of individual customization.
Coated either with a high quality lacquer or a powder coating and thus durable and corrosion-resistant, the casting parts leave Halberg Gusss production facilities in Leipzig and Saarbrücken in order to be fitted with the finishing engine components such as connection rods, pistons or oil pans on the transfer line of the automobile manufacturer, thus creating the heart of the vehicle.
With continuously rising fuel prices, the constant reduction in weight of automobile components has become just as implicit. Since aluminum is especially inappropriate for large diesel machines due to reduced noise insulation, better technology has been employed in the area of gray cast iron. The continual decrease in thickness of the parts at the same time requires a corresponding increase in quality criteria. The guarantee of high quality is an important integral part in Halberg Guss’ daily production output. In addition to a multitude of testing facilities, this large company of around 1,800 workers relies upon software-supported security and surveillance of its own production quality.
Core Software as Basis
In the past, the casting house used custom-programmed software that was adjusted to meet individual needs. Since redesigning the existing software applications would have been inefficient in conjunction with the turn of the millennium, an acquisition of standard software in the area of quality assurance was deemed essential in 1998. The search for a competitively priced solution that could at the same time be quickly implemented resulted almost immediately in eliminating a number of suppliers which were initially considered. Just as quickly, the final choice was to go with the specialists at CAQ AG Factory Systems in Rheinböllen.
“Originally, we were looking for software with which we could supervise our processes and convert the statistical evaluations even after the turn of the millennium in a, for us, customary manner,” explains Christoph Busch, an employee in the IT-department. “We decided, in light of cost considerations, on a standard software that did not require any specific custom-developing and that would allow us therefore to determine the price exactly.”
Additional talks with software engineers from Rheinböllen confirmed the possibility of individual software customization and furthermore presented concrete completion possibilities in the area of quality assurance to casting manufacturers. Conjointly with quality assurance specialists, Christoph Busch ultimately created requirement specifications which were to be implemented by CAQ AG Factory Systems.
Through the softwares modular structure as well as complementary individual customizations, a comprehensive system was built, which today consists of the modules for statistical process control (SPC with Compact.Net), gauge management PMM.Net, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis FMEA.Net, as well as complaint and service management REM.Net. Diverse subsystems deliver their data from production run tests of different file formats through the automatic production data collection (APE.Net) and then are assigned to the appropriate inspection orders. The Quality Connection System (Connect.Net) takes care of the permanent and automatic importing of diverse master data from the ERP-System FOSS by the Ordat company, or from other databases with QS-relevant master data.
All implemented software modules are merged into an integrated system. In Compact.Net all inspection plans are created and all inspection strategies conducted, ranging from incoming goods inspections to process-accompanying inspections and outgoing goods inspections. Mr. Busch can access any appropriate inspection strategy: incoming goods inspections standard-compliant with ISO 2859 and 3951 in all specifications (e.g. normal, increased, reduced), flexible skip lot processes, or customized and process-accompanying inspections. The bandwidth ranges from individual and defined inspections according to need to open interval inspections with unlimited qualitative or quantitative characteristics and mathematic statistically exact formulated SPC-inspections or SPC batch-inspections.
The test data is brought into the system in different ways: manual entry by hand (PC keyboard, PDF, Tablet PC, Data Entry Terminals including plausibility checks) or electronic manual measuring devices which report back acoustically or optically through an RS-232 or USB port.
The testing and measuring devices used in the testing are managed by the module PMM.Net, which directs the location of utilization and storage, the equipment check and the testing interval. For testing intervals which depend on the quantity of pieces or their particular use, the number of measurements made with the testing device is reported back from Compact.Net to PMM.Net. Should a testing device necessary for the tests come into use, a warning message will appear on the screen of the tester. In this case, one can adjust whether the concerned tester can go ahead and use the testing equipment, or be obliged to choose an alternative from the list of appropriate equipment.
Integrated in the Production Line
Measurement equipment already on hand at Halberg is integrated into the CAQ-System through the automatic test data collection APE.Net, so that the system can be seamlessly integrated into the already existing assembly line. The implementation can be performed by the client itself very cost-effectively. Costly adjustments to the existing measurement system were unnecessary.
The data collected in the above-mentioned ways are automatically assigned in the background to the appropriate test processes and passed on to a single, central database, where they are available for the supplier assessment or APQP and PPAP activities of other CAQ modules as well. Here CAQ differentiates itself from its competitors: many offer individual and thereby expensive modules for testing the sending and receiving of goods as well as SPC. Some providers are still working with multiple databases which either do not recognize each other or are only brought together through peripherals. This leads to considerable costs for the customer when those separate databases need to be coupled with an ERP system.
All tests, from the receipt of goods, to the test in process, to the delivery of goods, are brought together in a single testing plan. These include tests, scalable to the smallest detail, which automatically investigate the processes for outliers, trends, runs, and other effects, and in the case of failures sound an alarm and automatically notify a certain circle of people through email about failures of processes or tolerances or other anomalies in processing. To utilize the email function, the customer can access already existing email system, such as MS Outlook, Lotus Notes, or Groupwise, together with existing contact data.
The recognized processing errors are thereby fully automatically documented in the current test – down to the individual part – through several stages of manufacturing, down to the individual measurement reading.
Complaints Centrally Collected
In addition to an email notification, the occurrence of errors can be, if the client wishes, reported to the customer complaint and service REM.Net module, where all complaints can be centrally collected, further processed, and analyzed. In this way, all complaints about a specific part can be seamlessly collected and can, for example, be consulted for a comprehensive supplier assessment. The data does not have to be laboriously gathered from separate systems, but rather is available at the push of a button.
Halberg Guss employs complaint management at all locations. All complaints from the affiliated factories are collected in a single system, from which they are comprehensively analyzed. Busch has defined the continuously recurring analyses as a template, which enables him to obtain the desired synopsis and statistics with a click of the mouse. Similar to the traceability in Compact.Net, nearly every collected detail can be analyzed.
The complaint management accesses the same error catalog as FMEA.Net. If desired, errors collected for one article can be automatically reported back for FMEA.Net, so that the affected FMEAs can be checked for possible adjustments at the next team meeting. It is possible that a potential error was overvalued upon establishment of the FMEA, or that an occurring error was not predicted. In this case it is irrelevant whether it is a process or a product FEMA. In any case, the customer expects FMEAs also be compliant with different norms. They are all mapped in FMEA.Net.
Should new tests be supplemented at the revision of a FMEA, these can, in turn, be passed on to the test planning Compact.Net. This way, no loss of the processing interface occurs. Exceptions can be seamlessly pursued and continual improvement is actually realized.
Also seamlessly functional is the fully automatic standard interface Connect.Net, through which all core data is exchanged and continuously updated. Additionally, processes in the relevant partner system can be reciprocally started, dependent upon event. For example, tests on incoming goods are ordered in the CAQ system as soon as articles are ordered. If the receipt for these goods is booked, then the tests are due in CAQ. After the tests are completed, the results are reported to FOSS and there are further processed. The data relative to quality control of course remain in the CAQ system. Connect.Net is a fully programmed interface controlled by protocols, which can at any time be adjusted and expanded by Halberg.
Useful for Every Client
In addition to such individualizations, additional requests by Neue Halberg-Guss GmbH for changes in the core software Compact.Net have led to improvements which benefit all of our software customers today. System upgrades such as these are implicit in terms of our own service approach for IT-providers. Recurrent demands on the software or special solutions have also been made available according to user frequency for even more users in line with regular software updates and allow for continual software development and customization to satisfy end users’ growing needs.
Halberg Guss appreciates that kind of approach to service, which is reflected as well in the area of customer support: “Whenever we have a question about software, I know that on the hotline we will get direct and competent answers instead of a ticket number for a work order. I can also rely on fast replies to more complicated questions. And above all, I can check my question status at any time”, says Mr. Busch, adding, “Similar to being able to trace a mailed package, I can check the current status of my inquiry at any time on the CAQ-homepage.”