These are the key assets of any supplier, according to the maintenance team at Continental’s tire plant in Aachen, Germany, and Cimcorp delivers all three
Dietmar Jobes has a challenging job: as Maintenance Manager at Continental Aachen, he is responsible for the technical availability of all the tire factory’s production machinery and handling systems, from the tire curing process to the finished tire warehouse. This means that he and his department of 60 staff – mechanical, electrical and software engineers and fitters – must continuously review the condition and analyze the performance of some 400 machines. Among them are 15 handling robots supplied by Cimcorp for the plant’s final finishing area buffer, palletizing buffer and rickrack palletizing area.
Ranking among the top five automotive suppliers worldwide, Continental produces a whole host of equipment for personal and commercial vehicles, from braking systems to networked communication solutions. Tire manufacture at the Aachen facility is highly complex. About 1,600 staff are employed in the production of tires of various kinds in sizes from 15” to 20”, resulting in an impressive 530 tire types at the plant, with 100-110 types being manufactured each day. Over half of tires produced at Aachen are conventional tires, while over a third are run-flat tires.
Built on trust
To be successful in its objective of maximizing the uptime of the production and handling equipment, the maintenance team at Aachen needs reliable partners.
“The most important factors in terms of co-operation with a supplier,” explains Dietmar Jobes, “are trust, competence and availability.”
Cimcorp has been working with Continental for over eight years, having supplied a number of robotic handling solutions for the tire division. At the Aachen facility, Cimcorp has delivered two large projects recently. The first involved moving a palletizing buffer system that was originally installed at Continental’s plant at Clairoix in France to the Aachen site in 2011. The second was an extensive retrofitting of the final finishing area buffer, completed during the two-week Christmas shutdown in 2012-2013.
Obviously, the length of co-operation between the two companies contributes to the aspect of trust.
Dietmar Jobes adds, “The fact that there is one contact person at Cimcorp who is responsible for meeting our needs and who has worked with us for several years is another key element of the confidence we feel.”
When it comes to competence, it is not only the ability to deliver an optimum solution that is under the microscope. ”We can really get a feel for the competence of a supplier when problems arise,” says Mr Jobes.
”Resolving issues quickly is imperative in a business such as ours.” This obviously links in with availability, which Cimcorp provides through its 24/7 customer support hotline.
”This is underpinned by personal relationships,” explains Dietmar Jobes. “We have the mobile phone numbers of key people with whom we have worked for a number of years.”
Support around the clock
Although the production department is responsible for the operation of the machines at the plant, the maintenance department must ensure the technical availability of the equipment – including the curing presses, uniformity measuring machines, inspection systems, robots and transport systems.
“The worst thing to happen would be a software failure that stops a machine or system totally,” explains Jobes.
”Mechanical failures are easier to solve – by repairing or changing a part – but it can take time to resolve an IT problem. If the control of the system is disrupted, the results can be dramatic. And if a machine or handling system stops totally, it immediately affects the whole production line and causes losses in output. This is why we have the 24/7 hotline service agreement with Cimcorp,” continues Dietmar Jobes.
“Our operators can call Cimcorp directly and the customer support team there has remote access to our system, so they can see what has happened and solve any software problems. Help is only a ’phone call away.”
Cimcorp is also contracted to undertake routine maintenance of the robotic system every six months.
”Cimcorp has worked out a maintenance plan that includes all the required measures – and their costs – right up until 2017,” says Jobes.
Continental’s philosophy when it comes to maintenance is to be thorough and pro-active.
“Our key principles are: (1) Do it right first time; (2) Do it as quickly as possible; and (3) Do it as cost-effectively as possible,” explains Dietmar Jobes.
”There is, of course, a little contradiction between the second and third points,” he admits. ”If you do something quickly, you cannot always do it cost-efficiently, but we have to try to reach the optimum compromise between these two.”
We must employ predictive maintenance techniques to ensure that we don’t face any unplanned stoppages.
Dietmar Jobes has a clear vision for the future of the maintenance team. ”Now is the time for predictive maintenance,” he says. ”In the past, we often reacted to errors and failures, waiting for something to break down and then repairing it. We cannot afford to work like that any more. We must employ predictive maintenance techniques to ensure that we don’t face any unplanned stoppages. As many of our machines operate to their limits, with nothing in reserve, it’s no mean feat to ensure that they stay operational all the time.”
TEXT: PAULA OVASKAINEN & HEIDI SCOTT PHOTOS: ARTO HELIN
Read more about the Continental Retrofit Case
Cimcorp’s robotic systems installations at Continental Aachen
Final finishing area buffer for the sorting of PCR tires arriving from the visual inspection area and going to the uniformity measuring machines.
Palletizing buffer for the sorting of PCR tires arriving from the uniformity measuring machines, and robots for the rick-rack palletization of finished tires.
Cimcorp’s WCS (Warehouse Control Software) for controlling the flow and storage.