As Head of the Industrial Engineering department at the Rehe production site, Philipp Ditthardt is responsible for lean management, production layout planning and external plant procurement.

The pressure on German production sites is enormous due to rising manufacturing costs. In order to remain competitive and offer products "Made in Germany", many factors must be taken into account and processes must be optimally interlinked. Philipp Ditthardt explains all the things that have to be considered.

Philipp Ditthardt, responsible for the Industrial Engineering department at the Rehe production site © ABUS

How does a production site need to be set up in order to be fit for the future? 

Philipp Ditthardt: "Three keywords come to mind:  flexible, scalable and resilient. In other words, I have to be able to expand or reduce capacity within a very short space of time. During the coronavirus crisis, for example, we had to respond quickly to the high demand for bike locks 

Automation also plays a decisive role, especially for products with high quantities. We have achieved the highest level of automation in cylinder assembly, while the final assembly of some products is much more difficult to automate due to the large number of variants.

The manual assembly required for this reason makes an efficient layout of the production cells and perfect organisation of the logistics absolutely essential, as it is otherwise difficult to maintain cost control. We can only meet our standards by carrying out 100 per cent quality control of our products at the end of each work system.

Incidentally, automation does not mean that machines can fully replace people. The systems must be operated, filled and faults rectified. We have many employees who used to assemble locks by hand and are now able to operate automated systems thanks to further training."

Are there certain "Made in Germany" manufacturing processes that set us apart from the competition?

Philipp Ditthardt:  "Our machine and tool construction never fails to impress. Designing and building in-house customised machines at this level, such as highly complex robot systems and production cells for cylinder assembly, for example, is something special.  This enables us to provide the production department with customised systems at competitive costs. In addition, the know-how remains in-house and we can react quickly to problems or product changes."

How important is the issue of sustainability in the design of production processes? 

Philipp Ditthardt: "Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role. I avoid waste and unnecessary transport routes in the factory layout. We use only LED lighting in our halls, and our new Plant 3 has a photovoltaic system that enables us to generate the electricity for our entire production on good days. I think 'Made in Germany' has put a lean period behind it. Poor supply chains and very high logistics costs from the Far East are contributing to a rethink on the part of companies. The topic is now also an important factor in purchasing decisions for private individuals, so we can also make an impact here. 

The concept of sustainability, in combination with innovation and future-proof technologies, harbours sufficient potential for a renewed upturn in the quality characteristic 'Made in Germany'."


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