CAQ-Software at King Plastic: Quality for Plastics Technology
Polyoximethylen, Polyamide plastics and polypropylene: Plastics which, due to their low frictional resistance, excellent abrasion resistance, and limited material fatigue, are an excellent prerequisite for the manufacture of complex subassemblies, modules and components for the automotive industry.
Since 1959 King Plastic Inc., a member of the Knipping Plastics Technologies Group, has recognized the advantages of these materials, which when shaped through injection molding offer the highest process reliability. This family of four companies, primarily active in the automotive industry, supplies systems manufacturers as well as OEM automobile manufacturers with technically sophisticated plastic subassemblies and components.
The product spectrum at KING PLASTIC is as diverse as the various applications of the materials themselves: conduits for the laying of countless connecting and communications lines; brake fluid, steering fluid, and vacuum reservoirs with integrated warning displays, complex subassemblies and modules, device mounts, and components for fuel tanks are only a few of the over 1,000 items in KING PLASTICs product line, which is developing and expanding with the growing needs of the automotive industry.
The Price of Quality
The 400 employees of KNIPPING Plastics Technologies attribute their success to the extremely high reliability of the processing and to the quality that the ISO/TS 16949:2002 certification guarantees. It was for this outstanding quality that the company was awarded the Quality Prize of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the year 2000.
The requirements for this prize include a long-term and effective commitment to all areas of quality management, as well as the development and/or expansion of modern quality management systems which offers the company proven, high-level usability. According to former government minister Schwanhold, who oversaw the awards process, the state was looking for a business whose competitive potential and innovative fervor would motivate other companies. The company they found was KING PLASTIC, Inc., which, through the introduction of a customer-oriented organizational structure, proved itself to be a competent business partner for the automotive, household appliance, and electronics industries.
Partners in All Things Quality
In order to optimally fulfill both its own as well as its clients requirements, the company from Gummersbach has relied on the support of CAQ AG Factory Systems since 1994. At that time, only a few companies used anything more than ad hoc tabulations, which were compiled on paper with a high degree of error tolerance. So-called "Computer Aided Quality Systems," CAQ Systems for short, were rarely implemented in medium-sized firms, not least of all because of the prohibitive costs involved.
As a provider of software based on the then-popular dBase software, CAQ AG was already offering a software-based solution in the early 1990s which, from a price standpoint, set itself clearly apart from the over 100 other TDM systems available at that time. In order to provide functionality comparable to other, much more expensive systems, the software company, which has since become globally active, relied from the very beginning on both modularity and ongoing expansion of capability and efficiency.
For this reason, KING PLASTIC ordered, in addition to the core module Compact.Net, the expansion modules Form.Net for the generation of forms, PMM.Net for gauge management, REM.Net for rejection, complaint, and service management, as well as QAM.Net for audit management and Risk.Net for failure mode and effect analysis, in order to conduct comprehensive spot tests on random samples.
Testing in East and West
More than twelve years after his decision to implement the CAQ AG solution, quality planner Hans-Joachim Deutschmann, whose responsibilities include the introduction, continuous development, and profitable application of the system, is still satisfied. Accordingly, the production facility at Neustadt in the former East German state of Saxony, which came into operation in 2004, was also supplied from the very beginning with sufficient licenses for the quality control software.
"With six licenses for the core software Compact.Net, we are able to meet the needs of our three-shift production without any problem," explains Deutschmann. "Since the licenses are not based on specific users, and since we seldom undertake more than five random sample tests in different areas, we are able to get along with a relatively low number of licenses, in spite of the large number of employees we have."
Just because the CAQ System was purchased twelve years ago does not mean that Mr. Deutschmann has to employ "old" software today. Nowadays, dBase is just as obsolete as the quality standards in place in the early 1990s. The CAQ System, within the framework of the Top Service Package, has been continually updated without additional cost. This way, even with the expansion of the system into the new production facility in Saxony, KING PLASTIC was able to implement the newest software technology.
Since Mr. Deutschmann divides his work week between the two locations, it is immeasurably important for him to be able to access the other location easily. Thus, he can access not only present data, but can also actively undertake comprehensive analyses, observe recently completed tests in real time, or if needed, adjust testing plans and manage projects. The same goes for customer complaints, whether presently incoming or ready to be settled. Regardless of whether a customer in Saxony calls the office in Gummersbach or vice-versa, Mr. Deutschmann is always prepared with the latest information.
Because of CAQ software’s integrated traceability, all relevant product data can be easily traced back. Without this functionality, which can trace back to the individual part and batch, a productive cooperation with the automotive industry would hardly be possible. The very flexible batch administration also ensures that the costs of testing are no higher than necessary, without sacrificing testing frequency. If necessary, defective batches can be identified, and, of course, in batch administration all proprietary and standard-compliant sample test plans are available.
Here the CAQ-System adjusts to the flexibility demanded by automotive clients as well. In this way, exactly that information is documented which the customer demands or which is relevant for the statistical management of the current process. In addition, KING PLASTIC is able to produce client-specific test certificates with the graphical formula editor, either inventing its own forms or by adjusting one of the included standard-compliant forms provided by CAQ AG. The forms can also be printed, with recourse to the same data, in any of several difference languages, regardless of the users current login language.
Should the test plans be adapted to changing client requirements or because of the process itself, any long-term inquiries are retained in their entirety: feature-based process capabilities are only interrupted when KING PLASTIC chooses to do so. Thus, important batch information concerning already existing test plans can be amended without any effect on investigations currently under way.
If during measurement of these "new" or "old" features a breech in the process should occur, the system will, depending on the features and the customers wish, automatically generate an internal complaint report, which then runs through the pre-defined work flow, so that no error is ever left unaccounted for. In this way, constant improvement becomes a reality.
The errors which are analyzed in complaint management are listed in the correct place within the FMEA module, so that they can be discussed at the next team meeting and, with the click of the mouse, brought into the corresponding process or product FMEA (Error Mode Effect Analysis). If desired, the responsible team is then reminded of the resulting changes in the testing plan. If necessary, audit management is instructed to expand the auditing of the affected product or process. In this process, the system only makes suggestions and ensures that no important information is lost on the process interface. The final decision is always left to the responsible team or employee.
The open availability of the licensing and the modular structure of the software offer clear advantages—even to new employees at KING PLASTIC. Although quality planner Deutschmann enjoys a detailed mastery over all the functions the system has to offer, the end-users whom he trains are able to concentrate solely upon those functions appropriate to their jobs, significantly easing both the introduction to and the daily application of the system. According to Deutschmann: "All production shifts have their own testers, who inspect by sample not only merchandise receipts, but also the quality of our own product, in order to produce analyses of individual batches. For these testers, detailed knowledge of every aspect of production and the associated testing reports, selection criteria, etc., is irrelevant.” Correspondingly, the interface can be adjusted according to current needs for optimal content and visual presentation, thereby substantially easing the work of the affected person.
It is precisely this lightening of the workload that allows Mr. Deutschmann to speak with such conviction about "his" software. After all, it is this software which, through both the cost savings realized at first installation and the minimized training requirements, led the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to present KING PLASTIC with its accolade--something not every company can boast!