“My aim is to turn quality assurance and quality management into a modern-day service provider”, says Frank Gläser, Head of Quality Assurance at elumatec. Trained as an industrial mechanic, he joined the global market leader in systems for machining aluminium, PVC and steel profiles in 1997 – so he knows all our products inside out and is fully aware of what
Frank Gläser’s emotional connection to elumatec goes back to his childhood. “When I was in primary school I went past the site twice a day”, says the 43-year-old. “My heart belongs to the company.” Having grown up in nearby Großglattbach, in June 1997 he began his elumatec career in the final assembly department, where he quickly realized the importance of working with high-quality products. “No matter how small the problem is, you have to intervene quickly to make sure that it doesn’t affect other products as well”, he explains. His experiences led him to switch to Quality Assurance in 2001, and since 2013 he has been head of the department.
Working hand in hand
At elumatec, quality assurance is conducted at various stages in production. Ten staff members, divided into three teams, ensure that all is as it should be. Purchased or externally manufactured parts are inspected on arrival, all components produced in-house are examined as part of the mechanical manufacturing process, and the outgoing goods and machine acceptance team carries out the final inspection. “As part of our high quality standards, we in Quality Assurance subject the machines to an additional test before delivery,” says Gläser. “This four-eyes principle helps us significantly increase the quality we supply to our customers.” Regardless of which team the staff belong to, all activities are governed by the scheduled and prioritized inspection lots in elumatec’s ERP system. Each staff member works independently in accordance with their capabilities and expertise, while ensuring they are on the same page as their team colleagues at all times. “For elumatec, quality is a way of working that affects all areas of the company and all staff”, says Gläser, “so it’s crucial to maintain constant communication with regard to potential problems. We don’t see mistakes as inherently bad – instead they give you the chance to improve.”
Teams of three inspect parts for potential defects.
Copyright: elumatec AG
Putting parts through their paces
When inspecting parts and machines, the Quality Assurance team distinguishes between qualitative and quantitative characteristics to determine whether the components and materials meet the technical specifications. “We use coordinate measuring equipment or laser position measuring systems to carry out a target/actual comparison”, explains Gläser. “The system automatically checks whether the indicated values meet the specifications.” Deviations are displayed in a traffic light colour system depending on the severity, making clear which steps the team has to take next. As the margin of discretion is minimal, there are clear rules as to who is authorized to issue approval if a deviation is discovered. “You could say we’re the sheriffs round these parts”, laughs Gläser.
Parts produced in-house are examined in detail in the measurement laboratory.
Purchased or externally manufactured parts are inspected on arrival.
Although the quality characteristics to be tested primarily depend on the internal and external requirements, the customer’s own specifications are also crucial. Plans for testing these points are drawn up, with scope for fine-tuning and enhancement as and when required. “Our test plans are not set in stone”, says Gläser. “We add new test points and values depending on the requirements and area of application in each case.” The customer is always at the heart of the Quality Assurance team’s work: “Every minute of machine downtime costs money, so our job is to make sure our customers have everything they need to work as efficiently as possible”, says the head of department.
A machine must pass a number of tests before delivery.
The accelerating digital transformation also has a large role to play: as technologies and applications develop increasingly quickly and become ever more complex, the quality characteristics to be tested have to be adapted to the new requirements. “As the machines evolve, so the plans evolve with them”, says Gläser, who adds: “We can’t afford to be left behind – the more complex the technology, the more important testing becomes.”
Acting, not reacting
Quality management also falls within Gläser’s remit. Controlling processes, managing interfaces between different areas of the business and optimizing production sequences are some of the key responsibilities for the head of department, who believes that developing advanced control systems for upstream processes will only grow in importance in future. “If you take proactive measures, you can avoid having to react to problems at short notice”, he says. For Gläser, thinking ahead and in terms of overall processes is the only way to ensure the right measures are adopted and a definitive solution is found for all problems. In fact, he considers the transition to a process-oriented business to be elumatec’s biggest challenge. “We have to establish this way of thinking in our heads. But we need to go about it carefully, as every change affects our staff, who after all are the heartbeat of our company.”