Cloud technology has been advancing since before the birth of the Industry 4.0 movement. That is why a manufacturer of high-performance machines picked a cloud application from Babtec for processing complaints. In no time at all, the manufacturer could connect with all its strategic suppliers and today processes complaints using the cloud alone.
For a few years now, incredibly intuitive and easy-to-use applications have convinced many users to go for the new cloud technology. Services for the external storage of data (i.e. Dropbox or Apple iCloud) and browser applications for the joint processing of documents via the Internet (e.g. Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365) have now established themselves primarily in the private sector. Many companies are being drawn to these services as well and are harnessing the benefits of the cloud for the professional sector. At the Control trade fair in 2016, the CAQ provider Babtec first presented Babtec Qube, a cloud-based solution for complaint processing. The goal should be to simplify communication between the customer and supplier and to make drawn-out complaint processing procedures leaner. Today, this new technology has already been successfully implemented in industry.
Fully remedying a complaint can take a long time. Frequently, many e-mails are necessary in order to make a customer and supplier understand each other, and the most obscure contact persons must be tracked down. Global supply chains and a growing share in purchased parts add more complex factors to this process. When processes extend beyond linguistic and company limitations and different work cultures clash, cooperation between customers and suppliers often becomes tricky.
In companies with high-level data protection regulations (e.g. “Do not open any external files”), even an e-mail exchange about a simple complaint can become problematic. The Bochum-based company Eickhoff Maschinenfabrik GmbH did not wish to deal with these issues any longer. After first seeing Babtec Qube in action at the trade fair presentations in April 2016, they knew which way to go.
The company, which started life as an iron foundry in 1864, specializes in the construction of machinery and transmissions to be used in extreme conditions. These robust high-performance machines, which are manufactured in Bochum and Klipphausen close to Dresden, are not just sought after for underground work in mining. Some Eickhoff transmissions are also used in wind turbines, a hundred meters in the air. Due to the high level of standards and requirements in the wind power industry, Eickhoff became an early adopter of CAQ software.
This long-established company has been implementing Babtec software since 2011. From the incoming goods inspections to complaint management, the ISO 9001 certified quality management system is fully software-supported. The commissioning of the new cloud application “Qube” was therefore the next logical step in order to strengthen their own quality management system and to come a little closer to achieving the goal of zero-error production.
Connecting customers and suppliers via the Qube is easy: A connector provides the customer with a direct link between the CAQ system and Babtec Qube. Initiating the complaint management process is then carried out in the software via the Complaint Management module. The direct line into the cloud, which allows data to be shared with suppliers at the touch of a button, is a new feature. The suppliers can register for the Qube online and free of charge and can then process incoming complaints simply via their browser in the future. The login process for this is similar to those for popular social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn. The supplier only needs an internet connection.
With access to the Qube, suppliers can carry out the complaint process using a structured 8D report. The processing is carried out in eight clearly defined steps, which have already been established in the automotive industry as well as in other industries. In order to improve problem description, files (such as pictures of the defective part) can also be attached. The supplier receives complaints directly onto the screen of whichever device they log in on, be it PC, tablet or smartphone. Using a process-oriented input screen, the supplier can define and document the determined cause as well as the resulting actions and report on its progress in real time. At one click, their entries are stored in the cloud immediately and automatically delivered into Eickhoff’s CAQ system. For suppliers with own Babtec CAQ systems, the data transfer can be carried out via a connector straight from the software module for Complaint Management. Technically speaking, the exchange occurs in a standardized manner in QDX format, which is particularly popular in the automotive industry.
To thoroughly check this system, Eickhoff carried out a test phase with selected suppliers as a first stage. A selection of four different types of suppliers put the practicality of the solution to the test. The following were included in this test:
This method enabled the greatest possible number of applications to be tested in a short time, and for problems to be identified at an early stage. Thanks to the system’s intuitive operating interface, the time and effort required from Babtec for support and training of the suppliers was kept to an absolute minimum. Only a few of the suppliers required support, e.g. for registering at the Qube or for the first time that they worked with this new tool. Concerns regarding data security could also be cleared up within the course of a few short conversations.
Eickhoff’s internal testing confirmed that the cloud can be used in accordance with security provisions. The submission and storage of quality-related data is carried out in compliance with EU data protection standards. This is not the case for e-mails, which are generally unencrypted. Data is stored in data centers on European soil. The absence of e-mails with sensitive data as well as certified SSL encryption ensure that the transfer of data is secure. The cloud is always accessible, meaning that users can view the processing status of their complaints at any time. Established authentication procedures ensure reliable protection against unauthorized access.
Within just a few months of going live, this has streamlined the complaint management process significantly. Today, Eickhoff keeps up a continuous exchange with its suppliers via the Qube. Within a very brief period of time, all the strategic suppliers for the platform can be mobilized and engaged in the long term. Eickhoff no longer needs to maintain other interfaces or spend hours sending hundreds of time-consuming and unsecure e-mails. Equally, the complaints in the cloud are always documented, even retroactively, and are visible for all those involved in the process. Thus, the data quality is boosted significantly compared to its previous level.
For all departments at Eickhoff, from Sales to Purchasing to Quality Assurance, Babtec Qube is the central source for statements and the primary channel to the suppliers. The digitalization of the process considerably shortens communication paths. Furthermore, production is increasingly interlinked: Industry 4.0 and Integrated Industry are no longer mere buzzwords. The integration of Qube, along with its cloud technology, has paved the way for Eickhoff’s transformation into a smart, networked factory of the future.