Handling Quality: Zimmer Group and CAQ AG
Whether handling, damping, linear, machine tooling, system, or process technology – Zimmer Group brings together a vast variety of different technologies in one brand. With consistent growth and branches and sales partners in 28 countries, the company has over the years developed into a true global player. 1,300 employees however only mark the beginning for Zimmer group, as revenue growth has consistently been double-figures for years now. In order to ensure that the quality of its products and processes can keep up with this rapid growth, the company has been successfully relying on software solutions by CAQ AG since the year 2004.
Zimmer Group: The Know-How Factory
Zimmer Group, founded by the brothers Günther and Martin Zimmer in the year 1980, offers over 2,000 standardized solutions in the handling technology sector alone. These grippers, swivel modules, or robotics accessories are either distributed as single units or combined into customer-specific solutions for handling, robotics, or vacuum requirements. The high variety of systems available means that it is virtually irrelevant, whether a tiny microchip or an entire automobile needs to be gripped or maneuvered.
Huge Diversity in All Areas
Great diversity also characterizes the area of linear technology: over 4,000 different clamping and braking elements are available for the systems of all major brands in the market. The portfolio of process, machine tooling, and damping technology solutions also boasts a huge variety – lattermost covers a spectrum that ranges from heavy-duty industry applications to the development and mass-production of high quality soft-close systems.
This diversity of course also leads to great challenges with regard to the area of quality management. Here the CAQ AG’s CAQ.Net® software solutions come into play. The CAQ-system, introduced by Zimmer Group’s head of quality management Michael Hoch back in 2004, provides modular solutions for a whole host of quality management topics in the company. The PMM.Net module, for instance, is used to maintain and monitor over 5,000 gauges, Risk.Net is used for conducting FMEA-sessions, and all customer/supplier complaints and internal rework processes are managed via the complaint management module REM.Net.
Compact.Net – The Core Module
The core module at Zimmer group, however, is the Compact.Net module for inspection planning, quality inspection, and SPC. This module is used for all inspection plans for internally and externally produced parts, incoming/outgoing goods inspections, monitoring fully automated assembly machines, gathering all internal/external fault costs, and especially for performing measurement processes at centralized test stations throughout the production shop-floor.
From Analog to Digital
Prior to the introduction of said centralized inspection stations, the workflow looked as follows. After the individual machine was set up, the first part was fully measured and approved according to the four-eyes-principal. Approval of the part was documented by manual signature on the order and the subsequent inspection of the serial production was performed in shape of a worker self-inspection – undocumented and at own discretion. The disadvantages of this inspection method without CAQ.Net® were the following:
- High rate of undetected parts that are not in order
- No documentation of performed inspections
- No basis for statistical evaluation methods
- Heavy reliance on the discipline of the individual worker
- Differing inspection intervals
- No systematic recording of faults
- Risk, that important inspection values are forgotten
Centralized Inspection Stations
In order to curb theses disadvantages, achieve greater process reliability, and eliminate serial faults, the company began to install centralized inspection stations at shop-floor level in 2012. All department-specific gauges at these stations are directly connected to the CAQ-system via an interface box. The individual worker now only needs to work through the clearly visualised inspection orders step by step and directly transfer the measurements to the system via a hand/foot pushbutton.
The worker self-inspections and systematic inspection plans at the stations provide data that can be digitally recorded and evaluated in the CAQ.Net® software. After the inspection plan has been prepared and approved in the CAQ-software by the quality assurance team, the worker only needs to mark the applicable inspection order and hit the “Inspect” button. Apart from increased user-friendliness, the usage of sophisticated software at Zimmer Group brings with it further benefits such as full traceability of completed inspection orders, as the inspection date and the name of the inspector are documented. The application of CAQ.Net® also provided access to new statistical evaluation methods for identifying process faults and visualizing processes. All in all the following advantages were achieved by combining centralized inspection sites with the CAQ.Net® software:
- Significant decrease of undetected parts that are not in order
- Traceability of performed inspections
- Facilitation of new statistical evaluation methods
- Facilitation of systematic fault acquisitions and related fault analyses
- Traceability of completed inspection orders
- No important inspection values are forgotten
Connected to the ERP-System
The connection to the ERP-system must also be mentioned when assessing the benefits of the CAQ-software application at Zimmer Group. As soon as incoming goods are entered into the ERP-system, the data is automatically matched with the data in the CAQ-system in order to identify whether an active inspection plan is available. If this applies, the CAQ-system automatically generates an inspection order, which the incoming goods inspector now only needs to process according to the applicable inspection characteristics. This direct communication between the systems further increases the process-efficiency in the company.
A Highly Successful Concept
The introduction of centralized inspection sites and the CAQ.Net®-software allowed Zimmer Group to significantly reduce both internal and external complaints. The total elimination of so-called “Serial Faults” at shop-floor level is particularly noteworthy. The company was able to also significantly reduce the PPM-rates at customer-side but also those of internal processes – in part the reductions led to an incredible 0 PPM. The great improvements in quality-related processes led to both a reduction of quality costs and a significant increase in customer satisfaction. All in all, a comparatively small effort led to an immense increase of the overall quality level at Zimmer Group.