More transparency one step at a time

c-Com at thyssenkrupp Presta AG Schönebeck GmbH

As an automotive supplier, thyssenkrupp is one of the world’s leading suppliers of steering systems. At its Schönebeck site near Magdeburg, 1.5 million parts are produced every year. In order to keep track of the tools involved, the manufacturer is using Lifecycle Management from c-Com.

A woman sits at a PC workstation and looks at the screen on which the c-Com application is running.
  • A woman sits at a PC workstation and looks at the screen on which the c-Com application is running.
  • An exterior view of the company building of thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.
  • The picture shows a machining at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.
  • The picture shows Markus Deininger, Project Manager c-Com, and Heiko S., Team Leader Tools thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck.
  • The picture shows two hobs.
  • An employee scans a code on tool packaging.

The company’s headquarters are located in Eschen/Liechtenstein, where the company was established as a pressing and stamping plant in 1941, producing small parts at first. At the beginning of the 60s, the company entered the automotive supplier business and has developed into a producer of steering columns, steering gears and complete electro-mechanical steering systems over the years. Presta AG has belonged to the thyssenkrupp company group since 1991. 

The company accompanies the trends in the rapidly changing automotive industry towards electric mobility as well as automated and, in the next level, autonomous driving with its technology competence. A worldwide ultramodern production network set up in recent years caters to the vehicle platforms of almost all internationally renowned OEMs. However, the product portfolio of the steering division is not dependent on a vehicle’s drive type. The division has been able to more than double its turnover over the last ten years by expanding its product portfolio and through new customer projects.

An exterior view of the company building of thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.
The Schönebeck site of the thyssenkrupp Presta AG acts as component manufacturer for the global network of the automotive supplier specialized in steering. Over 800 employees work here.  ©MAPAL

The site of thyssenkrupp Presta in Schönebeck manufactures components for the company’s global network. Parts are produced here for various types of steering, such as ball-type linear drives and input shafts, as well as new types of steering for electric cars. As there are many variants for all types of steering, the variety of parts is increasing accordingly. Individual parts such as pinions and input shafts as well as preassembled parts are sent from Schönebeck for final assembly to different sites, above all in China, Europe, USA and Mexico. The steering systems are then assembled there and sent to car manufacturers.

A wide variety of machinery is available to the 800 employees in Schönebeck. This includes forging machines used to produce pinions. Grinding machines, lathes and milling centres are used for mechanical machining. The assembly area for constructing the ball-type linear drive and input shafts has a particularly high degree of automation.

The picture shows a machining at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.
The machines in Schönebeck are used to machine parts for various types of steering like ball-type linear drives and input shafts. The factory supplies parts to the company’s sites worldwide.   ©MAPAL

4,500 different tools

“We call on almost the entire tool portfolio available on the market to manufacture our parts”, reports Heiko S., Tool Management Head at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH. Around 4,500 different tools are deployed in total. Almost half of them are cutting tools. Already today, it is a challenge to maintain an overview of the tools used during production. Due to the envisioned increase of production figures, not least because of new major customer from the electric mobility sector, the purchase of 48 new machines is planned. Even more tools will be involved in manufacturing as a result.

As the administrative effort to manually track tools was extremely high and prone to error, the company sought professional support in data management for its inhouse tool management. A comparison of different systems showed that few could deal with thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck’s large portfolio of various tools. About two years ago, the Lifecycle Management from c-Com was introduced in a pilot project in order to keep track of the hobbing tools deployed in manufacturing and to perform an inventory range analysis. “Lifecycle Management offers a central platform for orchestrating the tool processes across company boundaries”, explains Markus Deininger, Project Manager at c-Com. “With the help of the digital twin, all relevant tool and process data are made available and continuously updated for all authorised process participants. In this way, we ensure that tool data is updated comprehensively without interruption. The customer has a detailed and up-to-date overview of the inventory at their disposal whenever needed.” An important aspect influencing thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck’s decision was the fact that the c-Com platform can be expanded with other products like the Digital Tool Management.

The picture shows two hobs.
When c-Com was introduced at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck, the initial focus was on serialised tools like these hobs, which are very important to the process chain as key tools. Every single one of these tools has its technical data attached on the platform.   ©MAPAL
The hobbing tools were not picked by chance as the starting point, explains Lars B., Technical Head at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck: “The hobbing tools posed the most difficulties during maintenance.” The steering experts have many different hobs in operation. They may be in the warehouse, at the prep stations or on one of the machines where they are regularly used. Some are scheduled for regrinding or being procured. Furthermore, the hobbing tools used can be reground a differing number of times. Information about their current state is important for estimating inventory range. To make matters worse, employees would check out new tools and then put them back without documenting the remaining tool life.

Are there enough tools?

The manufacturers at Schönebeck must deal with fluctuating production figures. Demand from industry can rise or sink. “We constantly have to ask ourselves whether we have enough tools in circulation to deal with higher production volumes”, the Technical Head relates. Minimum quantities are recorded in the existing SAP system and values may not fall below these. In addition, Excel lists were used to account for special tools that require regrinding, for example. Often, more tools were ordered than necessary – just in case. “Managing tool data on many files in various systems was an enormous administrative task for us, and it still did not deliver precise data”, Heiko S. states.
The picture shows Markus Deininger, Project Manager c-Com, and Heiko S., Team Leader Tools thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck.
Cooperated closely to align c-Com to thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck’s needs: Markus Deininger, (Project Manager c-Com, left) und Heiko S. (Team Lead Tools at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.   ©MAPAL

c-Com improved this significantly. Hobbing tools are so-called serialised tool. Deininger explains what this means: “A serialised tool is uniquely identifiable due to the material number assigned only to it. Through the serialisation, we can attach all technical data to the tool’s digital twin in our platform. You thus know the tool’s condition and exactly where it is. This is useful for key tools that are very important for the process chain.”

Heiko S. can now follow every single tool in Lifecycle Management and sees how much longer the worker can use it, when it has to be reground and when the hob has to be reordered. The Tool Assistant app makes it easy for the employees to assign a tool to a specific task. When the tool is no longer fit for production, the employee removes it from the system. The condition has to be selected and recorded – i.e., was the tool removed because it was broken or worn out? Only very few entries must be made in the app for this. The tool is then automatically prepared for shipment to be reground.

An employee scans a code on tool packaging.
Since c-Com was introduced, employees no longer just take tools out of the warehouse. They now also simultaneously allocate them to a certain machining operation. As Roberto R., machine setter in the milling area, demonstrates, tools used in production are booked back into the system just as easily.   ©MAPAL

The regrinding partner also has access to c-Com and the pertinent information, so they know which tool to expect and how many parts it has machined. Upon return delivery, a note is made as to what tooth length has been ground and how often the tool can still be used. Many parts of the system are automated to provide the customer with the best data quality possible.

Jana S. is an employee in the big tool warehouse and works with c-Com every day to book goods movements internally as well as for external suppliers. She enters the tools in the system and gathers all the relevant data. Shipment for regrinding used to entail handwritten lists with 20 to 30 items. Nowadays, the job is done with a few mouse clicks. She used to have to search the factory for tools, so she really appreciates the tracking capabilities: “It’s a big relief to know where every single hobbing tool is now.”

Tool expenditures made transparent

The new transparency also enables more precise calculation, Lars B. relates: “We now see exactly how much we spend on each product. This was not known to us in this level of detail before. We booked most goods to machines, and it wasn’t clear which product caused an expenditure. Now we can anticipate costs.” The difference is sometimes considerable. Where tool costs of 18 cents were calculated for certain parts, in reality a mere 2 cents were spent.  
Lars B., Technical Head at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck GmbH.
“The investment in c-Com has definitely paid off”, Lars B., Technical Head at thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck, assures. “The reduction of inventory brings us enormous benefits because storage costs are ultimately lost costs.”   ©MAPAL
“We can show that c-Com has achieved savings of 85 percent compared to the previously assumed costs”, comments Markus Deininger. Based on the analysis, thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck has significantly reduced its tool inventory of hobs. Information regarding the condition of individual tools and allocation to certain machining operations allow the workers to identify unusually high wear and tear early on and to figure out the cause. “In this way, we can react promptly before faults lead to production downtime”, Lars B. reports.

Red bars mean bottlenecks

Based on target figures for parts to be produced, the Tool Planning module presents information about how long required tool will last, taking all the possible regrinding processes into account. This inventory range analysis is meant to prevent bottlenecks even when production is ramped up. Tool Planning is a big help for Heiko S.: “I can now find all the information I need for my job at a glance. Red bars show me areas I have to examine because there could be a disparity between inventory and need for the products we are manufacturing.” The dashboard also shows the tool costs and consumption on particular machines.

The pilot project with the hobbing tools was a big success for Lars B.. “The investment in c-Com has definitely paid off”, the Technical Head assures. “The warehouse was intransparent in some places. The reduction of inventory brings us enormous benefits because storage costs are ultimately losses.”

In the next step, c-Com is to be employed for the non-serialised tools. The company is unable to allocate them to particular machining operations for the simple reason that worn-out indexable inserts and drills are often just thrown out without recording their tool life. Whenever a tool is checked out in c-Com, a record is made regarding the machine and part the tool is used for. It is also possible to see in retrospect how many parts the tool produced. When procuring new machines, thyssenkrupp Presta Schönebeck wants to ensure that they already have the software to exchange information with c-Com via an interface. 

Kathrin Rehor, PR Project Manager at MAPAL


Kathrin Rehor Public Relations Kathrin.Rehor@mapal.com Phone: +49 7361 585 3342

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