How Röchling Ensures Optimum Internal Processes

At the international locations of the Röchling Group, the same high quality standard, on which customers can rely one hundred percent, should apply everywhere. Johannes Mohs, Head of Quality Management in the Industrial division of the Röchling Group, is constantly on the move in pursuit of this mission. “He travels as much as Genscher,” say his colleagues. Former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher was renowned as a tireless traveler. In the interview, Mohs reports on the requirements of customers, but above all about how Röchling ensures optimum processes internally.

How can the quality of a manufacturer of engineering plastics be measured at all? What are the key issues for customers?
Technical values are clearly a priority. However, the issue of reliability, for example with regard to adherence to schedules, is becoming increasingly important. Added to this are expertise and conduct. Customers must sense that they are dealing with a partner that can actively support them in accomplishing their tasks.

As a company, does one have to be certified these days?
Without ISO 9001, which is relevant to the area of quality, you can’t do anything. It provides the fundamentals for systematic working methods. In addition, however, it is essential to identify the specific customer requirements each time in order to gain a close awareness of the needs and expectations of the customers. As well as quality, the topics of the environment, safety, compliance and sustainability are playing an increasing role. We must also demonstrate that we have a firm grasp of all processes, such as procurement, production, packaging, and inspection.

Are you also audited by your customers?
That is common practice. Many customers come to our locations and conduct audits, sometimes lasting several days, based on their own specifications. Above all, they want to see that we have our processes under control and to qualify us as a supplier. Ultimately, it is extremely important to them that they can rely on the timely delivery of flawless products. Otherwise, their own production process would be derailed, which is an absolute deal-breaker in terms of the continued cooperation with the supplier in question.

How do you measure the internal Röchling quality standards?
For us, there are five key points: How many complaints and instances of substitute performance do we have? How punctual are our deliveries? What is the level of customer satisfaction? How well do we do in customer audits? And what is the situation regarding documentation and traceability? The trust that customers place in us by sourcing their products from various Röchling locations is extremely important to us. They only do this if they can rely on our ability to deliver consistent product quality from all our locations.

Helena Meyer, apprentice process mechanic for plastic and rubber, uses a digital microscope to check the quality of a material chip from a pressed sheet.

CNC milling technician Heinz Tieben (on the left) and Frank Dickmann, Head of Quality Management in Haren, use a vernier caliper to determine the contour accuracy.

How do you ensure close communication, even across location boundaries worldwide?
We have a quality manager at virtually every location. As a general rule, however, all employees must be made aware of this topic – from the top manager through to the project manager and all the way to the employee at the production plant. We have compiled a quality manual that sets out all our processes – and everyone is required to abide by these rules. My team is in close contact with the locations, and in some cases we visit them multiple times per year. We also conduct unannounced internal audits. We communicate new policies and process instructions regularly and systematically. And for specific products, the employees receive additional training.

What skills must employees who work in the area of quality management have?
Technical expertise and a good understanding of the process form the basis. Certification as an auditor is also helpful. You must be able to read, understand and implement contracts, standards, legislation, and policies. In some cases, the subject matter is extremely dry. At the same time, the employees must be good communicators, self-confident, have a good grasp of the English language and be willing to travel extensively. Suitable young employees are introduced to quality issues during their training. We have young colleagues who work completely independently and are already fully-fledged professionals. They are an excellent group.