Manufacturing Footprint – the answer to global requirements
The UNITED GRINDING Group’s manufacturing plant concept entails the international cooperation of many locations in machine manufacturing. This guarantees consistent quality worldwide and engineering expertise in all markets.
The company's Global Manufacturing Footprint - i.e. the worldwide distribution of production and service locations and their interaction with each other - is the answer to the question of how companies organize their worldwide production and the connecting logistics flows. The UNITED GRINDING Group created the manufacturing plant concept for this purpose according to the principle of the Global Manufacturing Footprint. "This project required enormous cultural changes - from the classic machine tool manufacturer with individual order processing with all known issues to the manufacturer of standardized basic machines, which nevertheless allow flexibility for customer-specific solutions," explains Stephan Nell, CEO of the UNITED GRINDING Group.
The first stage in production are the so-called production facilities. There are three of them worldwide, besides Steffisburg in Kuřim in the Czech Republic and Shanghai in China. The basic machines are built at these locations. "A basic machine consists of about 1500 parts," explains Karin Raemy, Head of Final Assembly at STUDER. It contains all parts from the individual screw to the machine bed. Many parts are produced in-house - such as castings that are milled - while others are purchased. Basic parts for all eight company brands can be produced in each of the three production facilities, although parts for all models of a brand cannot be produced everywhere. The design sovereignty remains unrestricted with the brand. With an initial quality control, which includes laser measurement of the axles, ends the production in Steffisburg. The basic machine is then shipped to a location at the next stage of production: the so-called assembly plants.
There are a total of eight such assembly plants worldwide - from Biel and Etziken in Switzerland to Shanghai. In Kuřim and Steffisburg, assembly is carried out as flow assembly, which significantly increases flexibility in delivery. At some locations, two or even three of the production stages are represented. The fact that all three are located in Shanghai is due to the importance of the machine tool market there. "We produce, assemble and make system adaptations there in order to be close to our market and to be able to offer solutions tailored to the needs of our customers," explains Stephan Nell.
In the system houses, the machines are finally equipped with customer applications, software, automation and cabling specific to customer specifications. "Our machines are usually purchased for certain parts and have to meet special requirements in terms of output quantities, cycle times and accuracy," explains Sven Lasch. "That's what we're setting up here." Before the customer acceptance test grinding with customer parts also takes place. "We prove to the customer that a gear shaft, for example, can be machined within the agreed time and quality." The distribution of the system houses, from Miamisburg (USA) in the west to Shanghai (China) in the east, corresponds to the global orientation of the UNITED GRINDING Group. The demands placed on the system houses' services vary from country to country. "Most of our customers don't just buy a machine, they buy a process," says Dr. Michael Gebhardt, Vice President of Operations at UNITED GRINDING North America, describing the requirements of the US market for the system house in Miamisburg. "They bring us their workpiece and we provide them with a turnkey solution."
Decentralization and centralization are the poles between which manufacturing footprint models basically move, explains Prof. Gisela Lanza, Head of the Production Systems Group at the wbk Institute of Production Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. "Decentralized production primarily brings market proximity so that companies can adapt their products to local requirements and offer a wide range of variations," says the production specialist. "Centralized production, on the other hand, enables utilization of economies of scale and scope in order to make optimum use of resources and knowledge along the entire network. A model such as the UNITED GRINDING Group's production plant concept combines the advantages of both variants.
Eleven locations across three production stages, belonging to eight company brands – the UNITED GRINDING Group’s manufacturing plant concept forms a widely ramified network, which is controlled by the Global Operation Board, on which the COOs of the three technology groups sit together. A central quality manager and a central purchasing department have also been established in Berne. In addition, the individual brands and locations are to operate as independent units. Logistics and the exchange of information between the sites, for example, will be organized on a decentralized basis. The overarching corporate philosophy PuLs® - precision and passion - is responsible for the success of the UNITED GRINDING Group's Manufacturing Footprints concept. "With PuLs® we want to optimize processes, avoid waste and help our customers to be even more successful," says Nell. "One thing is clear: I can only build a precise machine from precisely manufactured parts." A claim that the UNITED GRINDING Group fulfills for its customers all over the world on the same level.
Why did the UNITED GRINDING Group choose the manufacturing plant concept?
This concept guarantees flexibility, global presence and consistent international quality. In China and Czechia production is carried out to the same standards as in Switzerland.
What is the role of the PuLs® concept here?
PuLs®, the company-wide philosophy for process optimization, establishes the guidelines for the manufacturing plant concept. The result is stable and efficient processes.
What are the advantages for the customer?
The key advantages are quality, regional focus and punctual delivery. The Group offers the same high quality throughout the world. It provides engineering expertise directly in the markets and offers consultancy services in the local language. Delivery dates are adhered to, with over 98 percent of basic machines delivered exactly on time.