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Everything is Easier

"We form your ideas" This is the slogan of HBW-Gubesch. This mid-size full-service provider supplies its customers with design, development and manufacturing of plastic parts and assemblies, such as for the automotive and consumer electronics industries. Research and development are a major focus for the company, which is based near Nuremberg in Germany. They concentrate on the continuous improvement of methods, materials and processes in order to help their customers reduce costs and stay competitive. In order to remain a top player themselves, the company closely examined its internal processes.

This full-service provider from Franconia currently employs more than 500 people. The group maintains its own research department, with seven employees for applications that include lightweight components. For example, in the field of organic sheet materials (fiber-reinforced composites), the staff are currently developing even lighter and more strongly reinforced seat shells for automotive manufacturers. Decorative components based on the proprietary IML, IMD-Pro and IMD-Multi-K technology for in-mold film laminating are already in series production. Compared with solid parts with a true optical appearance, these components are significantly lighter and more cost-effective and so are in high demand by automotive manufacturers. "Pricing is always under pressure. It’s not only a challenge to set trends in lightweight construction and offer more benefits to customers – we’re also a trendsetter with our illuminated decorative features in the interior. Optimizing costs is vital, especially if a company wants to remain competitive as well as gain even more competitive advantages – as is the case with our company. Against this backdrop, we decided to improve our own process chains in order to manufacture more cost-effectively and offer added value to customers through shorter timelines," explains Udo Berschneider, Managing Partner at HBW-Gubesch.

Workpiece on the eroding machine

  • Start: Focus on electrode manufacturing

    Berschneider, who manages a team of 75 employees, is responsible for model and die manufacturing and project management. Tebis has been used in die manufacturing since 2006 for applications like milling inserts and setups. In 2012, Tebis Sales introduced Tebis Consulting. It was clear to those responsible at HBW-Gubesch that they wanted to use external consultants to help improve their processes. According to Berschneider, HBW-Gubesch chose Tebis Consulting "because Tebis and its consultants are very familiar with the tool manufacturing process and are able to map it. Ultimately, the solid concept developed by Jens Lüdtke won us over."

    From right to left: Udo Berschneider, Managing Partner, and the Eroding Team Leader in front of the 5-axis milling machine.

    Tebis Consulting was tasked with determining savings potential in electrode manufacturing as well as in processes for eroding and mold manufacturing. The initial task was to determine whether investing in an automated electrode process would be worthwhile. Electrodes play a major part in manufacturing the injection molds at Gubesch. Currently 50 injection mold machines are in use. Approximately 70 percent of the manufactured tools are made for internal use; the remaining 30 percent are manufactured to order. Gubesch itself manufactures the electrodes for eroding processing in the tools – for which, at that time, they used a 3-axis machine.

    Jens Lüdtke began the project with an in-depth analysis of the work processes; he interviewed the employees in the die and electrode design, electrode manufacturing eroding process and assembly departments. He focused on the amount of time spent by each respondent on each activity and whether specific processes could be optimized.  

  • Analysis: Significant savings potential

    The outcome of the analysis was very clear: The employees spent a considerable amount of their time clamping and unclamping electrodes, checking the dies, manually clamping electrodes for 5-axis machining using squares and creating auxiliary lists to record where each electrode was positioned. The consultants identified potentials for process optimization – because frequent rework and re-measuring of the electrodes was required due to poor quality. The analysis also showed that a test run for the eroding process was needed only because the electrodes had to be set up twice. The consultants saw optimization potential here as well. They also found that many queries were necessary during the information flow between design and project management and between design and manufacturing. Tebis Consulting calculated a total savings potential of approximately 200 hours per week for eight employees in the electrode and eroding process. Approximately 70 percent savings could be achieved with new and fully automated machinery, about 20 percent by optimizing the processes and about 10 percent through additional minor improvements. 

    The analysis of the mold manufacturing process resulted in similar findings. The Tebis consultants determined that, of seven man-years, 1.6 were spent solely on securing the flow of information. The reasons they determined were a lack of information standardization, the creation and review of drawings and the programming at the machine.

    The "Chameleon" handling system from Zimmer und Kreim at HBW-Gubesch

  • Action: Automating the process chain

    Jens Lüdtke and his colleagues proposed to HBW-Gubesch a comprehensive and detailed package of actions. It included optimizing the process chain with measures like eliminating machine programming and drawings for the manufacturing process and a significant improvement in the information flow by implementing unambiguous rules for information transfer. One of the most important measures proposed was to consistently automate the process chain and to modernize the machinery. The answer to the question of whether or not to invest in an automatic electrode process was a clear "Yes."

    The Genius 1200 eroding center from Zimmer und Kreim at HBW-Gubesch

    In fact, on the basis of the analyses, data, facts and figures, HBW-Gubesch purchased a Röders RFM 600 5-axis HSC milling machine, a Zimmer und Kreim Genius 1200 eroding center and a Chameleon handling system. Even though the measures have not been fully implemented, the preliminary conclusion is already very positive. "We are already saving approximately 120 hours per week in the electrode process. The employees no longer have to manually move the 5-axis electrodes: the tool change is executed automatically. This has accelerated throughput. At the same time, we are manufacturing electrodes of a higher quality," Berschneider explains.

    The fully automated eroding center with two Zimmer und Kreim eroding machines and a 5-axis milling machine, which includes the "Chameleon" automation system.

    He gives high marks to the work performed by Tebis Consulting. The procedure was well structured, and the consultants' expertise was very obvious. "We received solid data and figures that we could actually put to use, and which we ourselves would not have been able to come up with since this is not our area of expertise. We started the process optimization with a narrow scope. That was exactly the right decision. We now have a feeling for how a successful process consultation is conducted, and we know that it’s worthwhile to spend money on such projects," says Udo Berschneider.

    HBW-Gubesch in Emskirchen near Nuremberg, Germany

Overview

Quote

"We are already saving approximately 120 hours per week in the electrode process. At the same time, we are manufacturing electrodes of a higher quality."

Features

Focus:

Processes and savings potential in eroding and mold manufacturing

Benefits:

  • Structured procedure
  • Experienced consultants
  • Solid foundation for investment decisions

Sector:

Mold manufacturing, Automotive

Company:

HBW-Gubesch Kunststoff-Engineering GmbH

Location:

Emskirchen, Germany

Interviewee:

Udo Berschneider

Position:

Managing Partner

Published:

2015

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