Operating globally, ZF provides systems for the mobility of cars, commercial vehicles and manufacturing technology. With more than a hundred locations worldwide, it is one of the leading companies in drive and gear technology.
The focus in developing ZF systems is on digitalization and automation. ZF is not only innovating its products, but it is also modernizing internal business processes.
To improve collaboration through digital processes, ZF initiated a project about the concept of a paperless factory in one of its plants in 2019. The plant in question used a lot of paper because there was no mobile application available that could tackle daily tasks and documentation adequately.
Instead of being able to quickly access up-to-date information, employees had to pore over folder after folder if machines had been maintained or retrofitted. Using paper instead of digital alternatives meant discontinuity and processes that were prone to errors.
Consequently, ZF had to digitalize the collaboration between operators, foremen, quality control and support. Together with partner Camelot ITLab, ZF implemented a new system – and new IIoT technologies like Hana, Fiori, SAP MII and mobile devices – to digitally monitor tasks.
ZF’s digital transformation
For daily tasks like maintenance, inspection and cleaning of the machines, employees and managers are supported by a central, digital platform. For example, the platform reminds staff if specific maintenance tasks have to be repeated periodically in a shift operation. The platform automatically notifies employees about necessary measures.
Another improvement: set-up plans that detail necessary steps are easier to find since they are stored in the system. If employees have easy access to these manuals, they can save a lot of time. Foremen can also digitally store their approval tests in the system, therefore securely documenting and archiving them.
The platform is intuitive and easy to use. Thanks to predefined access management, employees only have access to information they really need. Furthermore, ZF also connected the platform to its ERP system. Consequently, master data, e.g. information concerning new machines or materials, can be entered directly into the system.
The platform also offers the possibility of visualizing the status of maintenance, inspection and cleaning tasks. This led to higher transparency and accountability. ZF’s platform makes it easy to see which process steps have already been taken care of. At the same time, employees know exactly what tasks they are supposed to do.
Closely involving over 50 stakeholders from areas like business, IT and operations was another challenge in the ZF project. Regardless of its complexity, it was crucial that everyone was involved to ensure that processes met all the necessary requirements.
ZF was able to significantly improve efficiency since employees are able to take care of tasks faster and more productively. At the same time, administrative workload decreased. ZF employees find it easy to use the platform, resulting in high acceptance of the solution.
ZF therefore reached its goal of a paperless factory and is planning to undertake more projects in that direction in the future.