CROSS-LOCATION COMPLAINT TRACKING THROUGHOUT THE VALUE CHAIN

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Six production sites in Germany, a broad product portfolio and a high level of vertical integration in a strong value chain. These are the general conditions that First Sensor’s group-wide quality management section has to cope with and why, for example, it needs a cross-facility CAQ system for complaint processing and defect tracking.

First Sensor AG – with headquarters located in Berlin – operates a highly sensitive business and serves extremely demanding customers. The company develops and manufactures products ranging from chips, components and sensors to complete sensor systems for the industrial, medical and mobility target markets.

The decisive advantage of First Sensor is that they cover the entire sensor technology value chain – from wafers to smart sensor systems. All the expertise and technologies required to combine material and component properties in sophisticated processes can be found within the Group.

The group of companies employs around 850 people at six German locations and also operates development, production and sales locations in the USA, Canada, China, Great Britain, France, Sweden and Denmark, as well as in the Netherlands.

Founded over 25 years ago as a Berlin start-up, First Sensor AG has since become a globally successful technology leader in the sensor technology growth market through a targeted buy & build strategy.

FROM START-UP TO GLOBAL PLAYER

Buy & build, numerous locations, a broad product portfolio and a complete value chain: These major competitive advantages, however, also face First Sensor’s quality management team with an enormous challenge.

“We are a Group that has experienced healthy growth”, explains Carsten Freund, Director Corporate Quality Management at First Sensor AG. “The majority of our current locations in Germany were originally independent, medium-sized companies specializing in a sub-sector of the sensor technology market – and some of them still operate under their own management. Naturally, a multitude of individual structures has evolved – and continues to evolve – from this independence – particularly, in the quality management area.”

Of course, as many of these companies had been supplying the automotive and medical technology industries for decades, they strictly complied with the stringent quality requirements found in these sectors. “However, this was often achieved against the backdrop of a huge personnel and organizational effort”, states Carsten Freund. Until a few years ago, solutions using manual lists, as well as Microsoft Excel and Word, were mostly used. Working with databases – with the exception of isolated configurations that used Access – were virtually impossible to be found.

According to quality manager Carsten Freund’s analysis, “The quality requirements were completely met at individual company locations. What was missing, however, was end-to-end transparency across all the locations and a system in which the work of all the partners in the quality management area interconnected.”

As the value chain and inter-company business continued to expand, this problem became more and more urgent – especially in view of the fact that the Group was increasingly orientating itself to an interconnected workstyle and end-to-end transparency in other areas, such as development and sales.

DETAILED SPECIFICATION FOR A DATABASE-SUPPORTED QUALITY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Finally, in 2014, First Sensor developed detailed specifications for a group-wide CAQ system – with the involvement of all of the QM managers at the most important German production locations – under the leadership of quality director Carsten Freund.

“What we were looking for, however, was not just someone who could cope with the specifications,” says the quality director, describing the challenge. “We had a strategic partner in mind, to whom we did not first have to explain where we were heading in the future, but someone who had experience with companies of our shape and size – and who could provide suggestions and stimuli as a result. Against this background, only four CAQ providers actually remained from a very broad range of providers – and these were included in the tender process.”

The field of suppliers was further drastically reduced by a further challenge: A connection to SAP!

“We already knew then that we would be implementing SAP at First Sensor at the beginning of 2018,” explains Carsten Freund. “So it was a mandatory requirement that our future CAQ system would be able to communicate with SAP – and demonstrably so. This hurdle proved to be too high for many of the remaining providers to take so they quit the competition.”

Böhme & Weihs Systemtechnik GmbH & Co. KG, based in Wuppertal, finally emerged as the winner of the process. “The decision in favor of this CAQ provider was made primarily because of the credibility of the solution they presented and their flexible reaction to our ideas – and also for commercial reasons. The balance between investment and benefit was outstanding.”

At the beginning of 2016, Böhme & Weihs started to set up the system at First Sensor’s headquarters in Berlin and three other German locations. By selecting this system house from the Bergisch region, First Sensor AG was not putting their trust in someone new to the CAQ industry. Böhme & Weihs had already been developing software solutions for the quality and production management sectors since 1985. Today, CASQ-it and WEB.MES (since 08/2020 MESQ-it) systems are deployed in over 900 companies in numerous industries – ranging from production to trading companies and from medium-sized undertakings to multinational corporations.

Source: First Sensor AG

INDEPENDENT CAQ MODULES FOR INTEGRATED PROCESSES

The CASQ-it CAQ system bundles over 30 years of experience in software development for quality management applications . Through its modular structure, it is able to adapt to specific company structures and requirements on an as-needed basis – ranging from single stand-alone to complete solutions. CASQ-it easily integrates into a company’s individual requirement profile due to its process-oriented structure. With individual, stand-alone CAQ modules that optimize a single process step, or as a totally coordinated, complete CAQ system that networks, controls and monitors all the different processes within the company. CASQ-it can also operate across multiple locations and in several different languages simultaneously – making it just perfect for targets both near and far in First Sensor AG’s international setup.

This needs-oriented structure enables a company to enter the CAQ world in a targeted fashion – whilst maintaining investment security through the system’s modular expandability and the fact that the tool is constantly undergoing further development. Through CASQ-it, First Sensor AG was able to achieve an extremely broad-based setup right from the very beginning. A total of nine modules are now deployed, ranging from incoming and outgoing goods inspection to inspection device administration and sampling, SPC, audit and task management.

Quality director Carsten Freund particularly likes to keep an eye on his CASQ-it CMEA module for complaints management and defect tracking.“This has provided us with an immensely powerful tool for processing complaints”, he states enthusiastically. “It enables us to keep an eye on our processes across all the involved locations in a transparent manner, to process these in a dialog and to accelerate them enormously. This is all achieved with a level of functionality, analysis and documentation that goes much deeper that anyone ever dreamed possible in the past.”

STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP

First Sensor AG played a significant role in increasing the performance of the current version of Böhme & Weihs’ CASQ-it CMEA module which has just been rolled out. “I would like to describe what connects us with First Sensor as a strategic development partnership”, says René Strack, Product Manager for CASQ-it CMEA at Böhme & Weihs. “Particularly, with respect to multi-client capability, complaint processing according to 8D and complaint tracking based on complaint levels, we received significant stimuli from Berlin which also benefit our other customers.”

ACCELERATE AND COORDINATE CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS

In a cross-client, i.e. cross-plant cooperation, it is possible, for example, to create a complaint received in plant A right there (client 1) and then assign this to plant B (client 2) for processing. And from there, if necessary, to pass this on to the location responsible for the cause of the problem even earlier in the production chain. This is all done whilst ensuring that the processing status remains totally visible and transparent for all of the plants involved. “For us, this is a quantum leap in effectiveness and efficiency, since such a complaint is now only created once – and not, as was previously the case, as a separate internal complaint at several different locations”, says Carsten Freund, explaining the considerable benefits.

Through CASQ-it’s client communication system, each plant (client) operates independently, resp. has its own production process – but complaints can now be jointly processed across all locations without losing time.

“CASQ-it’s Event Service, in combination with processing complaints at different complaint levels, also makes the complaints tracking process extremely effective,” adds Carsten Freund. When tracking via complaint levels, the user can individually define measures for the following level and assign these to a responsible individual. Only when these have been fulfilled within a defined time frame is the complaint freed up for the next processing stage. The person responsible for a specific task is automatically informed by email of this assignment through the Event Service as soon as the task has been created in the system. Carsten Freund is thrilled: “Complaint processing is considerably accelerated by such functionality and remains transparent throughout the entire process and for all the clients.”

HIGH ACCEPTANCE AND MOTIVATION

The newly implemented CAQ system has been accepted by all the locations. “That wasn’t necessarily to be expected”, admits Carsten Freund. “After all, it’s only human to be reluctant to accept innovations, if you’ve been working the same way for a long time. However, the opportunities offered by this new complaints tool are simply much greater than the previous style of working.” He observes, for example, that even in those plants where the quality standards do not actually require it, the Ishikawa diagrams and 5Why methodology of CASQ-it CMEA are enthusiastically deployed. “Here, the achievable depth of analysis alone is motivation enough – which is favored by the intuitive functionality of the Ishikawa section of the new CASQ-it CMEA module”, says Freund.

This shows that First Sensor is sensitive to both the needs of their employees and of their locations. The same applies to the coordination of the benefits and the economic efficiency of a CAQ system that connects the companies within the Group. “What was most important to us,” says quality director Carsten Freund to sum up, “was that we should decide on a system that could grow with us and our requirements in the long term and react flexibly to the demands of the future. I am convinced that we have succeeded in achieving this.”

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