Formenbau KRUG | Breidenbach, Germany

To cope with the dynamics of day-to-day business in mold making and minimize lead times, an agile planning and control system is needed. Formenbau KRUG has it: The Hummingbird Manufacturing Execution System makes work inventories and related data available at the right time and in the right place, allowing fast reactions.

When deadlines or customer requirements change again, when a machine or personnel fails in production, when a work shift is needed more or less, then it often comes to the crunch. "Our previous planning via the ERP system was good, but not optimal. We knew what was coming up in the next few weeks of planning, but we always had to intervene manually when changes occurred," says Timo Blöcher, authorized signatory at Formenbau KRUG. Changing situations are part of the daily business in the industry.

In such cases, even the order processing system of paper-run cards with barcodes for booking transactions reached its limits. Then printed weekly schedules were outdated, a lot of paper had to be replaced, and the back-booking and re-booking of tasks via scanner created effort and cost time. For this reason, and to better realize business goals, Formenbau KRUG sought greater efficiency. The aim was to be able to react more quickly and to plan more transparently and in real-time. Throughput and idle times were to be reduced, and utilization rates and capacity utilization were to increase.

 – Agile team boards, a component of the Hummingbird MES, enable each team to carry out detailed planning of people and resources for positions or components using drag and drop.

Agile team boards, a component of the Hummingbird MES, enable each team to carry out detailed planning of people and resources for positions or components using drag and drop.

“We can see the utilization of individual machines and areas directly, plan better overall, reschedule immediately in new situations and see the effects directly.”

Timo Blöcher, authorized signatory at Formenbau KRUG

For good reasons: Formenbau KRUG is part of the Krug Group and is based in Breidenbach in central Hesse. 70 employees manufacture die casting and injection molds there, which go to the sister company Kunststofftechnik KRUG, but a large volume also finds external customers. In the face of tough global competition, it is important to work profitably at the German location. Time-to-market is becoming increasingly important. To this end, KRUG relies on digitization, engineering also with the aid of CAD simulation, and consistent and reliable project and customer management via a fixed contact person. In addition, the mold maker offers an all-around service for 360-degree mold management for the complete lifecycle process from planning, data management, engineering, and manufacturing to maintenance.

Against this background, the company was looking for a manufacturing execution system (MES) for production planning and control to complement its existing ERP system. It was a stroke of luck that Schubert Software & Systeme, the ERP partner of many years from Amberg in the Upper Palatinate, cooperated with an MES provider that, like Schubert, specializes in solutions for tool and mold making. The Nuremberg-based companies Hummingbird Systems and Hummingbird Services jointly developed and sell an MES for agile production planning and clocked production control, which is used in particular in single-item manufacturing companies with fewer than 15 to more than 400 employees throughout Europe.

In single-part and small-batch production, MESs are often still uncharted territory. There are only a few, they mostly come from the commercial sector or cannot optimally map the dynamics in mold making. This also applies to systems from series production; they are too rigid in production planning and control for this industry, explains Marcus Kalbacher, Managing Director of Hummingbird Services. "Our smart MES, on the other hand, is fast and agile like its namesake, the hummingbird. Thanks to its agile methods, the production of small batches can be planned and controlled efficiently and flexibly - in the spirit of Industry 4.0."

The modular system was specially developed for tool and mold making, machine and plant construction, and the machining of individual parts and small batch production. It plans and controls production in real-time so that the right data or the approved information is available digitally at the right time and in the right place. Mobile devices can also be used for data input and output.

From KRUG's point of view, the system promised to meet all the requirements. Another decisive factor for the choice was that the established ERP system from Schubert works smoothly together with the Hummingbird MES. "We have not found the combination of ERP and MES in this implementation level and functional depth anywhere else on the market," judges Timo Blöcher. This tipped the scales in the competitive comparison.

CAD, CAM and assembly work can also be planned in the Hummingbird MES.

Benefits immediately visible

Three weeks after the introduction of the MES, astonishing findings were already apparent. The development of synchronized block production is well underway, and in some cases, deadlines are already being planned with a quarter less lead time. Take EDM, for example: The process was previously not clocked, each department planned for itself when it would start and finish. After entering the necessary data, the MES now helps to schedule dates, machines and personnel automatically and in a capacity-oriented manner. And that's not all: automatic shopfloor data collection (shopfloor data collection) and automatic machine data collection (machine data collection) make manual feedback of operations superfluous, as this is done automatically. Idle times, backlogs or overcapacities as well as emerging problems are immediately visible. Earlier than before it is possible to recognize: Do expectations come true? And if not, where exactly is the problem?

Automation and digitization now rule the shop floor. Instead of routing slips, there is an on-screen workstation at each machine that displays a digital Hummingbird job list. If the schedule is changed, the job lists automatically re-sort themselves in real-time. The order of jobs is automatically sorted and prioritized based on scheduling. Conversely, it becomes immediately clear when a plan is getting out of hand. Previously, this could only be detected with considerable effort because no real-time feedback was available. "If you don't know something, you can't improve it. Now you know and see it in real-time and can react accordingly," concludes Marcus Kalbacher.

Unstructured work with extra effort is also prevented. For example, when milling, the task is only visible in the digital job list when the material and the NC programs for it are available. Employees can focus their work because what is visible in the job list is also available at the workstation. All tasks are coordinated and distributed in the MES. In addition to the ERP system, all three CAM systems as well as the milling and wire cutting machines from KRUG are also connected. The agile Hummingbird MES takes over and manages versions of all NC programs for the corresponding machines and makes them available on schedule and in a process-safe manner based on the current planning and control.

The highest possible transparency at all levels, from component and operation to workstation and team to rough, detailed planning and overall project, is one of the greatest advantages of the system. KRUG's production staff can now organize themselves better because they have their worklist visible in front of them over a longer period than before. In the event of problems or necessary changes, the next task is processed directly without further inquiry. CAD, CAM and assembly work is also now scheduled in the MES, so that a complete manufacturing process overview is now available in real-time, facilitating further planning and decision-making. "We can see the capacity utilization of individual machines and areas directly, plan better overall, reschedule immediately in new situations, and see the effects directly," says Timo Blöcher, describing the advantages.

The detailed component planning in the Hummingbird MES uses traffic light colours from green to red to immediately signal where there is free capacity or where things are getting tight.

ERP and MES complement each other

It has turned out that splitting the competencies into ERP on the one hand and MES on the other hand makes a lot of sense. "Tool and mold making is turning strongly in the direction of Industry 4.0. Just as in the commercial area for ERP systems, special know-how is needed here in the technical area for MES, which has to develop further in each case. These are two quite different fields, but they can complement each other well," says Jens Meschede, Key Account Manager at Schubert Software & Systeme.

In this case, this is also done automatically. For example, order processes initiated in the MES are automatically transferred to and the completion is then fed back. The perfect integration also surprised KRUG: "During the introduction phase, it was not noticed that there were two systems. The project participants from Schubert, Hummingbird and us cooperated very purposefully and smoothly to harmonize the systems," praises Timo Blöcher. It should be added that the system commissioning of the MES does not require any installations and can therefore be implemented quickly - according to Hummingbird, this is unique in the market.

The MES tool management system at KRUG has not yet been finalized. However, there are still further optimization loops to be turned anyway. However, it can already be seen that a lot of time and personnel effort is saved because the comprehensive coordination and information provided by the MES makes queries and coordination unnecessary and creates free space, and because planning projects that have been created once can be duplicated in the MES, thus saving input effort for similar projects. Marcus Kalbacher quantified the overall advantages for KRUG: "Purely arithmetically and based on similar MES customer projects, one could say that our project with KRUG can bring a capacity gain of at least one milling machine or about two employees per year."

Photos: KRUG/Hummingbird

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