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CAQ-Software at VDL: Quality for High Tech Mechatronics

„To meet the highest specifications of the ISO 9001 and 14001 standards as well as medical standard 13485 and aerospace standard AS9100, we needed a system that could document the quality of our products and integrate quality development into the existing workflow.“ This is how Hugo Kok describes the criteria for selecting his quality management software. As a quality assurance manager for VDL Enabling Technologies Group (VDL ETG), which employs some 1,500 people worldwide, Mr. Kok, from his post in the Dutch city of Almelo, has been fully engaged in the CAQ system since 2008.

Originally founded in 1900 as the Philips Maschinenfabrik (engineering factory)--which was instrumental in the development of the light bulb--the company, associated with the VDL Enabling Technologies Group since 2006, now provides mechatronic highlights that find their application in the semiconductor industry and in medical and solar technology. Certified under the high quality standards of industry, medicine and space travel, the contract manufacturer today operates facilities throughout the world of more than 125,000 m2 (of which 10,000 m2 are under clean room conditions) and manufactures products for semiconductor equipment, medical equipment, laser equipment, aerospace and solar energy industries.

Dimensions of Quality

Driven by the most demanding customer requirements, VDL ETG provides high-tech mechatronics daily to OEM customers around the world, ranging from small units to fully automated systems and complete production lines. Despite the immense diversity of „his“ products, quality manager Hugo Kok appears unimpressed when it comes to tracking potential customer complaints: „As a specialist in the areas of analytical and semi-conductor systems as well as medical technology, it is a matter of course for VDL ETG to deliver mechatronic solutions with the highest quality standards,“ said Mr Kok. „Should potential failure ever occur in our rigorous testing, we are able to quickly pinpoint the causes anywhere in the entire production process.“

Integrated Complaint Management

The accurate tracking of possible errors from receiving to the manufacturing process to shipping is implemented by the company with a complaint management solution developed by CAQ AG Factory Systems. The „REM.Net“ system is used not only at the two Dutch sites, Eindhoven and Almelo, but also by the 200 employees at its headquarters in Singapore. Geographical distances, time zones or language barriers have no effect on the rapid handling of customer complaints. To that end, the data from all three sites are organized in a common database, in which the potential problems and all information relevant to VDL ETG are documented. Due to the comprehensive use of REM.Net throughout the company, a customer complaint can lead directly to the generation of a claim for the responsible supplier. Or the system identifies correlations to internal complaints.

With the CAQ system, Mr Kok is able to print a separate claim form for each customer, which he designed with the graphical form editor Form.Net. Of course all the relevant customer and product data are included, as well as documentation of the short, medium and long term measures taken. The form builder provides access to almost all fields of the database. To ensure that the subsequent review of the success of measures is not forgotten, even after weeks or months, REM.Net offers the opportunity to track the execution of tasks.

Evaluation and Quality Planning

Besides the expedient follow-up of individual complaints, the QA Manager is likewise always interested in prospects for development. To this end, REM.Net offers evaluations of all fields of the database. Whether daily, weekly, quarterly or once, the frequency can be set arbitrarily for each evaluation.

Since the evaluations are just as intuitive as the rest of the software, even one-time analyses are time-saving. In all cases, the data from REM.Net are presented with graphical appeal. Upon request, they can also be exported as raw data for further processing, for example, in Excel. Reports generated in this way can be sent as PDF files directly to customers or other interested parties. It goes without saying that these evaluations can also play a role in supplier assessment.

To ensure the utmost customer satisfaction, it is particularly important for the quality manager of VDL Enabling Technologies Group to act with foresight: „Through the systematic use of our software, we are now able to eliminate potential errors before they arise.“

Up to Date and Validated

In 2008, when VDL ETG was in the process of selecting a future partner in quality management, the requirements were immense: Based on VDL ETG‘s need to meet the quality standards of the semiconductor, medical and aerospace industries, the company was looking for a software vendor who possessed extensive experience in these areas. In addition, the computer-aided quality management solution would need to be accessible from any location, so that the site in Singapore could be integrated. Furthermore, there would need to be a guarantee of the continued development of future software to ensure the ability to adapt both to the ever increasing demands of customers and to the continuous growth of business.

The 25-year proven track record and extensive experience of the internationally competitive CAQ AG in the fields of aerospace, medicine and semiconductor technology, helped the Rheinböllen based company emerge as an early favorite. The fact that the system can be easily validated is seen as an inestimable advantage by the suppliers of medical technology. The integrated network capability of the CAQ.Net solution is a plus for the developer of CAQ AG as well, since it assured that the remote Singapore location would have a direct involvement in the production process of VDL Enabling Technologies Group. Due to the multi-language support of the CAQ-system, it is also possible to operate the software in the preferred language at each location.

After the decision was made to partner with CAQ AG, the new software was deployed in a very short time span. Because of its modular design, it could be adapted without custom programming both to the technical conditions and to the individual requirements of users. Through a targeted customization of the user interface, the user requirements could be met in such a way that the standard software exceeded any demands for an individually developed solution. It is a crucial advantage for VDL ETG that the individual-use system remains 100% standard software. All updates, upgrades and future enhancements can be easily installed on site by the administrator without the user being disturbed in his or her daily business.

As expected by a supplier for semiconductor, medical and aerospace technology, the VDL Enabling Technologies Group guarantees worldwide computer-aided quality today with a potential for continued development. Advancements in this area are already in the planning, details of which will be forthcoming. After all, when the light bulb was developed in 1900, no one predicted its future production in a clean room…

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