MANN+HUMMEL’s new technology centre is generating a lot of excited buzz, with more and more employees having moved in to the building complex on Schwieberdingerstraße in the summer of 2016. And I packed my bags too, because I, my team and some 100 test benches (not forgetting the over 80-employee strong testing department) moved from Ludwigsburg city centre to the new testing centre at MANN+HUMMEL’s new headquarters.
“Test benches?” I hear you ask! Allow me to provide a little information on what it’s all about and why MANN+HUMMEL even checks its filter elements.
High quality standards
In most cases, our products are subject to strict global guidelines, set for example by the Centres of Competence (CoCs) on an international level to cover product developments, processes and standards in order to guarantee perfect quality for our products. Here in Ludwigsburg, for instance, the CoCs are responsible for liquid filters, air filters, acoustics, parts and materials development in the Original Equipment and Aftermarket departments. As well as being legally binding and constantly tightened as a result of increasing quality standards, these guidelines come about as a result of the explicit demands of customers who are more and more commonly stating which test standards the products they purchase must comply with.
Clearly, at MANN+HUMMEL it is our goal to deliver the highest quality products as a means of differentiating ourselves from the competition, which is why we assess our elements in numerous tests and under real-life conditions. Take our air filters, for example: We test the separation efficiency and dust holding capacity of all elements according to the ISO 5011 standard. However, these results alone do not fully reflect reality. In order to verify the genuine usability of our products out in the real world, we have installed a test bench right in the middle of a busy street which draws in air from the outdoors. This has shown that filters used in inner-city transport are less likely to be exposed to large amounts of dust, but rather high levels of soot. To ensure that results are not influenced by changing environmental influences, we have developed our own test bench in the same mould, which can visualise this exposure in laboratory conditions and in reproducible fashion. This allows us to test the real influence of soot on our air filters, so that we can guarantee that test objects can stand up to all adverse effects even in serious cases.
What does it take to be Test Facilities Manager?
This is where I come in! As Test Facilities Manager, I am responsible for the procurement, maintenance and planning of all test benches and, for quite some time now, my role has also involved the relocation to and commissioning of the new testing centre. I have been involved in the planning from day one, ensuring that all of our space and infrastructure requirements were met over the plot, which spans some 2800 square metres. The new building brings with it new possibilities and above all is a marked improvement on the old testing centre.
In order to make the best possible use of the space available, we planned out the design and furnishing of the new building long before the relocation actually took place. For instance, I started setting out the vital prerequisites at the blueprint stage and discussing proposed amendments with those responsible. Once the basic plan had been established, a facility plan was drawn up together with the test facilities heads – i.e., the people who would go on to become users – which explained how every single object from the testing centre would be accommodated, right down to our workbenches. This allowed us to optimally arrange the distribution of test facilities and the positioning of test benches. And finally our move was also set to a detailed schedule, which defined when each department was to be completed and when each test bench was to move to the new location. All this planning required a great deal of time, which meant that my day-to-day work was put on the back burner, but only with such a detailed, grounded plan could we keep the downtime of each test bench to the absolute minimum.
After working out the concept in theory, the matter of implementation inevitably followed. We created a checklist for each individual test bench to ensure it had been cleaned and cleared of all media (such as diesel, cooling fluid or oil) and was ready for transport. Plus, some of the test benches are fitted with sensors, which had to be considered during transit: Though the majority are resistant to vibrations and as such can be transported easily, others are highly sensitive. So as not to damage these sensors, we dismantled them, transported them separately and then reassembled them in our new location. Without question, this required additional time, but it is certainly worthwhile when you consider that our test benches can cost up to EUR 500,000! So we ticked off our checklists one by one, sticking strictly to schedule and, thanks to our planning, we managed to get everything done without any delays.
More than meets the eye
Some of you may be familiar with our old location in Ludwigsburg city centre, just opposite the district council offices. A little knowledge of our previous accommodation will not go amiss, as it puts the difficulties of our move into context: Each of our various individual test facilities required an equally individual approach. For instance, transportation was a challenge when it came to the oil test benches, because, well, have you ever tried to haul a 3.5 tonne test bench down from the third floor? Us neither! So instead I hired a specialist company that uses cranes, forklifts and HGVs based on the size and weight of the items and they helped us to safely load the test benches in the trickier locations.
In total, six of our test benches were removed from the first floor of plant 1 by crane for want of any other possibility of moving them due to their size and location. We discussed this work with the City of Ludwigsburg in advance, booking out the car park of the district council offices one Friday in order to get our crane in the perfect position. We were well aware of all of these difficulties, just as we knew that three of these test benches would not fit in the lift in the new testing centre. Still, hiring a crane made more sense than changing the entire structure of the building just for three test benches.
What’s more, we always make sure that any large test benches are made up of individual modules which can be disassembled if they are simply too big while still together – even HGVs have their limits! So we accepted the challenge and, by adapting to the different requirements of our entire test benches, we were able to move into our new testing centre piece by piece. In total, the move out of Ludwigsburg city centre took three months – it all adds up to a lot after all!
All that remains now is for the old building to be cleaned, before it finally becomes a thing of the past. From now on, we will be working in a perfectly optimised building and I will soon have a second post for you explaining more about the reassembly of the test benches and the move to MANN+HUMMEL headquarters.