Innovation and collaborative, synchronized program management for new programs
Miba is one of the leading strategic partners of the international engine and automotive industry. Their product portfolio includes sintered components, engine bearings, friction materials, power electronics components and coatings. Miba products make motor vehicles, trains, ships, aircraft and power plants more efficient, more reliable and more environmentally friendly.
Vehicles on rails or roads, at sea or in the air, as well as agricultural or construction machinery and power plants rely on sophisticated power train components for their longevity, fuel efficiency and environment-friendliness. The Miba group of companies based in Laakirchen, Austria, is a strategic partner of engine manufacturers and the automotive industry. The company ranks among the world’s leading manufacturers of engine bearings, friction materials and sintered components as well as electric power products for power train applications.
With the aim of developing technologies for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Miba focuses its innovations on energy efficiency as well as increased precision and comfort for its customers’ products. To achieve these goals, Miba products need to comply with extreme physical requirements and supremely tight tolerances. This is facilitated by a production process that spans all stages of product creation. Bearing products, for instance, are made of non-alloy steel main parts, sputtered with bearing surfaces made of application-specific alloys Miba develops and produces in-house, and finished using various machining processes.
Miba’s quality assurance procedures also cover the entire production process. They include incoming and outgoing inspections as well as material tests in the laboratories and measurements following individual production steps. An important part of the overall quality management task is process-ing complaints by internal as well as external customers and suppliers.
Since the Miba group includes 23 production sites in Europe, the Americas and Asia, it comes as no surprise that the software landscape was somewhat heterogeneous. While the same enterprise resource planning (ERP), business intelligence (BI) and production data acquisition (PDA) systems were in place at most of the locations, there were different quality management systems. A software system meant for global rollout was still not fully implemented even 10 years after it had been selected in the early years of the millennium. Consequently, local solutions based on spreadsheet software were still widely used in addition to this installation.
In an attempt to harmonize processes and unify Miba’s information technology (IT) landscape, the company’s owner initiated the One.Miba project. With support from external business consultants, three groups investigated potential solution paths for product development, supply chain management and quality management. As the Miba Sinter group’s chief executive officer (CEO) is also the corporation's quality manager, he mentored this part of the board-driven IT project.
Initially, the aim was to redeploy the existing software, rolling it out completely with all modules across the entire Miba group. During the initial status analysis, the existing software implementation was at variance with some of the requirements. As numerous functional as well as cost issues arose, the Miba quality and IT experts found that rolling out the software as planned would require carrying out a large number of adaptations. It would also have meant buying numerous additional licenses.
“This prompted us to return to square one and start a new software selection process,” says Günter Reittinger, quality management IT consultant in Miba’s Enterprise Application Center. “The evaluation phase included compiling a detailed requirement catalog with more than 300 entries.” All relevant quality management software suppliers, including the makers of the pre-existing software, were invited to evaluation workshops and the Miba experts visited existing reference installations.
Following a six-month selection process, the decision was made to invest in Siemens Opcenter Quality software from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens Digital Industries Software. “A reference visit to a global automotive supplier made all the difference,” says Reittinger. “We saw a comprehensive, multilingual software implementation with a complex multitenant data architecture, something the other applicants were not able to show in real-life applications.
“Another factor influencing the decision was the license options.” says Reittinger. “With Siemens Opcenter Quality software, beside including additional staff in the computer-aided quality process, we can also add external suppliers who enter and review supplier complaints directly.”
Rollout started with the implementation of first modules in one pilot plant. After several weeks of trial operation, this was extended to eight locations. In spite of the need for unforeseen organizational activities across the entire corporation, global rollout covering all production facilities was completed within three years.
“We started implementation with the Concern and Complaint Management module,” says Reittinger. “While it has all the required interfaces to the ERP software and covers a wide range of functionality, it is not as complex as other modules so we were able to collect rich experience quickly.” This first module was followed at a fast rate by Quality Process Management (QPM) and Quality Action Management (QAM) modules.
Following this initial phase, the Miba experts implemented the Inspection Plan Management (IPM) module. This was followed by rolling out the Gage Management (GMS) and Audit modules. These required migrating a large repository of pre-existing data.
“We migrated some 100,000 inspection plans,” says Reittinger. “Using the Advanced Product Quality Planning and Control Plan module, we link inspection plans to form comprehensive inspection sequences.
Incoming and outgoing inspections are closely linked with the company’s ERP system. There, the material is confined to the so-called quality quarantine stock and released to general stock following approval from the Incoming/Outgoing Goods Control module. To trigger inspections in the computer-aided quality (CAQ) system, Miba is using the pre-existing business intelligence software.“The Traceability module was not part of the original implementation roadmap but was included following a customer request,” says Reittinger. “We now individually mark a growing number of parts with data matrix codes leading to manufacturing information, including noise level records.”
Miba carefully avoided falling for the temptations of heavy customization. They implemented the software with mainly standard functionalities to enhance stability and minimize programming in case of release changes.
“Siemens Opcenter Quality provides a great amount of flexibility,” says Reittinger. “As the software’s profiler functionality allows separate configurations on the plant or even station level, adaptations were limited to minor changes of work-flows and screen designs.”
Implementing Siemens Opcenter Quality, the Miba experts standardized processes throughout all plants and business fields. The company is now using an integrated data model and harmonized catalogues of characteristics, failures and causes throughout the entire corporation. The database is subdivided using the same client structure as in the company’s ERP system to reflect the plants, plus one global group client. There are different master data sets on the group, division and plant levels.
“Owing to the often substantial difference between product groups, criteria catalogs may vary between locations, but we managed to unify the processes,” says Miba quality manager Harald Deutsch. “Siemens Opcenter Quality supports direct and close collaboration between quality managers in different business fields and/or plants to help tear down the sometimes thick walls between their worlds.” This is facilitated by the deep integration of Siemens Opcenter Quality with Teamcenter® software that provides an information platform for all to share as well as a workflow-controlled collaboration environment.
In an environment in which the ability to fulfill skyrocketing customer requests is the key to success, Miba used Siemens Opcenter Quality to lay the foundation for further digitalization steps. Formerly tedious actions such as the setup for single part traceability take a matter of minutes now. Influencing the process parameters for individual process steps will make it easier to minimize tolerances while reduc-ing machining time.
“Siemens Opcenter Quality helps us make our production smarter to achieve tighter tolerances,” says Deutsch. “In addition, time required for quality management work is greatly reduced. This includes document handling, as searching is eliminated almost entirely.”
Providing interfaces for popular gauges and coordinate measurement machines (CMM), the software makes it easy to integrate all the inspection equipment required in quality control. In conjunction with the integrated data model, this results in a higher process efficiency reducing manual entries. Improved monitoring capabilities in the Quality Main Control and evaluation modules as well as more meaningful analyses provide better input for Miba’s zero-defects initiative.
“Harmonized key performance indicators and automated reporting resulted in better visibility,” says Reittinger. “Following the Siemens Opcenter Quality implementation, our managers can make better decisions faster without the need for manual data collection or spreadsheeting.