A final double check on the screen. Do the settings of the multistage press agree with the description in the work order? If they do, the operator pushes a button to move the still untreated raw material – wire with a precise strength and properties – into position to be cut into pieces of identical size and then sends it to an individually configured pressing process. The material is tied into bunches, pressed, and punched. The first flask is soon filled with precisely worked screws.
The press operator receives all information for this precise work from business software – the information is formatted according to the operator’s tasks. The operator determines the sequence of the operations queue so that each order differs as little as possible from the last, which keeps setup times to a minimum. The operator has access to drawings and test data. The software automatically reports the status of individual production orders to materials management, productions planning and control, and to the accounting department. The result? Transparency of processes and costs.
An unmanageable, interface-filled IT landscape
Arnold Umformtechnik GmbH & Co. KG in Forchtenberg, Germany, manufactures fasteners for various industrial purposes. In automobile manufacturing, for example, Arnold’s products are used to fasten plastics directly. The company developed special bolts for this purpose. The bolts have no nut; they thread themselves into the groves in a hole in the plastic component, which accelerates the fastening process. “Although we produce large quantities, we see ourselves much more as a serial producer,” says Bernd Weidner, director of production at Arnold. Each year, the company processes about 12,000 orders with a volume between 50,000 and 1 million items. The precision machinery needs three days to produce 100,000 bolts. Some types of bolts are produced up to 60 times a year. Other fasteners pass only once through units that are individually prepared for each order, resulting in very long setup times.
As Weidner says, “Each year we put about 800 new parts into product and eliminate just as many products.” Such permanent innovation, small series, and large numbers of items mean complex production and planning processes. In the past, these processes were mapped in a interface-filled IT landscape of 10 to 15 applications. “In 2001, we had reached a point where the system simply became unmanageable. Even small modifications were impossible to make,” recalls Reiner Haberstock, director of IT and organization at Arnold. Since 1994, Arnold has been part of the international Würth Group and has been integrated into the groupwide SAP landscape for controlling and financials. Along with its parent firm, Arnold analyzed the requirements for new software for enterprise resource planning (ERP) and ultimately decided to implement a qualified mySAP All-in-One partner solution, comPRO, from Comgroup Gesellschaft für Systemintegration. Comgroup is also part of the Würth Group, so it is best equipped to meet the needs of other members of the family.
Setting a course for internationalization
In addition to offering a secure investment for future growth of the company, the universality and resulting transparency of the product spoke for the SAP software for small and midsize enterprises. All production and business processes are linked to each other – from goods receipt to controlling. Such linkage is important for quality assurance in the automobile industry. Arnold earns half its revenues in this industry; every automobile produced in Germany contains an average of 200 of the company’s fasteners. Of course, the fastener specialist must also meet usual mix of legal requirements and quality standards typical to a vendor. Quality management covers the entire supply chain – from goods receipt to delivery of the finished products to customers. Work steps for “register production order,” “take material,” and “reserve and issue tool” were managed in the ERP solution, but test results and measurement devices in production were captured in separate quality management software.
With a comprehensive solution, Arnold can link itself to global networks with partners, vendors, and customers. “Whether in France or Germany, the multilingual and client-enabled software is predestined for a company that operates in various countries. SAP solutions are available in every region in the world and support from local IT experts in available everywhere,” says Haberstock. A subsidiary, Arnold Technique France, is already profiting from these benefits. The production facility serves customers in the French automobile market. And a production facility – Arnold Fastener Shanghai – is now being built in China. Arnold wants to use the new company to serve major clients in the Pacific region like Bosch.
Visualization tailored to employees
At some points during the project, Arnold intentionally decided against using standard settings. At Arnold, production planning and production control are still not linked to fixed models that define which employee uses a specific machine to manufacture a given product. The system simply defines the production orders to be handled in a specific period and then places them into the employee’s order queue. Employees use their own expertise and knowledge to determine the optimum detailed scheduling and sequence without support from the system.
Other production flows are designed especially for the immense number of items. Arnold delivers exact numbers of items, but measures them indirectly by weight during production. The company did not and does not want to avoid the detour over the reference weight because the pieces can’t be counted during every step in production. To achieve comprehensive monitoring during production, including the extended benches of external service providers, the weight remains the only control quantity.
Another special feature is that the changes to requirements reported by clients must be posted in the integrated ERP solution and recorded in the overview of material requirements planning (MRP) only after they exceed a defined threshold value. The reason? For the immense number of items, the company always makes a few hundred extra elements so that it has a small quantity available in inventory.
Weidner says, “In most cases we haven’t interfered with standard SAP functions. Our modifications remain on the interface. We add information that’s important to us like the weight.” The data is often simply formatted differently so that all employees have the information that they need. For example, an employee in production reads a priority number in the software to learn how important a given order is. The priority number and other classification characteristics of the article being produced are not displayed in the sales department because such information is irrelevant there. Visualization of the data is also tailored to the users in distribution.
The new solution has found great acceptance at the company – from machine operators to administrators.