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Precious metal processor evolves with its medical technology division

Just under two decades ago, Haager GmbH & Co. KG still pretty much produced only hooks, eyes and other accessory articles made of precious metals for the jewelry industry. However, in contrast to many other jewelry manufacturers from Pforzheim, the company with a long tradition survived the decline of the industry through a far-sighted realignment of the in-house business model. Instead of making jewelry parts, the company today generates 90 percent of its revenue with accessory parts for manufacturers of medical technology products. Amongst other things, Haager guarantees the precision required for this by means of a ZEISS O-INSPECT, and the precise adjustment of the probe is also provided thanks to a stylus set-up device from ZEISS Industrial Metrology.

Haager production shop

Each workstation is equipped with portable measuring instruments, which automatically enter the measured value in the measurement plan.

From the jewelry to the medical industry

15 years have passed since the senior partner of Haager GmbH & Co. KG came back from a trade fair with a new idea; instead of only manufacturing jewelry as in the past, the company should orient itself towards the medical technology industry. This is because the German jewelry industry, which was mainly based in the "Golden City" of Pforzheim, had been through and was facing difficult times. Haager took on small projects for individual medical technology manufacturers to begin with, in order to develop the requisite know-how for the new area. "It goes without saying that the requirements with respect to the precision and surface quality are considerably higher in medical technology than in the jewelry industry. But the basic requisites for accomplishing this were definitely available”, says Stephan Lehnert, quality assurer at Haager. The reactions of the customers to the quality of the products encouraged the present senior partner to invest progressively in more precise machinery and to expand the production space. A high investment which has paid off says Lehnert: The medium-sized company can now also guarantee tolerance specifications of a few microns and "our production area will soon be exhausted as a result of the revenue growth". The high quality of the Haager products is also supported by end-to-end machine data recording. "We record everything which is currently possible from machine data to quality data and generate information from this which optimizes our processes and our quality”, explains Lehnert.

Haager endoscope

Stephan Lehnert demonstrates the operating principle of an assembly for an endoscope. This enables doctors to remove e.g. tissue from the stomach and intestine with minimally invasive surgery.

Geared up for the zero defect strategy

The 35-employee company has put its faith in the currently heavily hyped formula for success of end-to-end data acquisition for the last six years. The successes are already perceptible: The set-up time and therefore the downtime of the machines has been optimized. And the statistical evaluation of the quality data means that "we can now also recognize earlier whether the processes are running stably and which points we have to optimize". In the opinion of the quality manager, the permanent and pro-active self-optimization separates the wheat from the chaff in the last analysis. Because he knows one thing for sure: In future, medical technology manufacturers will wish to integrate the parts from their suppliers in their products without inspection for time and cost reasons. And suppliers who do not define the so-called zero defect strategy as a specific goal will be very quickly on the outside looking in – permanently. Lehnert can understand this: for example, a metal part for endoscopy manufactured in Pforzheim is provided with a lens and a chip in Japan. If the metal part for 17 euros from Pforzheim does not comply with the promised quality, the manufacturer throws more than 3,000 euros away according to Lehnert. Added to this is the damage to the reputation of the suppliers of the medical devices, especially if patients suffer harm. The employees of Haager GmbH therefore give top priority to the issue of quality and put their faith in a ZEISS O-INSPECT for high-precision measurement of the tolerances for shape and position.

ZEISS Fix-Assist

The ZEISS FixAssist holds the stylus securely and the operator can easily set the angle with both hands and adjust the stylus.

Quality and processes under control

Several aspects spoke for the ZEISS machine. On the one hand, the wide distribution in the industry. This is because the implementation of a zero defect strategy requires "an intensive working relationship of the quality managers across all company boundaries". But Lehnert also attached great importance to intuitive operation and easy programming: "We looked at several measuring machines, and the precision and the easy handling of the ZEISS O-INSPECT impressed us". Haager produces a large number of parts in small batch sizes and can save many hours of labor if the measuring program can be programmed quickly. The family-owned company is saving even more time now that it is also working with the ZEISS FixAssist. This is a device which enables probe systems to be assembled a good deal faster. Something which used to take up to 2 hours in complex stylus systems can now be done with the FixAssist in a few minutes: Clamp the stylus plate, undo the screws with the hexagon wrench and adjust the stylus. Once the adjustment is perfect, only the screws have to be tightened. At least two ruby styli costing 150 euros each used to end up in the trash every month, because they fell on the floor during the adjustment. However, this problem has been resolved in the meantime as a result of the FixAssist. The stylus set-up device also prevents shaft contact and therefore corrupted measuring results. Lehnert knows that something like this can easily occur. He remembers a customer complaint, which had a positive outcome for Haager in the end thanks to the FixAssist. "After we explained that our angle adjustments are precise, because we work with the FixAssist, our customer's quality managers came to see for themselves. They assembled their styli on our FixAssist in no time at all. And lo and behold: Their results agreed with ours afterwards." For Lehnert, who has worked at Haager since 2011, this permanent and mutual struggle for compliance with the required quality standards makes his job "extremely challenging". Apart from the relative insusceptibility of the industry to crises, this man, who learned his trade in a pure jewelry company, personally feels that medical technology is "better than gold".

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