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CAQ-Software at Kolb: In Hot Pursuit of 0 ppm

The screws used for automotive, engineering, or construction applications have nothing more than the name in common with the variants purchased from your local hardware store around the corner. Whereas one usually merely needs to decide if the screws are required for concrete, wood, or metal, the criteria for special application screws bring up a whole host of different questions.

Does the customer require temperature resistance up to +900°C or corrosion resistance for use in aggressive chlorine environments? Is an extreme lightweight design needed in order to e.g. achieve maximum fuel efficiency or should the screw be able to resist the tremendous physical forces that occur when a vehicle comes to a sudden standstill? These are the sort of questions that the specialists at Kolb GmbH in Wuppertal have to deal with every day, because the products designed and manufactured at Kolb are not merely steel connecting elements but are high-tech products customized to precisely meet specific requirements. For matters relating to the quality of their products, Kolb relies on the solutions of CAQ AG and has successfully done so since 1995.

Top Quality Assures Long Product Lifetime

A whole armada of quality control measures comes in to play in order to consistently ensure the quality of their highly complex products. All these measures are monitored by a comprehensive and centralised quality management system. The reasons for this strong focus on quality are actually pretty simple. Apart from fulfilling the requirements of official quality standards and increasing customer satisfaction, it is first and foremost the safety of people that calls for highest quality. Within the automotive sector alone there are over 2,000 highly specialized safety relevant screws. Whether brake saddles, ABS components, steering elements, or parts of the suspension: material or product faults in these areas immediately put the safety and lives of drivers and passengers at risk.

Striving for Perfection

With matters such as these in mind, Kolb consistently implements a zero-defect policy. The success of a strategy such as this becomes evident when one takes a closer look at the statistics surrounding one of their products. There is one particular screw that has been in continuous production since 1982 and over one billion units have been produced since production commenced. Despite the vast number of units, the error rate lies between a mere 0.2 and 0.4 ppm (parts per million) – a remarkable value. Kolb is, however, not satisfied with this and strives to lower the error rate even more.

How Does One Do That?

3rd generation camera inspection systems for 100 % checks

In order to achieve results like this, there is no way around the implementation of innovative and sophisticated quality methods and inspection equipment. Kolb, for instance, uses 3rd generation camera inspection systems for 100 % checks of its products. In the near future, these will be replaced by even more powerful laser inspection machines. The continuously implemented quality assurance measures such as camera, hardness, or ultrasound inspections, however, produce a tremendous volume of data, which is not manageable with pen and paper or MS Excel solutions.

This is one of the reasons why, back in 1995, Kolb decided to implement CAQ AG’s CAQ.Net software. CAQ AG’s portfolio provided everything that they required for sophisticated quality management as well as the necessary tools to achieve and uphold ISO 9001 and ISO/TS 16949 certifications.

Core Tools for Clear Results

In order to fulfil the strict requirements of the ISO/TS 16949 in the year 2010, it was mandatory that the so-called “core tools” of this international automotive standard be implemented. The individual CAQ.Net solutions already in use at Kolb, such as complaint management or PPAP-Initial Sample Inspection, were therefore step-by-step supplemented with additional CAQ.Net tools. By implementing solutions for APQP, SPC, Control Plan, MSA as well as inspection planning, maintenance management, batch traceability and gauge management, Kolb was able to forge a quality management system that strongly focusses on customer specific requirements. The fully interconnected application of the continuous improvement process allows Kolb to prevent errors before they occur as opposed to merely detecting them when they occur.

Optimizing Cost Structures via Quality Improvement

The company realized the enormous potential of a comprehensive quality management system at a very early point in time and understood that it is more economical to prevent errors than it is to subsequently remove them. Bad quality leads to unhappy customers and unhappy customers lead to missed opportunities. Missed opportunities in turn lead to a loss of revenue. What is often conveniently underestimated is that quality itself is an aspect of great importance for the financial wellbeing of a company. Because the way a company deals with natural resources also influences the financial wellbeing of a company, Kolb also achieved certification in accordance with the environmental management standard ISO 14001.

Quality in Mind

Apart from assisting in the fulfilment of official quality standards – the resulting certification itself being of an unspecified monetary value – the application of innovative CAQ.Net solutions also brought with it an overall increase in process efficiency. The positive outcomes were communicated all the way up to top-level management. It subsequently ensured that being “quality-conscious” became a fundamental part of the company’s credo at all corporate levels. Driven by a significant appreciation of quality management and fuelled by the application of innovative and sophisticated inspection hardware and CAQ-software, Kolb continues to follow its fundamental quality target: 0 ppm – a zero-defect rate.

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