The key to success is synergy

Process optimization at BINDER GmbH

Automated machinery at the BINDER factory in Tuttlingen.
(PresseBox) ( Tuttlingen, )
BINDER GmbH in Tuttlingen, Germany is the largest specialty manufacturer of simulation chambers for science and industry in the world. The products with the characteristic red triangle are used in hospitals and laboratories, as well as in the automobile industry for non-destructive material testing. BINDER is also one of the few manufacturers of climate simulation chambers that uses the advantages of mass production. With the construction of a new production hall, production is now process oriented, material flow is optimized and warehousing is minimized. However, not only is the reorganization crucial for success of the company, but also the inclusion of employees in the new concept.

With the new 4,000 m² production hall fully operational in the summer, BINDER has not only created the conditions for further growth and expansion of its capacity, but also made the conversion of manufacturing processes into a nearly linear system possible. Climate simulation chambers are manufactured in lot sizes of 1 to 300 units per day. The shipping company comes twice each day to pick up the units. Sophisticated planning ensures that only a small inventory of standard products is stored by the shipping company. The inventory of finished products is compared to the forecast in the production plan and production adjusted accordingly.

Warehousing costs money, not only for finished products. As a result, there is a continuous effort to further minimize inventory of even individual components. A computer assigns a storage location to each part. Lost time due to searching is avoided.

The road for every BINDER chamber starts with punching and bending the housing. The in-house metal work is one of the core competencies of the company. State-of-the-art CNC-controlled machines are available. Automated production not only has advantages in terms of accuracy, flexibility and fault avoidance, but also has an impact on the construction of the chambers. The inner chamber is bent by machine and the side walls deep-drawn. For incubators used in medical research laboratories or other laboratories with a high standard of sterility, for example, seamless deep-drawn inner chambers are manufactured with no interfering fixtures or edges that could be potential contamination spots. At the same time, usable space is increased and the need for manual cleaning reduced.

At various assembly islands, the electronic controls come into being with the characteristic red BINDER triangles on the doors and other modules such as compressors, steam modules, motors and pumps. Defined interim storage serves as a material buffer between the processes.

The arrangement of the assembly lines in the new production hall was inspired by process optimization in the automobile industry. At each workstation, employees have direct access to the specific parts to be processed. The individual steps are synchronized, so that the simulation chambers travel on the assembly line from station to station at uniform intervals. On a separate line, the individual chambers emerge, i.e. simulation chambers deviating from the standard designs to accomodate unique customer's requirements.

The chambers coming off the assembly line are tested 100% at the final inspection and calibrated. Only those that pass without complaint are then subject to an external control and shipped with all necessary documents. A truck from the shipping company is always docked at the production hall to pick up the finished units.

Thanks to the use of optimized, just-in-time serial production, BINDER can offer many equipment features standard, which are only available from the competition as optional equipment. Consistently high quality and state-of-the-art technology contribute to the international reputation of the company.

Production manager Jörg Nauel explains, "Process optimization is working so well because we've all been included in the new concept as employees, which we integrate in the so-called DRM, daily routine management. There is a team board on each production line, on which the defined KPIs such as FPY, KVP, 5-A, work safety or the corresponding production goals are specified. Progress towards the goal is marked on the board each day. A plant-wide board with current information about all lines can be viewed by everyone, even visitors, at the entrance to the plant.

There are 5-A audits in all processes that the foreman performs with his team, the results of which he records on a form. In this way, each employee is constantly reminded how we want to work and why. Let's take a simple, but enlightening example of tool cabinets. A picture hangs in each cabinet that illustrates where each tool should hang, so that every employee knows exactly where to find it. In addition, the picture also makes immediately clear what may be missing or needs to be added. The status of all lines is reviewed and continuously optimized
every month based on the 5-A method."

The investment in the new production hall and realignment of production has meant several benefits for the employees. They have more space at their workstations, equipment at the workstations has been optimized and there are new common areas. More importantly, however, employees feel included, their opinions are valued and their contributions acknowledged. "For the success of the concept, it is crucial that employees buy in. Only then we can achieve progress and continuously optimize processes," says Jörg Nauel.

"Lean production" is the first step for BINDER in a future-oriented strategy. In the final expansion phase, more than 15,000 m² of production area will be available at the Tuttlingen site. In just five years, according to the ambitious plan, 33,000 units should leave the plant per year, which would mean double current revenue.
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