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issue: April 2004 Appliance Magazine Special Section: BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgerte GmbH

BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH
Dishwashers

Dillingen: Washing Its Way to Success


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by Tina Grady

BSH's Dillingen plant has almost doubled its product output during the past decade, even with a significant staff reduction. How? It pairs training, employee motivation, and its own product-development process to maintain its market-leader position.

BSH's Dillingen, Germany plant, which was originally intended to only be an automatic supplier plant, has developed into one of the company's biggest facilities and is now the center of competence for its Dishwasher Area.

 

 
ON LOCATION
APPLIANCE traveled to Dillingen, Germany to tour BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH's dishwasher plant.
 

The Dillingen plant, founded in 1960 as a Bosch company, started with the production of temperature devices and automobile fuel pumps. Now, it produces more than 2 million dishwashers per year and has been instrumental in the division as a whole, developing nine out of the dishwasher industry's 16 breakthrough innovations during the last 24 years.

This is no easy task for a facility that has continued to increase its production - since 1990, it has nearly doubled its output of dishwashers - while decreasing staff. To accomplish this task, the plant continues to work on its efficiency and automates where it is able to, says Egbert Classen, vice president and head of Technology, Dishwasher Area. "This means more production with less people," Mr. Classen says. "But this does not necessarily mean automation is always the answer." Mr. Classen maintains that "efficiency is not only related to robots." When compared with Miele, AEG, and Whirlpool, the Dillingen plant has less automation in its assembly area, according to Mr. Classen. "In all this time, we have increased the output and reduced headcount at the same time," he explains. "We don't want to have a fully automated assembly line.

"Equilibrium is what you have to find," Mr. Classen continues. "Maybe this is part of our success."

Dishwasher Area Vanguard

Dillingen's success is a large contribution to BSH, but just part of the overall BSH Dishwasher Area's success. The BSH Dishwasher Area - which bases itself on short-, mid-, and long-term goals and planning that it defines through product road maps and subsequent project planning - is the smallest enterprise of BSH's four white-goods areas. Although only 16 percent of BSH's overall sales are from this product area, it still remains a major player in the dishwasher marketplace. The area as a whole is number one worldwide (based on value), with an 18-percent worldwide market share (excluding the OEM lines it produces, 19 percent with the OEM), according to BSH. When asked whether the BSH Dishwasher Area will slide into the number-one position that Whirlpool currently occupies, Mr. Classen replies, "Possibly one day, as we are very close."

 
This testing area at the Dillingen, Germany factory is used after all of the dishwasher's internal components parts have been added. The area contains a testing carousel where electrical connections, water inlet, and pumps, and other functional components are tested. APPLIANCE magazine photo.
 

In Europe, Sweden-based AB Electrolux and Italy-based Merloni Elettrodomestici serve as large competitors. BSH's key market is Western Europe, where it holds 20 percent of the market share (7.6 million units).

In Western Europe, the Dishwasher Area is seeing a 3.2-percent market growth, and a 0.4-percent market increase in the U.S. However, saturation levels are very high in Western Europe and the U.S., creating a challenge for BSH. According to BSH, in 2002, the U.S. had a 60-percent saturation level of dishwashers, and Europe was at a 39-percent saturation level. These high saturation levels have led to price erosion, particularly in Western Europe, Mr. Classen contends. As a whole, he says, this year Western Europe has undergone price erosion of -3.6-percent; Germany is at -3-percent price erosion, and Great Britain is at -4 percent. "The market [in Europe] is increasing again a little bit," Mr. Classen points out. "Unfortunately, the price is not following."

Being that BSH started out as a German company, Germany remains a main focus for the Dishwasher Area. However, after BSH acquired the Balay Group, it increased its business in other markets, including Great Britain, France, and Spain. "Before this, there was little activity in this region," Mr. Classen says. "However, now that the activity is on the rise, the Dishwasher Area's many plants are of increasing importance for our success."

As far as market growth and introduction to new markets, Mr. Classen says the dishwasher market "is ripe for introduction" in many areas of the world - especially throughout Southeast Asia and Japan. "But people have to be ready for [this introduction]," he adds. For example, although this view is changing, traditionally, in Japan, dishwashers are viewed as luxury goods. "You need a refrigerator, otherwise you cannot store food," Mr. Classen explains. "You need an oven to cook, unless you want to eat everything raw. If you want everything clean, you need a vacuum. But you can wash by hand, and you cannot refrigerate by hand. Therefore, this is the least-developed market for household appliances."

Dillingen's History

Founded in 1960, the Dillingen factory has a 44-year history, dating back much farther than just a plant that produces dishwashers. After the plant was founded as part of Bosch, it started producing food processors. This was followed by the production of bread cutters, range hoods, and foil-welding machines. By 1974, the company decided it was time for a new building for dishwasher production, which led to the subsequent separation of the Dillingen plant. Upon completion of the new building in 1976, Dillingen focused solely on dishwasher production, and shortly thereafter, many innovations ensued.

During this time, its engineering department was still located off-site. This changed, though, in 1996, when the engineering department was moved from Giengen, Germany to Dillingen. The move was well-timed; that same year, the plant switched to the new GV 630 platform with the "Aqua-Sensor," which contained technology that further reduced water and energy consumption. By 1999, Dillingen had the development of a fully automatic dishwasher under its production belt, and it began the introduction of models with the "AAA" energy label. In 2002, Dillingen produced the "Optosensor," a technology that features a glass spiral protruding into the interior of the dishwasher, which, if coated with limescale, emits a signal to regulate water hardness and prevent limescale build-up. "You can see we've had a constant introduction of innovation - new platforms that include technology and innovation," Mr. Classen says.

With all this technology and innovation, the Dillingen plant alone has produced 30 million dishwashers. The Dishwasher Area as a whole produces the 60-cm, 45-cm, and tabletop dishwasher models, but Dillingen only produces the 60-cm and 45-cm versions (built-in, freestanding, and fully-integrated). It is the biggest of the dishwasher plants, with a total plant area of more than 280,000 sq m, and a useable area of more than 125,000 sq m.

As far as the brands are concerned, Dillingen produces products for the "main brands," which include Bosch and Siemens; "special brands," which include Constructa for the entry- to mid-level pricing scale, Neff for built-in products, and Gaggenau for high-end products; and regional brands that are being used in markets such as Turkey and Spain, as well as for specific chains in Germany. In total, it produces approximately 20 OEM brands.

From Concept to Completion

The production process used to yield the 2 million units annually begins with the division's product development process, which is more commonly referred to as PEP at BSH. This process, which was defined about 5 years ago but not finalized until about 2 years ago, keeps all BSH manufacturing processes under standard conditions so there is no deviation. "We monitor the quality, we monitor the costs, and we monitor the market," Mr. Classen explains.

According to BSH, the PEP is defined for the entire BSH company - for all countries and all product areas. It specifies the process from the product concept, all the way through production, until its entry into the marketplace. This includes the tracking and evaluating, of several areas, including project applications, approvals, production, market introduction, and tracking the product in the marketplace for 1 year after it has been introduced. A review of whether development and release of the product was able to accomplish its set targets is held before the project team is cleared to move forward. Some of the areas reviewed include time frame, investment and costs, and pricing and quality levels. Each of the PEP steps are then marked with specific milestones, which then must be recorded and filed.

The process begins with the product idea phase, or soft phase, which then segues into the hard phase, or the actual development and production process. "Within these two phases, you have different decision steps," Mr. Classen explains. He gives the example of constructing a new building. The PEP incorporates the platform being used as well as the tools being used. Each of the steps is divided. This PEP tool shows the product idea, what the area wants to achieve with it, who is involved, what decisions are made, the basis for each decision, and who made the decision. "It is all precisely defined," Mr. Classen says, "and it is controlled until the final product release."

Dillingen Dishwasher Production

The production process at Dillingen is divided into five major departments: pre-fabrication/fabrication, pre-assembly, assembly, packaging, and support functions. Each department is then further broken down into different areas for the actual production process.

Pre-Fabrication/Fabrication

In the Pre-Fabrication/Fabrication Area of the production process, all the metalworking and injection molding takes place. The pre-fabrication area includes a tool shop, where maintenance and correction of tooling takes place. There are also several sections with this area.

In the Injection Molding Area, three large injection-molding machines are used for the dishwasher bases and a few smaller machines are used for specialty parts such as housings for the dishwasher's pump system.

The Metal Shop, also housed in the Pre-Fabrication/Fabrication Area, is where the majority of the parts formation of the dishwashers takes place. The dishwasher body top and sides are formed here, using the Expander, a key piece of fabrication equipment, which BSH says is exclusively used by the company. The Expander helps in formation of these parts by taking sheet metal, forming it into a cylinder, and then producing a roughly made top without a backside. It also performs processes such as hole punching and the special forms necessary for the production of each model.

There are also presses used to form the backside of the dishwasher located in this area, as well as specialized equipment for the outer doors and side panels. Although much of this area is automated, there is still some manual labor that takes place. One, for example, is when the noise-reducing material known as a "Bitumen layer" is added. The layer is manually added to the small dishwasher models and then heated in an oven at 160?C. At press time, BSH had plans to automate this process in the near future.

The plant has already achieved automation for the larger model dishwashers in production. A large Kuka robot, which BSH purchased in 2002, automatically positions the Bitumen layer to the back and top of the dishwasher.

 
The "Expander," a key piece of fabrication equipment at the Dillingen plant, is based on technology exclusively used by BSH. The Expander is used in the formation of the dishwasher body. APPLIANCE magazine photo.
 

Pre-Assembly/Assembly

The Pre-Assembly Area, considered a factory inside a factory, has nearly 100 workers that work up to three shifts around the clock. This is where all of the parts, such as motors, are assembled. A 2- to 7-day inventory is kept for pre-assembled parts. The head of this area monitors quality, works with R&D on any product issues, and takes care of any issues that may need to be cleared up before the parts are moved to the Assembly Area.

The Assembly Area contains nine different assembly lines and testing areas. Every line makes a complete dishwasher. During the assembly process, each part is added one at a time. Although this area is mostly manual labor, some of its processes are automated. For example, this area includes an automated screwdriver that attaches hinges to the dishwasher doors and also inserts filler systems, spray arm connectors, a glider for the racks, spray arms, and hoses.

"The Wedding Station," where the dishwasher top comes from a conveyer belt from the fabrication area and is then "married" to the dishwasher base, is another automated process in this area that is used to make the production process more efficient. "Areas where we can economically automate, we do," says Peter Eisermann, head of Assembly Factory, Dillingen Plant.

A line planner supervises the entire assembly process to ensure that every worker takes the same amount of time to complete his or her function. The planner also makes sure that all the internal components have been added so that the dishwasher can be tested.

The testing area - located at the end of assembly lines six through nine - is used after all of the dishwasher's functional parts have been added. It contains a testing carousel where electrical connections, water inlet, and pumps, along with other functional components are tested. An electrical-strength test, essentially a high-voltage check, is performed as part of the next testing station, before the dishwasher enters the packaging area.

Packaging and Shipment

The Packaging Area is composed of three parallel packaging lines. In this area, an electronic scanner reads a bar code as the units come down the packaging lines, which then tells workers which internal baskets to mate with which accessories, depending on the model. Styrofoam packaging and cardboard tops are manually added, and the complete dishwasher is packed with clear-view shrink-wrap, using equipment designed by Dillingen engineers and designers. The packaged units are then moved to the warehouse, where a 2-week inventory of ready-made products is kept.

Life-Cycle Testing

One area of the production process is the Life-Cycle Testing Area. This area is used for quality management of current products and for research and development for new products. Every function inside the dishwasher is tested here; however, some testing is done with external institutes or universities such as special material testing and x-ray analysis of materials.

The dishwasher testing area uses robots, which, for example, go through 50,000 cycles of opening and closing the dishwasher door to ensure that nothing breaks. The door lock is also tested for proper opening and closing. Additionally, weights are used to simulate dish loading, as well as robots that move the upper and lower racks of the models. BSH estimates that approximately 50,000 loading cycles take place during testing. There are also a minimum of 7,000 cycles to make sure that controls and switches are functioning properly, and automated "fingers" simulate the pushing of buttons. Temperature meters are also tested to make sure the water temperatures are correctly set.

Management Philosophies for Success

The plant workers also tie into production, which is why incentives are provided to keep up worker morale and keep workers motivated. Dillingen's employees are very committed, and they do not require an extra push to meet the plant's goals, says Mr. Classen. But to keep up momentum in this area, the plant workers are given a monthly quantity and quality bonus as an incentive. The office employees are given an annual bonus as incentive.

Training is also revered as a critical component in keeping plant employees - and the plant itself - working efficiently. Optional seminars, both internal and external, are held at "Lernstatt," the plant's training institution, and are based on the employees' needs. For example, topics such as glass technology, the chemistry of dishwashing, production processes, and how a packaging machine works are some of the seminars that are offered. "In Germany, we have a different education system for skilled jobs like machine operators, most of them in Pre-Fabrication," Mr. Eisermann says. "They receive a sound 3-year education in theory and practice before joining or returning to the company. Training on the job, therefore, only needs to cover the specifics of the process or the machine."

Racing Ahead through Innovation

With all the training inside the plant and community involvement outside the plant, it seems evident that the Dillingen factory is forging ahead to remain a vital part of BSH - keeping its presence not only as the leader of the company's Dishwasher Area, but also as a source of innovation and efficiency in production.

"To put it in general [terms], we want to be more efficient every day, have better quality every day, and maintain or even slightly increase the level of innovation," Mr. Classen says. He also points out, "We have been innovation leaders for 20 years - consistently. We continually gain market share in the U.S., in Europe…all of this at the same time."

The BSH strategy generally is to be the benchmark in the white goods industry, Mr. Classen explains. In the Dishwasher Area, the mission is to be a permanent and profitable leader "in all those segments we attack," he says.

   

 

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