CAQ-Software at Voestalpine: Global Automotive Quality
As a supplier to the automotive industry, the voestalpine Automotive Components Cold Stamping & Assemblies Group is certified according to IATF 16949. In the past, the requirements that result from this standard were met "site-specifically". This meant that each location largely controlled its quality management processes independently, which led to the implementation of a wide variety of software solutions. In order to eliminate the disadvantages of these isolated solutions and to standardize the quality management processes of all plants, a global CAQ project was initiated in 2015. The CAQ.Net software from CAQ AG was to form the basis of this cross-location, uniform CAQ system.
Technology Partner and Supplier
The voestalpine Automotive Components Cold Stamping & Assemblies Group with its Competence Center in Dettingen is part of the Automotive Components business unit of the Metal Forming Division of the voestalpine Group. Its core competence lies in cold and hot forming as well as assembling complex component groups. As a globally active network, it is a technology partner and supplier to the automotive industry that cooperates with all well-known automobile manufacturers and accompanies them from product development to serial production. With over 2,800 employees at 11 production sites worldwide, the Group generates sales of approximately 550 million Euros in Europe, China, the USA, Mexico, and South Africa.
Initial Situation and Objectives
In order to further standardize processes and make them more efficient, a far-reaching CAQ project was launched in 2015. The analysis of the initial situation identified the primary disadvantages that were being caused by the existing implementation of different and often inefficient software solutions and the use of non-uniform processes in the respective plants. Among other things, the following aspects were identified as weak points across the sites, which one wanted to improve with a uniform system:
- No uniform database
- No uniform Q-reports
- No uniform action/escalation management
- High archiving effort for Q-evidence documents
- Highly time-consuming evaluation of Q-evidence documents
The objective was thus the introduction of a uniform CAQ system for the efficient and compliant implementation of quality management requirements in all plants.
Getting the Project Started
Considering that the organization spans 11 plants in 6 countries, the first priority was to design a well thought-out project organization for the introduction of the system. Mr. Benjamin Schön, project manager / application owner CAQ at voestalpine Automotive Components Cold Stamping & Assemblies at the main location in Dettingen, was put in charge of leading the project organization as well as the introduction and maintenance of the system. A four-stage organizational structure was initially created for the project. It brought together all the necessary parties from local module managers and key users for each plant to internal project management and application administration as well as the support team of CAQ AG and the voestalpine Group’s own IT department.
The various project levels were ultimately headed by a steering committee, which met at regular intervals and acted as the central decision-making, escalation, and reporting body. This holistic project organization was necessary not least because the project planning provided an ambitious but yet realistically feasible period of only 3 years from the pre-project phase and project planning phase to the implementation / introduction phase across all 11 locations.
Interface to SAP
After defining the IT infrastructure required for the project, the next step was to create a uniform CAQ system standard. First, all existing CAQ master data was standardized, a clear user rights concept was created, and the global program configurations were defined. This created a "clean" database and a uniform structure for the project. Following this preliminary work, the interface to the existing ERP system SAP was addressed. After configuring the interface, it was now possible to exchange all relevant data regarding materials, customers / suppliers, cost centers, employees, complaints, and production orders between SAP and the CAQ.Net® software.
As early as the project planning stage, consideration was given to how it could later be ensured that the individual locations would actually use the newly introduced software and that all project costs would remain within budget. After all, the best solution only works if it is accepted and consistently used by the employees. The project controlling team therefore not only monitored project status and project costs, but also the employees’ usage of the CAQ software after its implementation. Hence, the number of FMEAs or sample inspections documented in CAQ, the number of gauges managed or audits performed with CAQ, and the number of production orders created with CAQ inspection plans was monitored for each site. The proportion of complaints processed and completed using CAQ was also monitored.
A Focus on Complaints
The Cold Stamping & Assemblies Group placed particularly high demands on the computer-aided complaints management with regard to the handling of complaint processes. The complaint process was to provide that:
- All customer, supplier, and internal complaints are to be processed in CAQ
- All complaint data that is required in SAP can also be created there
- All SAP data is automatically transferred to the CAQ system in order to avoid double data maintenance
- All complaints can be handled by teams in the CAQ system
- All immediate and corrective actions can be processed across all plants via the Web
- All print documents, e-mail events, and evaluations are standardized
The SAP interface played a major role for the company with regard to the processing of complaints. After the interface was set up, the workflow looked as follows: following the manual creation of a complaint in SAP, the necessary data such as complaint category, complaint number, person responsible, receipt date, customer/vendor, and other data is transferred directly to the CAQ system via the interface. Based on this data, a complaint is automatically created in the CAQ system and can then be immediately processed by the employee responsible.
An Automated Complaint Workflow
The CAQ system soon showed that it can play off further strengths throughout the processing of complaints. From action management with e-mail events for effective communication and cross-location action processing via the Web to the use of company-specific print documents for 8D and complaint information: CAQ.Net® facilitated a uniform complaint workflow, which resulted not least in expressive evaluations and clear companywide reporting.
With the introduction of CAQ.Net® as a global quality management tool, the voestalpine Automotive Components Cold Stamping & Assemblies Group has, amongst other aspects, been able to meet the following objectives:
- A uniform CAQ system was created for the efficient implementation of quality management requirements in all plants
- The computer-aided quality management processes are standardized
- A uniform and transparent Q-reporting system was created
- The archiving effort for Q-evidence documents was significantly reduced
- A uniform action/escalation management system was created
- The multi-language capability of the software solution as well as interfaces to other systems ensures optimum data/knowledge exchange between the plants
One Step Ahead
The introduction of CAQ.Net® at voestalpine Automotive Components Cold Stamping & Assemblies shows what is possible, when a software implementation is seen as a clearly structured project and is consistently supported. The example also shows, how important the idea of a steering committee is for such a large-scale project, in which the regular exchange of information between all responsible parties contributes significantly to the success of the project. Thanks to the determined cooperation between the voestalpine Cold Stamping & Assemblies Group and CAQ AG, the company, true to its motto "One Step Ahead", is once again one step ahead of the others in terms of quality.