Industrial quality steel hardening: [...]

An integrated approach to manage quality, environment and energy in industrial hardening plants

Industrial hardening shops take steel engineering parts and harden them. These companies use vast amounts of energy for processes that are not particularly kind to the environment. Many run several management systems in parallel and would welcome a single, integrated management solution that fulfills requirements relating to international enhanced efficiency standards. The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Risk Management has developed a generic management system that incorporates the individual content of several ISO management systems.

At the behest of customers, hardening shops frequently use certified quality management and environmental management systems, and some of the larger firms also have an energy management system in place. As a result, many hardening shops are keen to find a single, integrated management system. Integrating quality, environmental and energy standards into one management system is significant at the conceptual and process level. The integrated management system recently developed by the Steinbeis Transfer Center in Aachen compensates for the current deficits of ISO standards in its ability to integrate different areas. It already incorporates the imminent standardization of ISO standards according to Annex SL, the new ISO meta-standard. It adheres to all requirements laid down under individual ISO standards and is thus certifiable.

The generic management system manages values and thus adds value. Quality (product features) is a value that is important to hardening shop customers, the environment (environmental integrity) is a value that is meaningful to the interest groups of hardening shops, and energy (or how efficiently energy is used) is important to the hardening shops themselves. The new management system also encompasses a strategic and operational process to synchronize aspects that need to be managed individually, in keeping with required standards. It also provides an infrastructure for developing values.

A necessary assumption when introducing an integrated management system is that the company already has a quality management system in place under ISO standard 9001. At the “concept level,” the value added by the product is laid down, as is the production of the product on the “process level.” Integrated management is then implemented throughout the entire hardening shop. The aspects that need managing – quality, environmental factors and energy – are defined in value terms. The hardening shop’s company policies relate to all aspects that need managing. The strategic management system is developed and operated as part of a strategic process. It is integrated into internal and external auditing and forms part of management evaluations within a PDCA cycle (plan-do-check-act). The operative process in the hardening shop deals simultaneously with product quality, environmental integrity and energy utilization efficiency. It is also regulated by the PDCA cycle. Quality is managed along standard lines without the need for special or new methods or tools. There is a net material and energy equation, plus an integrated budget, containing KPIs on the operative management of environmental and energy tasks at the hardening shop. In the same way that there are quality targets to manage product features, there are material and energy targets to manage environmental integrity and energy efficiency. Under ISO management systems, the hardening shop has a free choice of relevant measurements and corresponding KPIs. For environmental integrity, an absolute value could be the carbon footprint. This value simply measures one gas entering the environment, but other materials entering the environment can be used. For energy efficiency, the standard industry measurement and KPI is energy input (kWh) in relation to volume of hardening goods (kg).

This value and process-based integrated management system is not limited to use in hardening plants or with environmental and energy aspects. It could basically be applied to any value-adding organization. It already matches the new structures and content of the next ISO standard revision.

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