Whether it's a commercial vehicle or a respirator, a rolling mill or an escalator – many modern devices would be virtually inconceivable without electromagnets. Their strength, versatility, controllability and efficiency ensure that they are used in a wide range of industries. Magnetbau Schramme has been successful on the market for more than 45 years, producing not only electromagnets but also valves, sensors and actuators.

For everyone in the company, the central task is to develop innovative products and manufacture them with high product quality. Because quality concerns everyone. This can only be achieved in the long term if quality is not equated exclusively with product quality. The integrated BabtecQ QM software, which has been in use since 2021, is a building block in this endeavor. In 2022, the more than 160 employees at the company's headquarters in Deggenhausertal (Baden-Württemberg, Germany) and at the Yangzhou site in China produced around 1.3 million parts, most of them customer-specific. The service portfolio includes the development and validation of parts in small and large series as well as their entire production and assembly. To this end, the company operates, among other things, its own CNC turning shop, an injection molding shop and can weld almost fully automatically thanks to robot technology.

As a reliable partner to automotive suppliers certified to ISO 9001 and IATF 16949, Schramme generates around 30 percent of its sales in the automotive industry, with a quarter coming from the hydraulics/pneumatics sector. The customer base also includes companies from the fields of mechanical engineering, safety technology, agricultural technology and medical technology – to name just a few. From coffee machines to submarines, a wide variety of end products use Magnetbau Schramme products.

Why QM Software?

With volatility in the markets, overlapping crises, the emergence of new competitors and labor shortages, the challenges for Magnetbau Schramme have not diminished. Successful in the market for many decades, the company wants to continue to expand its position in the future.

On the basis of a corporate strategy developed by the management team and supported by the shareholders, Schramme is therefore setting itself up for a stable, long-term future. As challenging as the market is, as diverse is the field of action for QM software: On the one hand, it is about ensuring defect-free products or low-defect production. It is well known that the development and manufacture of products are characterized by numerous requirements, including standards such as those of the IATF (International Automotive Task Force) as well as specific customer requirements. Consequently, our own products and their manufacture are subject to the same high quality standards as those of our suppliers. In view of the size of orders and the number of units produced, the effort required to meet these requirements is considerable in a medium-sized company such as Magnetbau Schramme. This challenge can be met with the help of a software-supported PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) across the entire development and production process.

On the other hand, the quality of products and the manufacturing process only addresses one aspect of the overall quality of a company: In the past, the concept of quality was often limited to products and manufacturing processes and then delegated as a specialist task to a few people. If problems then arise in day-to-day business, quality management is called upon in the role of a "fireman" to quickly extinguish trouble spots, which in the end has become the main task for many quality managers.

Modern Understanding of Quality

A modern understanding of quality goes far beyond the quality of products and manufacturing processes. Based on all demands on a company, it encompasses the requirements of all stakeholders and addresses the totality of processes and participants. It arises from the participation of all persons in the company and includes corporate responsibility. Since it already encompasses all the requirements placed on the organization, it leads to a living Integrated Management System.

Building on this understanding of quality, modern quality management picks up employees, involves them and conveys a sense of purpose, since everyone involved is aware of their contribution to the company. The introduction of integrated QM software must also be considered from this perspective. The focus is on using the potential of an integrated and comprehensive software to align with a modern understanding of quality.

However, it will only be truly effective if both the entire workforce and the customers support the project in the form of lived processes. Here, the effectiveness of the QM software used plays a special role. Good reasons, therefore, for a new approach to quality management software. Consequently, Magnetbau Schramme placed the introduction of QM software under the premise of a modern understanding of quality. In order to position itself for long-term competition and growth, the company wants and needs to further develop its quality management. Away from reaction, from the firefighter reacting to problems, and towards holistically oriented action that includes the long-term development of the entire organization.

Thinking in CIP Cycles

With this in mind, Magnetbau Schramme set expectations for the software and the software partner to be selected. One of the main arguments in favor of Babtec was that the universal standard software combines all the methods and techniques of modern quality management. These are not limited exclusively to the "red thread" in production with FMEA, control plans, production control plans, complaints management, task and action management, but are supplemented by management-oriented modules such as "Qualification & Training Management" or "Process Management". In the sense of a holistic CIP (continuous improvement process), for example, the introduction of a qualification and training management helped the company to think in terms of structures as well as loops in order to specify requirements for positions and thus also for current or future employees and to adapt these on an ongoing basis.

This creates a systematic approach for the entire company in which it is transparently evident which qualification measures are necessary and what progress has already been made. It also helps in the targeted search for suitable personnel. Described processes are not only helpful but necessary for successful onboarding. During offboarding, it also quickly becomes apparent what loss of expertise occurs when people leave and how they can be effectively replaced.

This is in line with management's expectations in this regard: Babtec's software should provide greater guidance to all employees, their qualifications should be stored in the software, and the need for training or new hires should be transparent at all times. Training courses can be planned in good time and successful participation can be documented. Employees are always proactively informed and actively involved in corporate activities – a significant building block for employee satisfaction and motivation, and thus also for the company's success.

In the past, knowledge was held in the heads of a few. However, it is in the interest of the company to transfer the know-how of the employees into stable, lived, transparent and documented processes. The fact that this is also a normative requirement is only a secondary aspect. Much more decisive for Magnetbau Schramme is the documentation and transparency of all processes. This also includes, for example, the cooperation between the management and the various shareholders in matters of strategy development and budgeting. The combination of the "Document Control" and "Process Management" modules in the Babtec software is of particular importance here, as it helps to analyze the entirety of the company's internal processes for possible interfaces and potential disruptions. The goal is to continuously improve the entire process management with the help of BabtecQ – just in the sense of a CIP.

Fewer Media Discontinuities and Software Islands

A particular challenge in the project was the transfer of an enormous number of documents while maintaining their validity. Thanks to the "Document Control" module within the Babtec software, more than 2,000 documents were digitally mapped in the new environment in a short time. These are now supplemented by more than 50 documented processes that are available to all employees via the "Process Management" module.

To enable each and every individual to contribute to quality in the company, the browser-based BabtecQ Go interface enables company-wide access to all stored documents and processes. Even without a separate installation, employees can access information and resources such as processes or documents via their browser – whether on a PC, smartphone or tablet. The interlinked software modules help to reduce media disruptions between different systems and avoid software islands.

With Babtec, Schramme has a partner who, through software maintenance, reacts promptly to (especially normative) changes in order to incorporate them into the standard software. This is because the standard scope of services is of particular importance to Magnetbau Schramme: Instead of stubbornly following existing procedures, the company's own working methods or processes are to be adapted to Babtec's standard software if necessary, thus achieving an introduction close to the standard. In this way, the company benefits from the knowledge and experience of the more than 1,200 industrial companies already working successfully with Babtec software, and makes itself "fit" for the planned growth.

Professional Project Planning

In addition to the functions of the software itself, cooperation with the software partner in project management is also an important building block for success. Without a project plan that can be adjusted as needed, there is a risk of a rather uncoordinated approach: Meetings then proceed without a concrete plan, information is sometimes only passed on verbally and not documented, and everyone involved only does what they think is right at the moment. In this case, the company benefits at most from individual actions and not from active processes.

A positive example, on the other hand, is the planned introduction of BabtecQ's "APQP" module at Magnetbau Schramme. The background to this project is that changes or disruptions in the automotive sector often require the implementation of a separate project. A professional APQP that is transparent for all involved is indispensable for this. Babtec responded to this short-term need, for example, by providing training via video conference. This was followed by a test phase with three complete APQPs, the results of which were then used to derive the planned procedure for APQP projects and presented to those involved in the company – including management and all department heads – and their feedback was taken into account for the further development of the process. This procedure could enable the entire company to become familiar with the APQP methodology in a short period of time and to introduce it close to the Babtec software standard.

As a result, both sides are able to gain experience and prepare and implement the introduction of the APQP software within the Magnetbau Schramme company. In this respect, the project is also a blueprint for successful cooperation between Magnetbau Schramme and Babtec, which brings benefits for both companies.

Vision: The Smart Factory

The goal is to network the relevant software systems with the Babtec software within the next three to five years in order to enable an overall open system for the process-oriented consistency of data – and thus for the pilot project "The Smart Factory". After all, the availability and quality of data are the prerequisites for successful digitalization of processes, production and quality management, and bring the vision of a smart factory one step closer. In addition to digital consistency, however, all affected employees must also be picked up, trained and involved. Magnetbau Schramme would like to see two things in particular from Babtec: First, to be even better informed about the content of future product developments and to be picked up. Secondly, to further enhance the support for Babtec users during the introduction, operation and improvement of the software, with the aim of being able to make better use of the standard scope of the software in their own company, but also to be able to participate effectively in the further development of the software

Photograph of the production at Magnetbau Schramme
From Reaction to Action – Quality is Everyone's Business

Learn more about how Magnetbau Schramme modernized its quality management on the basis of a modern understanding of quality and how the successful introduction of QM software can succeed.

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