Reliable and efficient quality assurance
Per-Erik Edman, Quality Assurance Engineer at Zinkteknik, explains the challenges of achieving zero-defect production in his specialty field of zinc die-casting: “With quantities of 30 to 40 million for just one single part in a year, our volumes are so high that there’s no chance of inspecting each individual part. This prompted us to implement in-process monitoring to ensure the quality of the parts we produce.” Edman’s team had already reduced the complaint rate to less than ten per year and series – a very low figure in relation to the enormous volumes involved. Now the question was: how to improve on that success and attain zero-defect production? “As it is often the case, the last step is the most difficult. But we had a stroke of luck: one of our customers, a Tier 1 supplier, recommended us to take a look at test automation solutions from Kistler,” Edman continues.
Shortly after making first contact with Kistler in 2016, Zinkteknik ordered a KVC-821 – the latest-generation automated test and sorting system for end-of-line quality assurance. Zinkteknik’s engineers joined forces with Kistler’s image processing experts to determine the best camera configuration for identifying faulty automotive safety parts. “When we visited Germany to work on the fault analysis with the Kistler team, we had a very open discussion on what is possible and how best to achieve the desired results. The Kistler experts were also very clear about what was not possible – and at the same time, they explored various alternative ways of meeting the challenge.”
With the help of the KVC-821 from Kistler, Zinkteknik was able to efficiently check millions of manufactured zinc parts for geometry and surface defects – and before long, they reached the all-important zero-defect goal. “The result was very convincing”, Edman recalls. “We supply one of our biggest customers with critical automotive parts that are intended to save lives – and we no longer received any complaints whatsoever from that customer.”
"The result is very convincing. We supply one of our biggest customers with critical automotive parts that are intended to save lives – and we no longer receive any complaints whatsoever from that customer."
Per-Erik Edman, Quality Assurance Engineer at Zinkteknik
Fully automated end-of-line testing and sorting
Encouraged by this success, Zinkteknik then explored the possibility of integrating more test automation cells from Kistler into its production lines so as to achieve perfect results from other manufacturing projects. Zinkteknik now operates seven KVC-821 test systems to monitor production of five different parts - with two more systems to come in the near future: another one for the Swedish site, and the first one for Bosnia. Karl Persson, Production Engineer at Zinkteknik, explains the process: “We started out by using the first machine from Kistler as a standalone solution, so some steps had to be performed manually. But naturally, we wanted to integrate the test cells into our fully automated production lines. At a certain point, we realized that we could only achieve that goal by thinking big.”
Zinkteknik responded to this new challenge by expanding its Swedish production site in 2018 to accommodate full integration of the end-of-line testing solutions from Kistler, which are now installed in a new hall. “We currently have seven machines connected to our automated production lines, so we can easily balance varying volumes of different parts during the year. As a last step, we additionally integrated a fully automated forklift feed,” Persson adds. “We've been operating test automation systems in real production for about three years now, and we've received tremendous support from Kistler throughout that time. Their team was always standing by to answer our questions, they supported us with overcoming many challenges, and they even helped to generate new business opportunities for Zinkteknik.”
The success of zero-defect production has opened up new avenues of approach to the company's existing customers as well as opportunities to win new business. As Kenneth Magnusson, Sales Engineer at Zinkteknik, confirms: “When I visit customers, sales engineers from Kistler are ready to provide support as soon as we ask them. This adds weight to our presentations at meetings with potential customers. And that's yet another reason why we are so appreciative of our partnership with Kistler, and why we want to step up our collaboration with them as time goes on.”