in Vol. 13 - January Issue - Year 2012
Leading the Field with Innovation and Service
Hubert Prokopp, Managing Director of Berger Strahltechnik GmbH
Side view transport trolley removal wheel
MFN had the chance to interview Hubert Prokopp, Managing Director of Berger Strahltechnik GmbH. The company is well known for manufacturing heavy-duty equipment for the foundry and forge industries.
(?) MFN: Hubert Prokopp, Berger Strahltechnik as an independent brand has belonged to the Pangborn Group since 2009. What are the advantages of this for your company?
(!) H. P.: There are two basic points that I wish to stress.
The first is that since 2009, we have again been able to market the systems, developed and produced over the years, under the "Berger Strahltechnik" label. We wish to get back to our roots and bring the successful brand name, established in 1873, back to life. The second point is the innovative capacity. Within the Pangborn Group – consisting of the Pangborn Corporation (USA), V+S Vogel & Schemmann (Germany), and Pangborn Europe (Italy) – we can maximize our innovative potential while profiting from the Group’s high innovative capacity. This strong alliance allows us to offer an extensive range of surface engineering solutions and provides us with the ability to operate in the market as "Berger Strahltechnik" with the support of the other brands. This situation and our state-of-the-art technology and automated systems ensure we are a technological leader.
(?) MFN: Berger was commissioned by a renowned German automobile manufacturer to develop three shot-peening systems with satellite rotating tables for transmission components.
(!) H. P.: Yes, we are talking about rotating table systems with several satellites. Shot-peening treatment increases the surface strength characteristics of the gear wheels and shafts. The Berger-designed systems have the advantage that they can be loaded manually and by a robotic device. Furthermore, they are equipped with accurate flow meters for the blasting media, thus allowing us to determine precisely how much blasting media is steered towards each work-piece. Since the controlled wheels also guarantee the constant speed of the spherical particles, the systems deliver a high level of reproduction while safeguarding a processing quality that is unsurpassed in the market place.
(?) MFN: Hubert Prokopp, how do you ensure that Berger systems really achieve the guaranteed values?
(!) H. P.: Berger is familiar with the full range of parts and all the processing targets of its customers. Moreover, part loading and unloading operations as well as the cycle times are specified. In close cooperation with the customers, our specialists develop a special requirements profile for the systems. By performing extensive tests in our laboratory or at our testing facility, we are able to determine the system parameters. Therefore, all the relevant parameters can be measured in advance and our customers can be sure that the system achieves the guaranteed values. We have even gone so far as to install a system in our showroom to carry out these test runs. This provides us with the opportunity to simulate all the necessary configurations and to determine whether a rotating satellite table with two or four wheels or with a compressed air system achieves the desired results. Testing in a real practice setting involves the test and inspection of all relevant parameters, such as the blast velocity, the quantity of blasting media or the angle of impact, prior to production. Together with the customer, we determine the ideal loading of the system and its integration in the production process. We also regard the training of operating and maintenance staff as our responsibility, thus ensuring that the demanded and guaranteed parameters are adhered to.
(?) MFN: What were the special challenges for the design and production of this system?
(!) H. P.: A high level of blast reproduction and the tracking of all the parts were key factors for the customer to achieve maximum process reliability. Furthermore, the customer underlined the importance of the system’s maintenance friendliness. The blast systems are designed for a three-shift pattern; the applied materials guarantee an appropriate service life and thus a respective level of maintenance friendliness.
(?) MFN: Berger’s basic principle for the development of new systems is simplicity. What does this actually mean?
(!) H. P.: In order to be maintenance friendly, operators and service staff must fully understand the systems, i.e. they must be able to comprehend the operating principles. Just consider the main wear parts of a blast system, e.g. the wheel: If they fail, the entire line fails. Therefore, Berger has developed a concept that facilitates the complete replacement of wheels in a very short space of time. Service technicians require no more than 20 minutes for this task. It can be carried out in next to no time. Thanks to the Berger quick-change technology, all the couplings can be released quickly and efficiently. The entire control and drive electronics can be plugged into the system. The complete wheel can thus be disassembled and subsequently refurbished in a repair shop. Once the repairs have been completed, the wheel is re-installed and ready to go. When we talk about the principle of simplicity, we also mean the components inside the system. Their design ensures that, for the most part, they do not need elaborate mechanical fastenings and can also be replaced quickly.
(?) MFN: The rotating satellite table systems work with four wheels. What is special about this design?
(!) H. P.: Our customer decided in favor of systems with four wheels due to the long service life of the equipment. Each system is capable of processing roughly 11,000 shafts or 33,000 gear wheels, stacked three high, on a daily basis. With a throughput of 200 – 250 kg of blasting media per minute and wheel, the systems work at an average blast velocity of 81 m/sec. Berger has been a highly successful partner of the automotive industry for more than 30 years. The automobile sector employs Berger systems not only for transmission manufacturing, but also for the processing of forged parts and other components. This explains the confidence in our systems and our innovative capacity. The customer purchased not one, but three identical systems. This underlines the fact that our experience and continuous innovation have, over the years, helped to create a business partnership based on mutual respect and trust.
(?) MFN: If needed, can the system also be operated with three wheels without a loss of quality?
(!) H. P.: The answer to your question is a definite yes. However, the minimum number of wheels with which the system can be operated is two. Various programs are stored in the control unit. The customer must simply "inform" the control unit which parts are to be blasted, how many wheels are required, and how much and which blast media should be applied. The control unit then uses this data to calculate the system’s ideal mode of operation, and automatically sets all the necessary parameters and components. This ensures that the system provides optimum results, all of the time.
(?) MFN: Does the longevity of the Berger systems mean that the customer can also process the next transmission generation with increased requirements at the system?
(!) H. P.: Berger has equipped the systems with cutting-edge technology that will also deliver real benefits in the coming years. Today’s systems are, of course, designed for the processing of tomorrow’s transmissions. The quick-change standardized holding fixtures guarantee that only the satellite holding fixtures need to be replaced for the next generation of components.
(?) MFN: What is special about this new system?
(!) H. P.: The new systems operate with a blast width of 120 mm and the parts always remain in the hot spot zone. Berger achieves this blast width due to special throwing blades and the special arrangement of the wheels, ensuring that gear wheels, stacked three high, can be blasted with a constant high-quality standard of work.
(?) MFN: Berger blast systems have been a permanent feature of the automotive industry for more than 30 years, which is an eternity for this fast-moving sector. What is your key to success?
(!) H. P.: Berger Strahltechnik specializes in the production of high-end systems. There are many reasons for our success, but I would like to single out the applied materials and components here. In wear zones, we only use special, extra high-quality steels and are constantly testing new, innovative materials. Most of our systems are created without the need for foundations. This is a real advantage when customers alter their production process, as the systems can be quickly and cost-effectively re-organized or relocated. Another important factor for our quality is our service. We don’t just sell and then disappear. We have developed an aftermarket service that maintains regular contact with customers, and our specialists examine the systems on a regular basis. For example, we advise our customers about aspects to which they need to pay particular attention in the near future. Our goal is to enhance the service life of the systems. Our aftermarket service also presents the latest technologies and suggests beneficial changes for our customers. Customers then decide whether they wish to follow up the suggestions or not. This means that we support our customers throughout the entire life cycle of a system. Our aftermarket service is more than a promise, it’s a commitment.
(?) MFN: Can you illustrate the economic benefits?
(!) H. P.: The economic benefits result from the high quantity and quality of processed parts, automated processes, and reduced maintenance periods and costs. It should not be forgotten that the costs relating to reject parts are quite significant. Berger has an excellent reputation in the automotive industry and is able to reach out to interested parties with field-proven systems. This is an overwhelming vote of confidence from our customers. Without actually being present, we allow potential customers to discuss the quality of our systems with existing customers. We know that the facts speak for themselves.
(?) MFN: Systems of this size are always unique, bespoke machines. How does Berger ensure that the quality standards are met for an individual system?
(!) H. P.: Berger boasts a comprehensive internal quality assurance system that starts with the inspection of all the applied materials. All supplies, steels, and materials are fully tested at our in-house laboratory, where hardness and material properties are examined carefully. All our suppliers are fully certified and it is understood that all of our own components are subjected to extensive quality assurance tests.
(?) MFN: But what if the system should fail and cannot be repaired quickly enough by the customer’s service staff? How does Berger support its customers?
(!) H. P.: Berger offers a worldwide service with fully trained service personnel for direct support. Furthermore, Berger has an extensive spare parts store for all wear parts. We are also able to manufacture special components for customers in a short space of time. We can normally dispatch stock items and main wear parts within 24 hours. This is yet another advantage provided by our internationally active Pangborn Group.
(?) MFN: Does Berger provide any special services?
(!) H. P.: Yes of course! We offer our customers individual service and maintenance contracts in which customers can specify desired services. We suggest tailored maintenance cycles for each system, but give customers the final say on whether these tasks should be carried out by our specialists or their own staff.
MFN would like to thank Hubert Prokopp for the interview!