Great Coffee Grows From Digital Roots

In order to optimize their processes and products, even coffee producers can count on CAQ software. Integrating a Chinese production location, however, still makes consistent quality management a challenge. With an IT solution from Babtec, employers and suppliers can process complaints via a cloud-based platform as they are now directly networked with Melitta’s CAQ System. 

Everyone knows the paper coffee filter that was invented and patented in 1908 by Melitta Bentz. Today, foils, filters, and special papers for use in homes and industry are part of the Melitta product portfolio as well as coffee and products for coffee preparation. The globally active Melitta Group is led today by the third and fourth generations of the Bentz family. Primarily coffee and tea filters as well as coffee machines and automatic coffee makers are manufactured in the company’s Coffee Preparation division. Production takes place at the company headquarters in Minden, Germany, as well as in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, where the Melitta factory employs 400 workers.

High demands are placed on the product quality of the brand, which is regarded as synonymous with coffee filters. That is why nearly four years ago the Coffee Preparation division began to look for a homogeneous quality management solution via CAQ software. “At that time, each company division used their own self-developed systems. These were not networked and only poorly connected to our ERP system. Redundant data, a lot of manual work, and also delayed responses to complaints or production faults were the result,” remembers Marc Parnell, team leader of Merchandise Quality in the Coffee Preparation division. Furthermore, a spreadsheet was used for QA audits. The limits of this solution were quickly reached. 

Modular Design for More Convenient Implementation

Following a test phase with the solutions of different CAQ providers, Melitta decided on the quality management software BabtecQ. This solution is reminiscent of MS Office and is accordingly easy to use. The modularly designed software of Wuppertal-based provider Babtec is easy to install and can be adapted to individual requirements. 

To start with, requirements and interfaces were defined in a project workshop. The software was then installed and gradually brought into operation. Among the first modules was Complaints Management, with which complaints to suppliers, internal failure messages, and customer complaints are captured and assessed company-wide. With this tool, Melitta can respond quickly to problems, initiate countermeasures, and continuously optimize the quality of products and processes. 

Using the Incoming/Outgoing Goods Inspection module, the company plans and organizes inspection processes in both areas. The software offers structured inspection processes and supports the users through the integration of images. Inspection costs and relevant inspection characteristics are reconciled with the quality assurance agreements that were concluded with the suppliers. In addition, an automatic supplier assessment is integrated, with which C suppliers can be easily identified, for example. 

Problem-free International Networking

Additional modules that are used by Melitta are Gage Management for the administration, monitoring and maintenance of gages, and Audit Management for planning and carrying out audits up to the assessment of the results. Also important is the FMEA module, with which potentials for errors can already be identified during the product development process. Added to this are Task and Action Management modules, with which quality-relevant tasks are planned, implemented, and tracked company-wide and across modules. Relevant data from the production process is captured and assessed using the In-production Inspection or Statistical Process Control (SPC) module. 

The integration of the Chinese production site into the German system was a challenge for Melitta and Babtec. Two different worlds came together, and the connection to the Chinese ERP in particular proved quite challenging. This challenge could be met, however, thanks to the multi-language capability and open interfaces of the software. The system is installed on one server in Minden, which handles both locations as separate clients. The respective ERP and CRM systems are connected via interfaces. 

The company today benefits from many advantages in their new quality management system. Following up complaints has become more rigorous, and manual work is avoided. Reports and analyses from the system specifically point out the slightest deviations in production. Thanks to uniform standards for quality inspection, all plants and employees now assess defects based on the same rules. Here, data from other systems such as ERP and Consumer Service are automatically integrated as well. Due to this transparency, Melitta can respond very quickly to quality defects and complaints. 

This is an enormous improvement compared to the time when the employee responsible had to manually search through and update numerous spreadsheets for this same purpose. With the new solution, 19 billion coffee filters are produced per year with a very low complaint rate. If this rate should increase even only slightly, quality management can respond immediately so that there are no problems in the market. 

In order to expand the system, Melitta recently introduced the web-based Babtec Qube platform. This means that suppliers can directly network with the producer’s CAQ system via the cloud. Downloads, local installations, or licenses are not necessary; a browser is sufficient. Suppliers can thus process complaints on their own and document their progress in real time. The complaint process is based on the 8D report, which is divided into eight clearly defined steps. Quality management is convinced that processing complaints via the cloud will catch on very quickly. It has never be easier to process complaints. Digitalization shortens the communication path, and interface maintenance as well as the exchange of countless e-mails are becoming superfluous.  

The Author

Wolfgang Wäntig

Head of Sustainability and Certifications
Melitta Europa GmbH & Co. KG

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