MES INCREASES MACHINE AVAILABILITY WHILST STILL IN THE TEST PHASE

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In 2018, Mager GmbH, a specialist for hot-formed special screws, made the decision to introduce an MES solution. What started off as a pilot installation in a single area of production quickly became the driving force behind a major process optimization operation. After just a short period of time, the new level of information transparency achieved through the MES system uncovered some specific events during the production process that were causing considerable costs..

Mager GmbH, based in Ennepetal in the North Rhine-Westphalian region, can undoubtedly be described as a producer of truly “special” solutions. This is because the company is able to fulfill virtually any customer requirement in the special screws and bolts field. Their orders frequently have to be completed within a narrow time frame and invariably focus on out-of-the-ordinary product specifications. This company, which was founded in 1940 and is now in its third generation of owner management, is specialized on hot-formed connecting elements, ranging form the production of prototypes to series production. In batches of 50-15,000 units, Mager offers a broad array of special screws and bolts which are manufactured according to customer drawings or DIN/ISO standards – with diameters ranging from M5 to M64 and from ¼” – 2½”. Whether unusual dimensions, materials or surfaces are required, they make almost anything possible – and they do this with an impressive record for flexibility and keeping to delivery schedules.

In order to meet the high expectations of their customers with regard to quality and keeping to delivery deadlines, the company not only relies on its certifications in accordance with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, but also on their independence: They manage the entire process chain themselves – from the warehouse to the finished part. The fact that they have their own tool-making division is a guarantee for maximum flexibility -–as is the extensive machine park to be found in their forging, turning and grinding/drilling/milling production sections. Their service portfolio is rounded off by inductive hardening and surface finishing using Delta-Protekt coating.

On average, Mager processes around 600 special orders every year. In a total production area of 3,500 square meters, they currently have 40 machines at their disposal – a figure which is on the up due to the fact that Mager GmbH is continuously investing in machinery in order to meet the growing demand – and rising demand for the very latest production technologies.

USING MES TO GAIN A HIGHER LEVEL OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT PROCESS

Around 100 different articles are produced every day. This requires precise production planning and control to ensure that all the work steps involved intertwine as seamlessly as possible. In the past, achieving this was a major feat: The entire production process was virtually controlled without any software support whatsoever, based only on the profound production know-how of their employees – and their many years of experience.

A spontaneous redistribution of priorities? How to react to unscheduled production events? Information on the order status? This was no problem for the works managers or their employees as all of the parties involved were able to provide information on their own particular processes. What was missing, however, was a central overview that combined all the important production events with the respective progress. Although all of this information was generally available, it first had to be requested and then put together, for example in status reports for the customers.

If they wanted to be independent of a purely person-based production management system, to obtain information quickly, and to align the production process in a more efficient and, accordingly, sustainable manner, it was obvious to the management at Mager GmbH that this could only be achieved with a modern and powerful MES solution.

What they expected from their MES system:

  • That everyone should be in a position to provide correct information to the customer
    The production status should be 100% up-to-date and immediately available via the MES. Providing the customer with a wrong estimated delivery date would cause long-term damage to Mager GmbH, which have made a name for themselves based primarily on their reliability.
  • Target-oriented advance sales planning
    An advance planning, resp. forecasting, system, should allow the sales team to identify free capacities so that they can go out and acquire orders that fit these gaps perfectly. Sales should be managed more efficiently, incoming orders increased and expensive machine downtime avoided.
  • Transparent controlling
    The machine-hour rates used in quotations previously calculated according to the rule of thumb, should be replaced by concrete calculations. In addition, through exactly monitoring machine run times, set-up times and downtime, the length of time needed for individual operations can be accordingly captured. Operations to which time has been too generously allocated in the past can now be identified and the resulting freed-up capacity used respectively.

EMBARKING UPON A SOLUTION PARTNERSHIP WITH A RENOWNED PROVIDER

Even at the beginning, when potential solution partners were still being selected, professionalism and enjoying a strong position on the market played a decisive role – alongside the geographical proximity to Mager GmbH. The first solution provider to present themselves to Mager GmbH were Böhme & Weihs Systemtechnik GmbH & Co. KG who brought along their WEB.MES solution. And that is as far as they got because after their first meeting, Mager GmbH were in no doubt whatsoever that Böhme & Weihs was exactly the right solution partner to master existing and future challenges.

The software house presented themselves as a partner that was not only convincing through their in-depth level of process and manufacturing expertise, but also through their commitment and dependability. The first impression of the MES solution was also thoroughly positive: The clearly structured way in which the production data and failures were represented in the production cockpit showed at a glance precisely that information that could otherwise only have been obtained through a large time investment and having to direct inquiries to the production division. The option of viewing targeted analyses in detail at every level via the drill-down function provided an inkling of the potential that WEB.MES would open up for Mager from an information perspective. In addition, the fact that WEB.MES can be operated on a browser basis, allowing the MES system to run on any terminal device – from a PC to a smartphone – without any additional installation effort, was another convincing argument.

POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVING THE PRODUCTION PROCESS IDENTIFIED EARLY ON IN THE TEST PHASE

The first step was to launch the pilot phase in the “forging” production section. As all four forges are directly networked with WEB.MES, all the machine data is automatically recorded. The production staff can see all the lead and downtimes, malfunctions as well as target/actual volumes right there on the shop floor terminal. At the same time, WEB.MES also serves to log activities on and off, provide feedback on production events and start, interrupt or complete orders.

For Mager, the greatest gain in information is provided by the production cockpit. Here, all the machine signals and feedback from the production process come together, just like in a control center. Charts, indicators and lists provide a transparency that immediately convinced not only the management but also the works manager: Unforeseen events, interruptions and changed process statuses are all visible in real time. This online process mapping provides Mager with a completely new ability to take action, allowing them to introduce countermeasures immediately in problem situations. At the same time, it also provides a detailed overview of their machine performance. Hidden process potential can be reliably identified via key performance indicators (KPI), such as OEE, throughput, setup levels, utilization levels, reject levels and the first pass yield.

It soon became clear that the goals set right at the beginning would be fully met through using WEB.MES. However, what the management and works manager had not expected was the immediate gain in information which allowed them to uncover possible optimization potential in the “forging” area even whilst still in the test phase.

 

MES UNCOVERS UNKNOWN PROCESS EVENTS

Production monitoring showed differences in performance between two identical forges whilst orders were being processed. Whilst the machine status of one forge was consistently green, short interruptions were repeatedly noticed in the other – a sign that this forge was not optimally adjusted. Prior to WEB.MES, such process problems rarely caught anyone’s attention because such information was generally not recorded on the previous job tickets. Now, however, the works manager has a concrete starting point for talking to his/her employees: Did the forge cause the malfunction itself? Does the responsible employee need assistance with adjusting the machine?

The following example clearly demonstrates that there is much more involved than just a few short interruptions: For one machine, the cycle time per part was conspicuously large. Based on this information, the works manager discussed the problem and learned that the door of the machine was sticking and only closing after several attempts. In total, around 5 hours of production, resp. working time per week were being lost through having to try several times to close the door. A waste of resources that could be eliminated with very little effort, namely by repairing the machine door. Using WEB.MES, it will be possible to detect these seemingly minor process anomalies in the future.

MES IMPROVES REACTION TIMES IN THE CASE OF PRODUCTION EVENTS

The analyses contained in MES virtually presented Mager with numerous optimization options on a silver platter. Why? Because you do not even have to think about the question of what you actually want to see. The information in WEB.MES is so extensive – whilst remaining totally transparent – that you immediately see the answers. Comparisons using quickly comprehensible pie charts, in particular, immediately reveal abnormalities, such as a comparison between the actual production time and the duration of the dispatched order:

Although an order was dispatched for 3 days, the actual production time only amounted to 1.5 days. So what happened during the remaining 1.5 days? The explanation reflects what often happens in everyday production: The first part did not meet the requirements. Therefore, the machine had to be readjusted several times. After several runs it became obvious that this screw could not be produced with the respective specifications on this particular machine. This was followed by switching over to a second machine which was then used for production without any further problems. Now and again, these delays were only noticed in arrears as the orders were still completed on time, thanks to the machine operator’s problem-solving expertise and ability to act.

Using WEB.MES, the delayed production start after dispatching the order not only becomes visible but can even be actively reported via the alarm function. The works manager is now informed of machine downtime at a very early stage in order to be able to intervene in the process and to control and optimize it accordingly.

MES PROVIDES CONCLUSIONS ON THE QUALITY

The rapid localization of process abnormalities not only ensured that the processes could be immediately optimized, but also provided the basis for improving quality.

To be able to operate the forges optimally requires that different machine settings, such as temperature and cycle time, interact perfectly. If these parameters change during the course of the process, this has a direct impact on the quality of the parts produced, which becomes apparent at the latest when the quality inspections are carried out. However, the causes are usually less obvious – or at least, this has been the case to date.

During the MES pilot phase, quality inspections revealed that the screws all varied slightly in length. Based on their experience, the responsible individuals concluded that the reason for this was that the machine cycle was too short. However, the production order ended at exactly the time it was scheduled to end and not earlier, as would have been the case, if the cycle had been too short. The precise data collected through WEB.MES revealed the cause: When production commenced, the machine worked 30 percent faster than planned, thus causing minimal differences in length. As the process continued, the cycle slowed down so that the order ended at the scheduled time – with the process appearing uneventful at first sight. Without MES, it would hardly have been possible to identify the change in the cycle time as forging progressed as the cause of the error.

SET UP FOR THE FUTURE WITH MES

Reliable feedback from the production process, precise production indicators and reliable order forecasts confirm Mager GmbH’s decision and conviction that they have chosen exactly the right solution with WEB.MES. The next step is the large-scale roll-out of WEB.MES and setting it up in a bidirectional network with their ERP system. The remaining machines are to be digitalized and connected to the WEB.MES system because Mager are not simply standing still in view of the growing digitization but are instead consistently focused on the latest processes and technologies. Through deploying WEB.MES, the management regards themselves as being well-positioned to continue to hold their ground on the market for hot-formed, special connecting elements in the future.

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