The core competencies of FMF Friedrich Modell- und Formenbau GmbH in the Swabian town of Hardthausen/Gochsen are the development, design and manufacture of close-to-production prototypes and small-series dies as well as models and machining in all workpiece dimensions and degrees of complexity. "The success of FMF is based on continuously realizing new customer requirements, and accomplishing this with state-of-the-art technology," explains managing director Rudolf Friedrich. This includes 4 workstations with Tebis CAD, 6 with Tebis CAM and 14 with Tebis Viewer. Working closely with Tebis Consulting, the company analyzed and optimized the areas of design, programming and manufacturing in order to meet its growing challenges.
FMF Friedrich Modell- und Formenbau GmbH, Germany
With its in-depth industry expertise, Tebis Consulting increases value creation
Even with our motivated and committed team, FMF would not be where we are today with our processes without the support we got from Tebis.
Tebis Consulting uses the methods and tools of a typical business consultant when providing process and investment consulting, but it also brings in-depth industry expertise and many years of experience in manufacturing processes. The measures implemented at FMF consisted of analyses and interviews and a detailed evaluation of the data and information captured. After just a few days, the main weak point in the process chain was identified, displayed graphically and assessed with respect to its financial impact. The potential annual savings were calculated at €600,000. "To survive over the long term in an ever-more competitive market, all processes must be transparent throughout the entire chain and they must be continually optimized. Without external support, we would not have been able to consistently recognize and resolve all our weak points," says Jürgen Müller, the plant manager.
With a potential savings of €167,000 per year, the 2.5D process received the most attention during the optimization process. Weaknesses included errors and machine downtimes of up to 30% on individual systems, due to manual programming of the machine, reworking NC programs and machining templates not being used in NC programming. The second largest potential for optimization was identified in the area of operational sequence structuring, with annual savings of €131,000. Here as well, the causes were machine downtimes, unnecessary programming effort and errors that could be avoided by adhering to clear guidelines and structures. The third most significant weak point was the flow of data and information, with annual potential savings of €110,000. Based on these results, it was now possible to develop comprehensive measures to realize these potentials.
In addition to developing the ideal target process, the management of FMF was presented with clear recommendations for structuring, data flow plans and feasibility analyses, along with the measures required to achieve these goals. The final convincing factor was a return on investment (ROI) calculation that emphasized once again the benefits of process optimization and planned investments. "The weak points were identified in a clear and structured manner, as were the suggestions made for optimization. We picked the right time to choose Tebis Consulting for our process," says operations manager Jürgen Müller.
It soon became clear that the recommended optimization measures had to be implemented as soon as possible. The task of the Tebis consultant was to establish a project plan, define milestones, manage and verify task lists, coordinate the measures and support FMF throughout the entire implementation process. In doing so, he also assumed overall responsibility for the realization of the potential savings. Müller is convinced that this approach is a valid one: "Tebis Consulting has to guide the process on the right track. Each company is responsible for internal implementation. But if these tasks become lost in the daily routine, Tebis Consulting is charged with keeping the ball rolling!" However, the project manager's most important task is to focus on the goal and to continuously monitor progress.
A steering group formed of the people responsible for the areas of design, programming and manufacture was responsible for the entire project phase. The first step in the process structuring phase was to define standards for drilling and milling tools. This step alone resulted in a 50% reduction in machine downtimes, thanks to a significant decrease in tool setup times.
Then the 2.5D machining was structured by creating machining templates in the Tebis CAD/CAM system. At the same time, the Tebis consultant optimized data transfer between design and programming. Thanks to the automated flow of the technical manufacturing data, additional information outside the Tebis files became largely unnecessary. This minimized sources of errors and considerably improved the company’s process reliability. Just the optimization of the 2.5D process chain alone saves more than €70,000 annually. A more efficient integration of the Tebis Viewer technology as the central information channel makes it possible to access all data from any station. This reduces the number of requests for clarification by 60% and also avoids potential errors. The late shift profited most from this step, because they’d previously experienced frequent machine downtimes due to missing information.
The introduction of Tebis 2.5D programming by the machine operator at the Tebis front end brought considerable relief to the programming department, because they no longer have to purchase external NC services. Overall, the standardization also had the effect of enabling the NC programmers to stand in for each other, which resulted in a lot more flexibility in the event of illness, vacation and other absences.
55% of the expected optimization potential was realized in a single year, which was the goal set for the second year. This resulted in annual savings of more than €300,000. With respect to the three main weaknesses – 2.5D process, data and information flow and process sequence structuring – up to 70% of the optimization potential was realized. Employee motivation was significantly improved as well.
For their future successful development, FMF is counting on the Tebis CAD/CAM technologies and high-tech equipment with optimized processes – and also on its qualified and committed employees.
"Even with our motivated and committed team, FMF would not be where we are today with our processes without the support we got from Tebis Consulting! I can only recommend to other companies that they take this step and perform an analysis to optimize their processes with the experienced support of Tebis Consulting. And partnering with Tebis Consulting involves much more than just integrating the Tebis software. An increase in added value is the foremost benefit,” Jürgen Müller summarizes.
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