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

BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH

Recipe for Success

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by Lisa Bonnema, Editor

Set in the scenic town of Traunreut, Germany, BSH's largest cooking appliance facility has artfully mastered the OEM recipe for success - productivity, innovation, and quality.

A common German saying around the Traunreut plant is: "Dort arbeiten, wo andere urlaub machen." The English translation: "We work where others make holidays." But don't let the picturesque scenery fool you. Amidst the backdrop of Alpine mountains and tranquil waters of the Chiemsee and Waginger lakes is an intense production center that rolls out some of Europe's most advanced cooking appliances by using a mix of efficiency and innovation.


APPLIANCE magazine traveled to Traunreut, Germany to report on BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH's cooking appliance plant.

The plant, which turns out than 1.8 million appliances per year, has confident estimates of about 10-percent volume growth over the next 2 years. Pair that with a 5-percent productivity gain over the last 10 years - and an estimated 9-percent gain for this year alone - and it seems safe to assume that this 50-year-old BSH plant is not only still growing, it is still succeeding.

Cooking Competence

Based on its extensive production experience, it only makes sense that Traunreut is considered BSH's cooking competence center.

Dating back to before BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH was even founded in the late 1960s, the production site's roots are strong, with history as far back as World War II, when it served as an ammunition factory. In fact, the plant was producing product before the city of Traunreut was officially founded in 1960.

The factory's appliance history began in 1949 after Walter Mohr, an engineer for Siemens-Schuckert Construction, discovered the plant and saw it as an opportunity of turning it into a new location for the company's expanding business. In just 1 year, the plant grew from 200 employees to 1,000 and was producing products as diverse as water heaters and ranges. The plant continued to grow in the coming years and eventually became one of BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH's first plants after the company was established in 1967.

Now, more than 30 years later, the Traunreut production site spans 4.5 million sq ft of land, utilizing more than 150,000 sq ft for the production of its products. The multiple-building facility now employs a staff of approximately 2,200, most of which work within the site's many production factories. The majority of the workers are divided between the range factory, the glass ceramic cooktop or "hob" factory, and the tool design and construction/pre-manufacturing factory. The rest of the employees are split between a boiler factory and a small thermal appliance plant. The facility also houses the company's Product Range executives, as well as the BSH Cooking Area's research and development center.

Out of the 1.8 million appliances produced at the plant annually, one-third of the products are built-in ovens, one-third percent are hobs, and the rest are divided among freestanding ovens, microwave ovens, and electric water heaters for BSH's Consumer Products Division.

With the research and development department on-site, the Traunreut plant boasts some cooking industry firsts, including one of the first pyrolitic cookers with an integrated microwave and one of the first hobs with sensor cooking. Just last year, it developed its Ecolysis cleaning technology, which utilizes an innovative surface treatment that allows the oven cavity to be easily wiped clean, without heating the oven.

Purchased in 2002, Traunreut's 800-ton Erfurt press is twice as fast as the factory's older models and can perform more than eight different stamping steps on one part. The press is just one of the many equipment investments the plant has made during the last 2 years.

Hot Developments

Traunreut's most recent accomplishment is its InterCooker 3 and InterHob 4 projects, which represent an investment of more than 80 million euros (approx. U.S. $99.9 million), one of BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte's largest investments to date. The appliances were released in late 2003 under the Bosch and Siemens brands, and in February 2004, under the Neff brand.

Working in conjunction with the company's cooking operations in Bretten, Germany and Montañana, Spain, Traunreut engineers developed the two new products using a modular system, while keeping the products as technologically similar as possible. The end result not only made it possible to produce the appliances at the three different BSH cooking plants, but also allowed the products to be adapted to different brands and markets. The InterCooker, for example, has about 1,000 variants, but each model is based on a common technical platform. The InterHob, while available with different control panels - TwistPad or Piezo Touch Control - is also based on a common circuit board platform that uses a "common language" among variants.

In addition to overcoming the project's development challenges, Traunreut was also faced with making substantial changes in its production operations. While half of the 80-million-euro investment went toward R&D and the product launch, the other half was for new machinery and tools. New investments included more than 150 new tools for the facility's metal operations and an expanded porcelain enamel shop to accommodate a new gray finish to be used in the oven cavities of the new InterCooker models.

Smoothly incorporating the new product variants and machinery into the production run was definitely challenging, according to Michael Marek, director of the Traunreut plant. The good news is that challenges facilitate success, as has been the case at Traunreut. In fact, Mr. Marek considers the new product launch one of his biggest accomplishments during his 27 years with BSH.

"We had to produce 80-percent of the new products in the factory while, at the same time, producing 100 percent of the old product variants," he explains. "We were challenged to bring the new product up to our high quality levels while increasing overall production 25 percent over previous years - all this from the beginning of September to the middle of November. We are very proud to have managed such a task and have had no quality problems so far."

Gottfried Wallner, Traunreut's quality manager, agrees, adding that experience has been one of the main reasons for the project's success. "An advantage we have here at Traunreut is that we have done so many projects, that this is not our first big project," he notes. "We are very experienced at this. We know what to look for, what we have to control, and how we can control it better. So we got it under control very quickly."

Based on the success at Traunreut - as well as at Bretten and Montañana - future plans include incorporating the new platform into the Cerkezköy, Turkey cooking plant by 2005.

A Traunreut line worker performs a final inspection on one the Cooking Area's newest products, the InterCooker 3. The new appliance features a larger oven window and a new revolving door that opens from the side, as well as a new Ecolytic cleaning system and motorized baking trays.

Creating the Cooker

Perhaps one of Traunreut's greatest strengths is its efficient production process. The facility is divided into what Mr. Marek refers to as five main factories within the larger factory - prefabrication, surface treatment (finishing), hob assembly, built-in oven assembly, and component/microwave assembly.

The prefabrication area, which includes the metalworking and welding operations, develops parts for the ovens, hobs, and microwave ovens.

The metalworking area includes nine presses, the newest of which was purchased in 2002 from German equipment supplier Erfurt. According to Mr. Marek, the facility uses all nine pieces of equipment - the older presses to handle the more simplistic parts, while the newer presses tend to handle the larger, more complicated metal parts. The new 800-ton Erfurt press, for example, can complete as many as eight stamping steps at one time.

Mr. Marek believes that the key to Traunreut's metal operations is its tooling capabilities, which he describes as one of the plant's core competencies. The factory's on-site tooling shop has 180 employees focused solely on designing intricate and complicated tools. While some might view this as time consuming, Mr. Marek contends that developing a small amount of specialized, complex tools is better than buying or creating a large amount of simple tools that aren't specific to its products.

"We put as many functions into one metal sheet as possible," he explains. "This keeps assembly time down, costs down, and quality high." In fact, he claims that Traunreut uses 50 less parts than its competitors.

The plant's welding area includes two lines for the oven parts and separate line for microwave ovens, as well as a press for producing the oven cavity parts. A buffer between the press and the welding lines helps to keep the area stocked at all times.

The company's newest piece of welding equipment is a new 40-station welding line from Sa.Res (Milano, Italy) that automatically welds the oven cavity. At press time, the factory was still working on completely integrating the new piece of equipment. According to Mr. Marek, the goal is to eventually switch all the welding processes over to just two automatic lines.

After all the welding processes are complete, a conveyor system moves the completed parts to the surface treatment area, which includes both wet and powder lines.

The finishing area has perhaps seen the most investments since the introduction of the new products. Within the last year, the plant has invested more than 1 million euros in a new robot, curing oven, and spraying system for the InterCooker's ecoClean™ coating, which enables the new Ecolysis cleaning feature. It also invested another 3 million euros to expand its porcelain enamel shop for a new gray-colored powder surface for the new oven cavities.

Once coated, parts are put through a 100-percent visual inspection and are moved via conveyor to the appropriate assembly area. Oven assembly, the plant's largest assembly area, includes ten lines; hob assembly includes seven lines; and the microwave assembly has one line. There are also several small lines dispersed throughout the areas to assemble components and pre-assembled items such as doors, switch panels, etc. According to Mr. Marek, the lines are differentiated by the complexity of the model, with the most basic models assembled in the first lines of the area and the more complex models typically in the last lines.

Each line is set up in a U-shaped configuration. Each worker manually adds their specific part(s) and presses a button, which moves the oven to the next station. A typical oven assembly line begins with the addition of the back wall to the oven cavity, followed by the light, hinges, and bottom heater. From there, the insulation and the sides are added, followed by the top and fan system. In the final stages, the electrical and wiring components are installed, the pre-assembled door is added and sealed, and, finally, the control panel is attached to the completed oven and the wires are connected.

Functional tests are then completed on-line and dictate whether or not the appliance will move from the assembly line to packaging. Rejected assemblies are taken to a small repair area within the line and are sent through testing again until they pass. According to Mr. Marek, "The line workers are responsible for quality and quantity."

Assembled ovens are taken via overhead conveyor to the central packaging area. A bar code on each appliance tells the line worker which literature packet to attach to each model. Styrofoam and a wood stabilizer are then manually added until a robot finishes the job by adding cardboard packaging.

About 2 percent of the assembled products are pulled to go through what Mr. Marek refers to as a "product audit." The models are put through several tests - a quick functional test similar to the one preformed on the line; a more intensive, hour-long functional test in which temperature and other functions are measured; and a performance test in which the models are operated for 1 to 2 days.

Quality Control

According to Mr. Wallner, Traunreut's policy is same as that of BSH as a whole - to be competitive. "But behind this," he adds, "is satisfying our customers with a good product. If you have one bad appliance on the market, the news spreads much faster than that of a good appliance."

To ensure that Traunreut meets the quality goals necessary to keep BSH competitive, Mr. Wallner says his strategy is simple - communication. "The workers know if I have to invest 1 million euros in quality improvements," he says. "They know it is important to produce good quality."

Monthly reports reveal details on each line's performance. "The reports are for every area of the factory and breaks it down to the assembly lines per shift," Mr. Wallner explains. "We know exactly what kind of quality, for example, was achieved from 2 pm in the afternoon to 10 pm at night on a certain day."

Five key parameters are controlled and measured in the monthly reports - technical call rates (market failure reports), scrap and rework/repair, first-pass yield, the amount of "blocked" appliances that had to go into repair, and product audit performance.

The plant also informs its workers about the Cooking Area's sales figures and market standing. "They need to know what's going on in the market. This is part of their success," Mr. Wallner says.

Mr. Wallner also believes that quality is closely tied to employee motivation and morale. If, for example, a production line reaches its individual quality target four times in a row over a 4-week period, the group is rewarded with lunch or dinner. In addition, after the recent InterCooker and InterHob product introduction, management threw a launch party for the entire plant to reward everyone for their hard work. "If you work hard, maybe later you can party harder," Mr. Wallner notes.

Preparing for the Future

While busy producing the largest number of ovens in Traunreut's history - 20-percent more than in 2002 - and maintaining the company's high quality standards, Mr. Marek is also keeping his eyes focused on the future of the plant and the cooking industry in general.

This type of foresight, along with careful planning, has helped the plant overcome even the uncontrollable, including decreased demand in the German appliance market. For example, in 1998, two-thirds of the plant's volume went to the German market, while the remaining one-third was exported, indicating that any shifts in German demand could create a major problem for the plant. However, by adjusting its levels and exporting more of its product, the plant has managed to maintain its volume levels.

According to Mr. Marek, knowledge and preparation are the keys to continued success, which means taking into account very real issues such as intense competition from countries east of Germany.

"Ten years ago I would have said my goal was to expand 50 percent in the next 3 to 5 years, but that is not realistic in the current situation," Mr. Marek tells APPLIANCE. "I would be quite proud if we can achieve this level of small growth over the next couple of years. That is our aim, and we'll have to work hard to achieve it."



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