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
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
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
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
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.
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
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."