Many talk about Industry 4.0, but only a few follow this up with actions. A world leader in electrical industrial plugs dared to take the first step – by implementing a comprehensive CAQ system.
“A good nose for new trends and markets" is something which, about 80 years after its founding, can still be attributed to the company Mennekes. In the ranking of the top 20 brands of hidden champions in Germany, which was recently published by the Wirtschaftswoche magazine, the family company from the Sauerland region comes in at a respectable 14th place. The mid-sized company is successful in the third generation and one of the world's leading suppliers of industrial plug devices and charging systems for electric vehicles. Around 1,000 employees are responsible for a portfolio of more than 15,000 products. Power sockets, plugs, Schuko devices, and other standardized grounding-type connectors are part of the company's product range, as well as customer-specific plug and socket combinations.
The gradual modernization of the quality management system was planned with regard to the continuously increasing demands, but also in view of the rapid growth of the company. The implementation of the QM software BabtecQ was not to be a compulsory exercise here, but had to contribute to the improved management system in a fundamental way. Those responsible wanted to seize the opportunity to question existing processes and use the increased opportunities to improve them. The computer-aided quality assurance (CAQ) project was to be understood holistically and as a first step towards Industry 4.0. Similarly, the software was to help establish better known, but not consistently applied methods.
As part of the implementation, all inspection-related documents were reviewed and adapted to the potentials of the software. More than 8,000 test plans were inspected, reworked and digitized in the incoming goods, in the production and outgoing goods departments. More time-consuming checking is definitely done at Mennekes today, but the results have become much more accurate. The overall goal is to derive optimization measures from the transparency of the results in order to minimize the quality costs in the long term. The savings clearly justify the extra effort and led to a broad acceptance of the software in the company.
Even methods that were previously only used occasionally have been included in the QM system. The statistical process control (SPC), for example, ensures more accurate and detailed inspection results thanks to regular and time-controlled process inspections (with monitoring of inspection frequencies) or quantity-controlled inspections. Methodology and operation training have created a basis in this area which would not have been developed without the software. The same applies to the advance planning of quality-related processes, where with the implementation of the module for Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), the eponymous method has found a solid place among the established processes. The FMEA module today is directly linked to the Control Plan and Inspection Planning modules, which are required for subsequent process stages, and thus ensures a significantly leaner workflow than before.
The introduction of the Babtec software marks a milestone on the way to Industry 4.0 for Mennekes. The tangible benefits in the quality management area show how the systematization of data, the networking of software and machines, as well as the gradual modernization of existing processes have a positive effect on the entire management system. With unvarying resources, the time saved can thus be re-used for the really important things – to inspect more closely, document better, and above all, deliver one hundred percent quality.
Julian Löhr works in Quality Management at Mennekes. As CAQ administrator, a native of the Sauerland region, coordinates the use of the software BabtecQ at the headquarters in Kirchhundem.
Mennekes Elektrotechnik GmbH & Co. KG is one of the world's leading manufacturers of electrical industrial connectors. With its standard charging plug for electric vehicles, the company is one of the pioneers of electromobility. Around 1,000 employees generate annual sales of 130 million euros (2014).