Photo: Tempura /

No more wishful thinking: ConditionServices

What if a machining center promptly notified you that a value was approaching the tolerance limit? What if experts received this notification in real time? What if they were not only able to identify the cause and solve the current problem, but could also prevent this fault from happening again by using continuously recorded data? With ConditionServices, there's no need for wishful thinking. Instead, you have status-oriented, continually optimized maintenance management for increased technical machine availability with predictable costs.

Overview of maintenance strategies
»Reactive«, »proactive« and »condition-oriented« are three strategies used for machine maintenance. Many companies still choose a reactive strategy, only taking action once a fault has already occurred. This will affect machine availability accordingly – the more complex the fault, the longer the period during which machining center will be unable to manufacture.

EfficiencyServices enable improved reactive maintenance with reduced downtime. Using RemoteLine, which provides direct access to the machine data, the experts at CHIRON Group Service can identify and resolve faults, in many instances directly and without making a service call-out. When combined with proactive, cyclic maintenance, this can further reduce unplanned downtime.

However, it will take additional measures to increase machine availability in the long term. Namely, a long-term strategy to reduce downtime towards zero and to consistently maintain the machine in its best condition. This is where ConditionServices come in.

»In conjunction with the individual machine condition, machine history and maintenance and repairs information, ConditionServices ensure an intelligent maintenance process based on the machine condition.«
Johannes Hellstern
Digital Services Product Manager at the CHIRON Group

ConditionServices: A three-step strategy
ConditionServices are not a one-off solution but rather a long-term process towards consistently high technical availability – with the additional benefit of fixed, foreseeable costs.

Step one: Analysis of the machine and service history
To start with, the service managers take a look back and closely inspect the data of all of the components which influence the manufacturing quality. Which faults have there been in the past?

Have certain components – as illustrated in the figure by the tool changer and drivetrain on the Y-axis – been disproportionately affected? The service managers look into the details of any abnormalities, research their causes and recommend how such a fault can be avoided in future. For example, this could involve retrofitting or adapting the maintenance plan to the tool changer with an enhanced wear parts package.

Step two: Cyclic recording and data evaluation

In the next stage, all potential sources (new and existing CHIRON and STAMA machines) are incorporated into a comprehensive maintenance strategy based on ConditionLine, a module from the SmartLine range. The digital system automatically analyzes all of the machine data that is relevant for the machine to operate reliably. 

ConditionLine is directly integrated into new machines. On the other hand, existing CHIRON and STAMA systems can be upgraded with hardware and software via a retrofit. For older machining centers which do not have the technical prerequisites for integration or continuous data recording and evaluation, HealthCheck is the correct instrument to use. HealthCheck adds additional appointments to the annual maintenance schedule so that the CHIRON Group Service can manually inspect the machining centers on-site. The managers use the results to make well-founded recommendations for maintenance work and to exploit optimization potential.

Step three: Maintenance based on the machine condition
ConditionLine constantly monitors and analyzes the condition of the machine and detects irregularities in operation at an early stage. The more machines that are integrated, the less time it will take to create a comprehensive, reliable database. Another factor is time. This is because, with every passing month and year, potential disruptive factors can be predicted with greater accuracy. The maintenance scope and planning can therefore be adjusted to the current requirements in an accordingly dynamic and increasingly precise manner. Technically availability will rise increasingly, with the additional benefit of fixed and foreseeable costs.

Buy or subscribe?
With ConditionServices, customers have a choice of different payment models. The ConditionLine software and necessary hardware can be purchased in the traditional way via a retrofit, or a subscription can be taken out for the contract term. 

In addition to ConditionLine and/or HealthCheck, the following services are included in all price models: Analysis, inspection and maintenance of the machining centers, as well as spare and wear part replacement. 

Improving performance by combining modules
The third element for increased overall equipment effectiveness are ProductivityServices.

In this case, the service managers scrutinize the manufacturing process, including all of the areas involved such as hardware and software, automation and process and set-up times. This indicates any areas of untapped potential and these can be exploited using appropriate measures, particularly by integrating additional SmartLine modules.

Want to find out more about SmartServices?

Johannes Hellstern, Digital Services Product Manager at the CHIRON Group, would be happy to answer any calls or e-mails.

Johannes Hellstern
Phone: +49 7461 940-3728

Can't be done? Yes it can!

How did CHIRON succeed in commissioning six MILL machining centers at UAC's new manufacturing facility in Vietnam? Even with a strict travel ban? With proven digital service tools, good teamwork, a lot of night shifts – and not least thanks to new service partner HTC, which passed its "baptism of fire" with flying colors.

read time: 10 min read this article on one page

The original plan of the CHIRON Group service team was for one application technician and two service technicians to fly out to the Vietnamese city of Đà Nẵng at the beginning of July, to check into a hotel or apartment for eight weeks and stay within a few minutes' travel of Universal Alloy Corporation Vietnam Co., Ltd situated at the High-tech Park just outside of the city. They would then work together with the customer step by step to commission the new machines – four MILL 4500 and two MILL 8000 machining centers.

A good plan and, in fact, the only possible approach.
Maybe the three employees from the CHIRON Group service team could already see themselves at the famous Bac my An beach after their day's work, dipping their feet in the sea and taking a quick selfie for their friends and family back home? And maybe even going on a Sunday excursion to the ancient imperial city of Huế?

But COVID-19 thwarted all these plans, as travel to Vietnam was not permitted for an indefinite period of time. A further obstacle to commissioning the machining centers on time was the fact that HTC, now the service partner for Vietnam, had not yet been included into the CHIRON Group network since the contract had not yet been signed. While the service managers at HTC had already successfully commissioned a number of machines, none of them had been CHIRON models.

Nevertheless, the machines delivered on 1st July 2020 were to start manufacturing workpieces in large quantities for a renowned aircraft manufacturer as soon as possible.

What was to be done? Delaying the commissioning of the machines was not an option. Even if no one wanted to admit it to begin with, there was only one solution. HTC had to "dive in at the deep end" and commission the machining centers in Đà Nẵng with, at least initially, constant remote support from Samuel Baur of the CHIRON Training team. Baur had no idea how this would work, since all new service partners usually have to undergo an extended period of training before their first assignment for CHIRON. The MILL experts were equally perplexed. But Jörg Schmidt, CAD/CAM manager at UACV and project manager gave the idea the green light. And so the cooperation between Germany and Vietnam began on 1st July 2020, starting with weekly web conferences with the participation of multiple CHIRON experts from the sales, service, application and training departments. For HTC, sales manager Kevin Hinh took on the role of project manager.

9 a.m. in Asia/Ho Chi Minh City time. 4 a.m. CET (Central European Time).
For Samuel Baur, who was working from home at the time due to coronavirus restrictions, there was at least one silver lining to such an early start – he did not need to travel to the CHIRON premises during the night, it was just a short walk over to the living room where he would open up his laptop, a cup of coffee in hand, wearing his headset. The only thing left was to say "Chào buổi sáng" ("good morning" in Vietnamese) to the six HTC service personnel, who were already in the large hall at UACV, ready for a fast-track lesson in the steps required to correctly commission a CHIRON machining center. The team was assisted by future operators at UACV, who could also learn a few things about the new machining centers in the process.

Working from home, CHIRON training manger Samuel Baur used phone calls, live chats and remote operation to assist the team from new Vietnamese service partner HTC with commissioning the six MILL machining centers.

So that no time was wasted, UACV project manager Jörg Schmidt ensured that the company was optimally prepared. This included making sure that the machines were in the right place and that preparations were made for anchoring the machining centers. After a few small teething problems, a stable Internet connection was established and Samuel Baur could explain, correct and optimize every action by video conference or phone. To begin with, this was not the easiest of undertakings since the English language skills of the Vietnamese service technicians and even the interpreter were limited with respect to clearly communicating complex specialist topics. However, over the course of the project, HTC quickly built up its own expertise and staff gained thorough practice in the English technical terms.

Better every time.
The HTC service team led by Kevin Hinh were quick learners, requiring less and less time and support each time to carry out the necessary measures to successfully commission each MILL machining center, as outlined below.

  • Connecting and commissioning the attachments and additional units (control panel, hydraulic unit, vacuum pump, air extraction system, cooling unit and coolant system)
  • Aligning and leveling the machine
  • Measuring and evaluating the machine geometry
  • Adjusting the tool changer
  • Measuring and adjusting the five-axis kinematics

We did it! The first MILL 4500 is installed and the HTC service team is rightly pleased.

»The circumstances were anything but easy but we still found a good solution and showed that, with good teamwork and skilled partners, machines can be effectively commissioned, even under challenging conditions across borders and time zones.«
Jörg Schmidt
CAD/CAM manager and project manager at UACV

The first CHIRON MILL 4500 machining center was accepted four weeks after its delivery on 31st July 2020 and the final acceptance date for a machine was 25th September 2020. In the meantime, all of the machines have now been commissioned. The MILL 4500 machining centers manufacture nose beams for the nose section of aircraft, with each system producing six units per month. Over the same time period, the two MILL 8000 machining centers each produce 60 component families for stringers, which are installed in the fuselage section of aircraft. During the initial phase of the project, a three-day online operator training course was held for six employees. The trainer taught the course from Tuttlingen, Germany, and an HTC employee interpreted.

»We provide online support to our customers and service technicians all over the world as standard. But remote commissioning was also a first for us. We are now reviewing the UACV project so that next time – and there will surely be a next time given the new travel warnings and restrictions – we can be even better and quicker.«
Samuel Baur
CHIRON Training team

Each time a machine was accepted, Samuel Baur needed to give less and less real-time support, instead coordinating the upcoming work and checking the measurement results and setting dimensions. He is now working regular hours again and, needless to say, still acts as a contact for HTC for any questions about troubleshooting and quality assurance. And, after three months, he has his living room all to himself again!

From delivery to successful commissioning

 1.) The CHIRON MILL machines, having just been delivered at the UACV plant.
1.) The CHIRON MILL machines, having just been delivered at the UACV plant.
 2.) Work can start right away as the anchorage points for the machining centers are already prepared.
2.) Work can start right away as the anchorage points for the machining centers are already prepared.
 3.) Time to get started...
3.) Time to get started...
 … service partner HTC starts assembly work.
… service partner HTC starts assembly work.
 4.) The first MILL 8000 is installed. What makes it unusual is that it has two travel columns
4.) The first MILL 8000 is installed. What makes it unusual is that it has two travel columns
 5.) The first workpiece was successfully manufactured with a high degree of precision a week after the machining center was first commissioned.
5.) The first workpiece was successfully manufactured with a high degree of precision a week after the machining center was first commissioned.

CHIRON service team for Vietnam:

HTC Vietnam Construction Technology CO., LTD
189 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street,
Phú Hoà Ward, Thủ Dầu Một City, Bình Dương Province

Total number of employees: 43
Service team: Ten CNC engineers,
seven application engineers, three IT specialists

UAC Universal Alloy Corporation®

The Universal Alloy Corporation® started as a company manufacturing tools and molds in southern California. UAC is now a member of the Montana Tech Components AG group and one of the world's leading manufacturers of extruded profiles made of hard alloys for the aerospace industry. UAC employs around 1800 people at four sites, the city of Anaheim in California, the city of Canton in Georgia, the Romanian town of Dumbravita and, since August 2019, the Vietnamese city of Đà Nẵng.

Delivering the best solution

In late July, the press and trade media reported that far-reaching steps had been announced to safeguard the future of the CHIRON Group. In addition, these plans to reorient the Group would bring about changes at STAMA's headquarters in Schlierbach, a town in south-western Germany. An interview with the new Managing Director Gerhard Ulmer on the current situation, the tasks that lie ahead and STAMA's future.

read time: 12 min read this article on one page

(It is early September when we meet Gerhard Ulmer in his office on the second story of the STAMA premises in Schlierbach. Given the structural change in the automotive industry already apparent from late 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated everything since March 2020, an entire industry is facing what is certainly one of its most difficult challenges of recent times. This is also true of STAMA Maschinenfabrik, now in its 82nd year of operation.)

Coronavirus is everywhere, and many holiday destinations have been and remain high-risk areas. Where did you go on holiday with your family this year?

For a number of years now, we've spent one week at a coastal resort and one in the mountains. So the coronavirus crisis didn't change things very much for us.

When you're on holiday, do you prefer to sleep in or are you already jogging at 7 a.m.?

I can't really sleep in on holiday; my body clock doesn't change that quickly. I just spend that time doing different things like handiwork around the house and lots of reading. Unfortunately, I don't do much sport on holiday – I still fall short in that area.

How well have you been able to keep a work-life balance over your past 14 years as the Head of Sales at STAMA?

In this job, it's almost impossible to keep business totally separate from your private life. I've set some rules for myself. For example, I only read e-mails in the evening and ring people back at specific times. But I'm never really totally removed from the business side of things.

A practical question now – when the lease for your company car runs out, would you opt for an electric car?

In my job, I have to drive around a lot so with a pure electric car you'd have to be extremely organized. There are a limited number of charging points and they also have time restrictions, so you'd need to plan ahead. But I could imagine using a full hybrid as an interim solution. I currently drive a mild hybrid with a diesel engine.

Following the emissions scandal for diesel engines, it's now suspected that values for gasoline engines have also been manipulated, with the Audi Q5 TFSI 2.0 cited as an example. It is alleged that this car's steering lock changed the emissions values. How much of a future do combustion engines still have?

When you take account of all of the climate issues and industry policy considerations, that's not the key question. We're in a situation where different types of drives are competing against each other. We're seeing a mobility sector in the midst of a revolution. With the development towards using hydrogen as a fuel, as well as synthetic e-fuels, combustion engines will certainly have a role to play in the longer term. How personal mobility looks in ten years' time will depend on which of the currently available mobility concepts wins out. It is certainly possible that various concepts will be used in parallel. It's not just cost-effectiveness which matters nowadays but also environmental protection, conserving resources and sustainability. For mechanical engineers like us, this market situation means that we must set up our production facilities in a flexible manner in order to successfully adapt to the challenges ahead.

According to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), close to 80 million passenger cars were manufactured globally in 2019. That is a good five million fewer than in 2018. In Germany, the production figures fell by 16% between 2017 and 2019. To what extent is STAMA affected by this development – after all, automotive business makes up a good two-thirds of the company's turnover.

For drivetrain and powertrain mechanisms, STAMA has two key areas of expertise – injection technology and turbochargers. We've also got applications on the market for the chassis, steering and brakes areas. The ongoing mobility revolution means that many parts used in production will change. We need new solutions! And processes we haven't even heard of yet! The market will continue to shift in the direction of Asia. The best example of this is still China – where production figures are rising and opportunities for growth are deemed to be better. Of course, this also means that there will be fiercer competition to find the best solution. For continued success in the future, we must construct versatile machines – with the key objectives of reducing set-up times and improving availability (OEE) – as well as maintaining our first-rate international sales. And we'll succeed together in achieving this.

Tool manufacturers constitute a large market segment for STAMA, at a good 15% of the market. A considerable number of manufacturers use STAMA's MT technology. How do you assess the future development in this area?

I'm quite positive. In terms of expertise and experience, what we've built up in this segment over the past 20 years can be applied to all industries extremely well. This has been the case with the MT 733 Series. Complete machining will certainly be a key technology in the upcoming changes at production facilities all around the world. This is because it's unrivaled in combining two elements – high flexibility and high productivity.

Since the 1980s, STAMA has been renowned for its highly productive TWIN machines. Do they play a major role in the current product range and will they do so in the future, for example to open up new markets?

Yes, they do. As you've already mentioned, STAMA grew thanks to its two-spindle machining systems for high-capacity series production. We believe that there's further potential across industries. In 2003, we combined the 8 Series TWIN with MT. Our customers appreciate the combined benefits of multiple spindles, five-axis technology and milling-turning functionality – and this will still be the case in the future. With our experience and knowledge of perfectly bringing high productivity with high flexibility to meet individual requirements, we're at the forefront in this field.

In your marketing material, you describe STAMA as "the turnkey factory". Please briefly explain what this means.

Turnkey solutions are at the core of the STAMA brand. We now supply customers with the complete technology package for 90% of our machines. We'll find the best solution for them and select the right machine from our product range. Our aim is to machine workpieces to the required quantity and quality, while also achieving the best unit costs. This means that we're a turnkey factory rather than a pure machine manufacturer and STAMA puts this spirit into practice.

STAMA is affected by one aspect of the CHIRON Group's restructuring measures – the relocation of manufacturing and assembly from Schlierbach to the sites at Neuhausen ob Eck and Tuttlingen – what can you tell us about this decision?

When it was first announced, this decision must have been difficult for all those affected to understand or even to comprehend. But, as was already indicated in the press releases, STAMA, the CHIRON Group and the entire industry are facing considerable reductions in incoming orders and this has certain consequences that are now also being felt by STAMA. It's becoming increasingly important to manufacture the machines where they're used. In our target market of China, the new CHIRON Group plant was therefore established in the city of Taicang and designed using state-of-the-art methods and technology. Similarly, the new plant at Neuhausen ob Eck was set up for our entire European market. Gaining a competitive advantage by cost-optimizing our machines and assembling them with a high degree of digitalization is part of the CHIRON Group's strategic approach. Having spent 33 years at STAMA and gone through the crises of 1993 and 2008/2009, I've learned that things certainly won't be easy and it will probably take a few years before we've worked our way back to a strong economic position. But in order to come out of this crisis and reach that point again, it's vital that, in addition to offering new innovative products, we remain structurally and organizationally flexible. STAMA will also succeed in this area.

The service team makes a key contribution to the total turnover and, like the sales team, will still be based in Schlierbach. Does this mean that the two elements of "point of sale" will stay the same location together?

Yes! At the end of the day, customer satisfaction is key. It's therefore important that the sales and service teams are and remain closely interlinked – both with respect to their mindset and location. Our turnkey factory's areas of expertise – in other words, our engineering, market insight and creative problem-solving – will remain based at Schlierbach.

As STAMA's new Managing Director, Mr. Ulmer, what do you consider to be your most important and pressing task in the near future?

With the technology and staff at Neuhausen ob Eck, we have the ideal foundation for delivering our proven machine quality. From a logistical and organization point of view, it's certainly not going to happen by itself, but all the division managers at STAMA and CHIRON are prepared accordingly. Alongside managing this relocation process, I think that an equally important challenge will be to bring out the STAMA Sprit. While a brand thrives on its products, it really prospers from its staff's belief in its products. All employees of the CHIRON Group must be aligned with this and be motivated so that our customers, technology partners and suppliers are still justified in placing their trust in us.

And just one personal question to finish with, can you plan for everything in life or should you just go with the flow?

I think it's right and important to have a plan. If you have a plan, that also means you've got a goal! If things happen that are outside your control, you will need to change the plan as needed. Anyone with a family or children knows that you need to constantly adapt to new situations. But, ultimately, it's a question of attitude, and mine always tends to be a positive one. (The last question was answered with a smile.)

Did you know? Processes make the difference. And the experts.

Whether manufacturing implants for knees, hips or spinal columns, or producing surgical instruments for endoscopic and arthroscopic procedures (such as scissors, needle holders and forceps) – medical products vary considerably, with each one presenting new challenges and tasks. The team of experts at the CHIRON Group's Medical and Precision Technology Center address these challenges with manufacturing processes which are just as unique.

In the medical technology sector, very high precision is often still achieved manually by an experienced surgical technician or by using a complex machine with multiple machining steps. However, in light of increasingly sophisticated workpieces, increasing quantities, higher risk categories and more stringent traceability requirements for medical products, a new approach is required. These factors mean that it is necessary to switch to productive, validated CNC processes which enable high-precision complete machining and ensure maximum, reproducible precision and surface finish from one part to the next.

 View of the Medical & Precision Technology Center.
View of the Medical & Precision Technology Center.

A center for precision and special turnkey expertise
In 2013, the CHIRON Group pooled the advanced expertise it had developed in this field over decades at the Medical & Precision Technology Center in Tuttlingen, a town in south-western Germany. The on-site team creates a customized manufacturing solution for every project. Employees also provide customers with the turnkey expertise required for an "overall package" ready for production with perfectly coordinated technology modules. This not only includes machining centers by CHIRON, STAMA and FACTORY5 (the Group's recently acquired brand) but also covers tools, holding fixtures, automation, the CAM system and much more besides.

Turnkey expertise for medical and precision technology

  • Comprehensive process design, including machine recommendation, tool design, clamping concept and program creation
  • Skilled engineering, experienced project management
  • Validation of statistical process capability
  • Assurance of target productivity
  • Production support during the initial phase
  • Customized automation
  • Training sessions for optimal use of the manufacturing solution
  • Tailored services over the entire life cycle

The approach taken by the specialists at the Medical & Precision Technology Center is unique, says Martin Brenndörfer, Head of CNC Application Technology for Medical and Precision Components at CHIRON.

»Customers in the medical technology sector aren't just buying a machining center, they want to see the complete manufacturing process for their product on the machine beforehand. Ideally, it needs to work so well that we can disassemble the system straight away and put it back together again at the customers' premises.«

To achieve this, every project at the Medical & Precision Technology Center goes through the following four steps: Analyzing, designing, detailing and realizing.

Benefit from a coherent process.

 Benefit from a coherent process.
Benefit from a coherent process.

The key to finding the best turnkey process for each situation is to have precise answers to a number of questions. To list just the most important ones:

Which of the requirements are the special requirements?
Which machine is suitable for the application?

Which colleague can offer expertise in the relevant area?
Do we need any special tools, such as specific clamping equipment?
Which parts from the customer's range can also be positioned on the manufacturing solution?

The next issue of speedfactor will share the answers given by the team regarding the specific requirements of Carl Teufel GmbH & Co. KG, a manufacturer based in the town of Emmingen-Liptingen in south-western Germany. To give you a brief preview: Rather than machining high quantities of finished goods for surgical micro instruments (such as spring scissors, needle holders and forceps) in multiple machining steps, as was previously the case, they are now completely machined on a FZ 08 S mill turn with Precision+.

On 💊✌️💉 Medical Wednesdays, we use the hashtag #medicalwednesday on the CHIRON Group's LinkedIn and Instagram accounts to share excellent new tools, exciting projects and much more besides.

Here are a few examples for »maximum precision«: