9th December, 2019
Author: Festool Australia Marketing Team
This article originally appeared on Festool Germany's blog.
It goes without saying that customers expect the best quality from tools for the toughest demands – and that they get it, too. And Festool does everything to provide it. Including – and particularly – when it comes to dust extraction. We made sure of that when we visited Illertissen, where the CLEANTEC mobile dust extractors are produced.
A good hour’s travel by car to the south-east of the Festool headquarters in Wendlingen is the town of Illertissen, where Festool produces its mobile dust extractors and many accessories. This is where new products are born and put through the most extreme tests in the testing department, and where standard models are assembled on state-of-the-art production lines. The production building, where Head of Production Ulrich Brunner welcomes us was built in 2012, and it’s no coincidence that it’s on Pionierstrasse (’Pioneer Street’). In the world of dust extractors, the plant in Illertissen is right at the cutting edge, as Head of Production Ulrich Brunner points out: “When it comes to dust extraction, Festool is a pioneer and innovation leader. And Festool is the only tool manufacturer to develop and produce its own mobile dust extractors. And it’s not just internally that that’s seen as a very positive thing – clients see it that way, too.”
Delivery “just in time”
He leads us into the enormous production hall, where two-shift operation is used. Roughly 10 employees work on the front line, assembling various dust extractor models in a total of 160 variants. With concentration, speed and exceptional organisation, components are supplied to the production line just in time and installed, all in a strictly predefined sequence. Every screw or bracket, every plastic or electronic component, every switch or button is checked with a keen eye before being installed. “Our staff on the assembly line have an extremely important role as inspectors and are therefore qualified accordingly,” Brunner stresses. Once the most important elements and components are installed, it’s time for the marriage of the chassis and body, so to speak – though without the best man and confetti. The blessing is only bestowed on the freshly assembled mobile dust extractor once it has successfully been through the test chamber. This is where each new product goes through all the relevant functional tests, before being packaged and shipped to the customer.
Practical boundary experiences in testing
At Festool, the quality standards are high. And there are a whole host of committed employees who can vouch for that – employees who go all out for the best products and extraordinary customer satisfaction levels. “Everything that a mobile dust extractor must be able to do and offer has already been defined in the development phase. Here in testing, we have to put it to the acid test before it goes into production,” stresses Günter Werbach. He joined Festool in 2006 and, as Head of Testing, has continually developed and expanded the department in Illertissen. Now, Werbach is on the brink of his well-earned retirement. And because his experience is indeed indispensable, the management at the company has decided on a worthy successor. Rainer Snehotta is young enough to be Werbach’s son – and as far as work ethic is concerned, the two are certainly cut from the same cloth: “The idea that, generally, here in testing every little anomaly matters and that it’s vital to push the limits of what can be done is something I’ve internalised,” Snehotta admits.
Testing with wood and cement dust
In order to be able to identify reliable test results with respect to the specifications for each particular machine, the mobile dust extractors are subjected to hours of exposure to fine and coarse wood dust, plaster dust and cement dust. They trundle along on the roller test bench, going over a two-centimetre doorsill 5,000 times, and in the spray arch test, they are literally left standing in the rain. All practical tests and test rigs are based on tradespeople’s real work processes. And then there are the safety tests, such as the separate fuse for the power tool socket on dust extractors – a requirement that all manufacturers have to comply with by the end of 2019. Yet technological innovations – such as the integration of Bluetooth® technology* or the innovative touch control panel in the CLEANTEC CT MINI and MIDI – also have to be painstakingly tested and checked. The function of the touch control panel alone has been tested with ten different work gloves.
Quality assurance on the assembly line
The new compact dust extractors now have to meet the same high-quality standards on the production line as they did in testing. “We use state-of-the-art equipment here to achieve the best possible production quality and product quality,” explains Ralf Bärreiter, who has been responsible for the Quality Assurance and Occupational Safety department at Festool in Illertissen for 11 years. He and his team pursue one goal in particular, which he calls ’quality projection’. A completely new assembly line was installed for the production of the new CT MINI and MIDI compact dust extractors as a pilot project, aimed at precisely this kind of forward-looking quality planning and fault prevention. It takes quality assurance to a new level and increases the process reliability in particular. At the heart of the production line is a new operating data acquisition and software control unit, which is designed such that each individual product writes its own log. “Before assembly, the data system already knows which component needs to be installed in which mobile dust extractor,” explains Ralf Bärreiter. All the way along the assembly line, colour signals indicate whether the correct components have been installed.
In the test chamber
At the end of the state-of-the-art assembly line is a test chamber, which has been developed completely from scratch. And it’s all because of the mobile dust extractors that are produced on the new production line. The new touch control panel, which has been introduced for the first time in the CT MINI and MIDI compact dust extractors, requires completely new test methods. What’s more, it is the first test system with Bluetooth® technology*. Finally, cordless functions also have to be given a final inspection before the mobile dust extractors are shipped. The amount Festool has invested in quality assurance is certainly impressive. That applies to the tools and mobile dust extractors in equal measure. As far as Ralf Bärreiter is concerned, it’s a core part of the business: “If it means we can guarantee the quality of our products with absolute certainty, nothing is too much. We do whatever it takes. And even a little more, too.”
Author Ralf Christofori
Photographer Torben Jäger
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