Maintenance made easy
Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems revamps their software management with versiondog
Even if a production stoppage only seems to be lasting long, it's still too long. For this reason, the maintenance department at Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems in Wülfrath decided to incorporate the versiondog software solution for managing their device programs. Now all data – including circuit diagrams, user guides and other forms of documentation about every device – is centrally available.
The Knorr-Bremse Group’s Center of Competence for Steering, based in Wülfrath, Germany, was renamed in 2017 and is now officially known as Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems GmbH. The company, formally known as tedrive Steering Systems GmbH, became a subsidiary of the Knorr-Bremse Group at the beginning of 2016. In the words of the Knorr-Bremse Group: "the product synergies between Knorr-Bremse’s core competency of braking and its recently acquired expertise in steering systems is helping to lay the foundations to take the complex driving functionalities of driver assistance systems and automated driving to the next level."
The Wülfrath-based production plants combine the manufacture of individual parts with a high level of vertical integration. This is what distinguishes them from other locations, who generally place greater emphasis on assembly. The machinery at the Wülfrath production plants is therefore different. New technology, such as collaborative robots (Cobots), is being tested in the appropriate sections of the plants, with maintenance always closely involved.
The company pursues uniform production standards as a matter of course, and quality assurance has set itself correspondingly high standards. All data relevant to QA is collected into a shared data bank. In contrast to maintenance, the individual plants are still relatively self-contained. This is partly due to the substantial difference between the functions performed by the plants.
Even before the acquisition and eventual renaming of the Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems subsidiary, Maintenance Coordinator, Marvin Lindemann, and his team were in talks about introducing versiondog. They wanted to reduce the number of stoppages and the resulting downtime. Although the number was not above average, there were two controller-related factors that were causing downtime to be longer than necessary: the search for the latest version of the control program, and the process of then comparing it with the one currently running on the controller.
The team was also looking for a way to reduce incidences of personnel working on the same project at the same time. When they looked at the versiondog change management software system it seemed very promising. Before the decision to introduce versiondog was made, a pilot project was first initiated, in which two members of staff tested the software on several machines and robots (some new and some that had been in use for a longer period). A number of older DOS interfaces required slight adjustments, thankfully the team's in-depth knowledge made this process relatively straightforward.
"We weighed up the pros and cons and then made the decision to go ahead with introducing versiondog," says Lindemann. Bit by bit, all devices, including their program states, were integrated into versiondog. "By doing this, we were able to gain an overview of our devices, centralise the latest software versions and make them available at all times to those with the necessary rights." The fact that versiondog is able to support a wide range of different manufacturers is a great advantage for Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems. "With this system we can manage our Siemens and FANUC controllers, our KUKA and Stäubli robots, and our SEW and Siemens drives."
The system was set up so that employees always have to enter a change reason. It is not possible to create new versions of a program without following the proper storage and documentation procedures.
Prolonged downtime brought on by the search for the latest version is now a thing of the past. Thanks to the integrated documentation functions, the company is saving time and has achieved a greater level of clarity. It is also clear, even to those working different shifts, WHO changed WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY. In production plants like the ones in Wülfrath, where three different shifts are run, this transparency is a factor not to be underestimated. The change history is automatically stored in versiondog. The number of backups retained can be configured. At Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems this number is currently 20, because backups are still being carried out manually. According to Lindemann: "As soon as we introduce automatic backups, we will test to see whether this number needs to be changed."
Maintenance made easy
At present, versiondog is being used to manage around 400 components. The diverse range of different controllers reflects the ongoing gradual renewal of the production equipment. There are different types of PLCs, drives, CNCs and robots from numerous different manufacturers. In line with the process of centralising data, device documentation has also been integrated into versiondog. Marvin Lindemann: "We have created a component in which we put the device operating instructions in PDF form." Centralised data storage means that there is no more need to search for the latest version of the software and it also ensures that the corresponding user guide is always available. Employees can directly monitor the machine according to their needs and rights.
According to Lindemann, this has led to another important development: "In addition to documentation, all circuit diagrams are now accessible on-site. In this way," Lindemann explains, "we have incorporated everything that maintenance requires."
With regard to the estimated return on investment, Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems has calculated numerous possible scenarios, all of which conclude that the investment will pay off in less than 3 years. Marvin Lindemann: "The greatest benefit that versiondog has helped to bring about is the fact that the software has helped us to optimise our day-to-day work. "Extended downtime, once caused by not being able to find the latest version of the program, no longer occurs.
The Supplier Check-Out, one of the standard versiondog features, enables external personnel to carry out their work using versiondog. According to the Lindemann, the response from externals has been positive. They even say they find the system "cool". Internal employees are also able to see what changes were carried out by external programmers. If problems occur on a device, they are able to respond immediately without the need for outside help.
One glance at Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems' versiondog GU interface shows that they are operating with the latest version. Lindemann: "We like to make sure that we have all available functions and features. Regular updates from AUVESY makes this very easy." The company also finds it easy to teach its employees how to use the versiondog software. At present, nine staff members from maintenance are undertaking training at Knorr-Bremse SteeringSystems, in Wülfrath, to learn how to use versiondog. Two days are generally all that is needed. But what if at some point they get stuck? Marvin Lindemann is not worried: "We almost never have to contact Support. And the one time that something did come up, it was resolved on the same day."
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