|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.
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
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."
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."
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."
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.