Insights into quality assurance from a conversation with… Thomas Zeitelhofer.
Dipl. Ing. Thomas Zeitelhofer is Vice Head of Quality Assurance at Traktionssysteme Austria.
About TSA (Traktionssysteme Austria)
Traktionssysteme Austria is the leading manufacturer of electromechanical drives for rail and road commercial vehicles with a company history dating back to 1960. TSA’s range of services includes design and construction, manufacture, testing and delivery of individualised products – from single components to fully integrated drive solutions and after-sales support. Traction motors and generators based on asynchronous and permanent magnet technologies as well as final drives are part of TSA’s core business.
The importance of quality assurance.
In industrial companies, quality assurance is an indispensable driver of quality awareness and quality culture and ensures that high-quality manufactured products meet the customer’s requirements. Unlike quality control, the focus is not only on the product, but on all activities and processes in the company and whether these are in line with the defined quality objectives.
The importance of quality assurance at TSA is reflected in the doubling of the number of employees in the department. The team deals with production-related and digitalisation issues as well as strategic and administrative work related to quality assurance.
The professional field of quality assurance is becoming increasingly relevant and is also constantly changing, which is why we would like to give you a detailed insight into the work in quality assurance together with Thomas Zeitelhofer from TSA.
Quality Assurance at TSA.
While quality assurance at TSA was primarily based on paper a few years ago, much is now digital: the workstations in production are equipped with monitors and tablets. Dashboards for data evaluation can be quickly updated during production thanks to structured digital data collection, and digital checklists replace manually typed Excel lists and tedious email correspondence. The quality assurance department’s digitalisation measures implemented with Testify are also being rolled out to other departments as well as internationally.
In this article, we dive into the work of quality assurance and also show you which development steps TSA is taking and which industry-specific features there are for quality assurance in the transport industry.
This is how production and quality assurance at TSA start the day…
Contrary to what the world of norms, compliance and standards might suggest, there is no such thing as a “typical working day” for Thomas Zeitelhofer and his team. The working day is constantly changing, with new topics and work tasks coming up every day.
What usually takes place every day, however, are shop floor meetings and the production tour.
- Daily meetings are held every morning in all production departments. Depending on the topics and needs, the quality assurance department is also involved. The meetings usually last a quarter of an hour. The topics of the day are discussed over coffee in the morning, such as production plans, material problems and other issues. At the same time, a look at the data is taken: The current status is immediately visible to the team. Measures for the day or the week are then derived from this. Done.
- During the daily tour of production, Thomas Zeitelhofer also gets an insight into the day-to-day business and sees what is going on in production and whether there are any problems.
Progress dashboards, which are based on collected data from Testify, show how far along the individual assemblies are in the production process and thus provide a transparent overall picture of the product to be manufactured.
Digital workplace: Connected production employees on the shop floor.
The workplaces in production are digital. When you enter TSA’s production, you see that all workplaces are equipped with monitors and mobile devices.
A few years ago, there were still paper drawing folders at the workplaces that had to be maintained by the workers. Now the workers access the current production documents digitally directly from their workstations. The advantage: the current version is always called up and the time of the manual process (revision, printing, delivery) is saved.
Every employee can directly access drawings of the assembly, production records and checklists. All relevant information is thus available at the click of a mouse. In this way, every production employee can record and log measured values in Testify checklists directly on site via a small PC or tablet.
This is what quality assurance on the shop floor looks like in practice: Digital checklists in Testify accompany the production process.
Working through checklists plays an essential role in quality assurance. The checklists are filled out directly on site at the workplace “on the side”, e.g. recording of serial numbers or ok/not ok checks.
The production workers record the inspections. The quality assurance staff then carry out the final check of the protocol.
The structure of the digital checklists is workplace-related. Each workplace has its own page. Thanks to a good breakdown, everyone knows exactly what he or she has to do and what needs to be done serially.
This way of working also allows a much higher level of detail than before. This is also advantageous for complaints management: if a component is deformed, the processing can be quickly assigned to the employee responsible. This person then carries out further checks or re-measurements, takes photos and enters additional information.
A look at the big picture: how quality assurance with Testify works throughout the supply chain.
TSA’s quality assurance already starts before the materials arrive at the company: At the supplier. Inspection planning is carried out, incoming goods inspections are carried out, components are counter-measured and documents are checked. Good cooperation with the purchasing department is also important.
Further on in production, the various quality gates play an important role, such as weld seam checks or measuring machine measurement of the stators.
Quality assurance and production are closely intertwined. Protocols are created for each engine to ensure the traceability of each individual component. This is why the production employees are actively involved in the recording of the assembly production.
There are “quality gates” between the individual production steps. These quality gates ensure that checks are carried out correctly and that the next production step is only released if the quality of the upstream production step is assured.
Before the motor is delivered, a final check (outgoing goods inspection) is carried out to ensure that all requirements according to the drawing have been met.
The results can be viewed in the outgoing goods dashboard. A link takes you to the individual logs with the photos. This means: QA can view the photos here – how the product went out. This provides full transparency in the company as to how the machine was evaluated, what was checked and how the respective machine looked on delivery.
These industry-related challenges shape the work of quality assurance at TSA.
One topic that is essential for the way quality assurance works at TSA is the traceability of individual components, material certificates, etc.. Even after many years, it must still be possible to determine which component was used, which is why detailed logging is indispensable.
TSA has various certifications and is therefore subject to very strict quality guidelines. From the International Railway Industry Standard (IRIS) to ISO9001 and welding standards such as EN 15085-2 to energy and environmental certificates.
With ISO/TS 22163, TSA has traceability times of 30 years!
Welding for machine vehicles is also strictly regulated. Here, TSA also relies on Testify to ensure weld seam inspections. Here, thanks to digital checklists – at weld seam level – detailed checks can be carried out and recorded.
“Unfortunately, this is very difficult to do on paper, which is where the digital solution really plays into our hands,” says Zeitelhofer. With the digital solution, the information can be read out quickly and easily – the company can thus act much faster than before, when everything was still documented in paper form.
Digitalisation measures: Dashboards instead of emails, Excel-lists and co.
In recent years, Excel lists and e-mails have been gradually replaced by new digital solutions such as Testify. The main advantage here: quick, easy access to up-to-date information and life data.
The quality assurance department has gradually replaced the manual process. For example, the data evaluation of the outgoing goods inspection used to be a manual process where information had to be entered manually into Excel. This is now a thing of the past with the digital checklists.
In the old process, sending the relevant information to the management was also time-consuming. Today, the management has access to the meaningful dashboards as needed.
Making information available at the click of a button instead of long information paths is close to the heart of the QA department. This is also reflected in the daily work: The QA department creates a user for all employees who need access to information. The role management controls whether the respective user can only view the checklists or also edit them.
This comprehensive insight and the query and evaluation options mean that there is no need for a massive amount of administration. E-mail traffic has been significantly reduced, as everyone can look into Testify themselves and thus mail enquiries about protocols or evaluations are no longer necessary.
Roll-out of the digitisation measures at further locations and departments.
In order to promote digitalisation at other locations, Thomas Zeitelhofer trains additional employees in the use of the Testify software. The trained key users introduce the tool independently at the respective sites. In the coming months, Testify will be introduced at the production site in Bosnia, where the production step for coil installation is outsourced, and at assembly partners in America.
In addition, Testify is also being rolled out to other departments. The software is already heavily used in lean management. As a next step, the Health-Safety-Environment (HSE) department will introduce the tool with regard to environmental lists and safety rounds in production.
Dashboarding is also very important here. Thomas Zeitelhofer and his colleagues in the QA department work together with other departments to compile suitable analyses.
Outlook: Trends and future developments.
According to Thomas Zeitelhofer, the ‘Track & Trace’ trend is becoming increasingly important for engines. It is essential to know where the motor or the component (in production) is at any given time. At TSA, this was solved with the checklist-related software, which is used in a structured and workplace-related manner.
This makes it possible to find out at any time where what was last processed, what the current status is and which processing step the engine is currently in.
The next digitisation step in quality assurance at TSA is to map the data matrix codes (which can already be found on the production documents) onto the components as well. This will probably work via ‘coded JSONs’, which can then be used to read out information such as batch numbers, expiry dates or revision levels.