My technical work placement at Bilstein & Siekermann® in July and August 2017
by Luisa, Year 13, Daun Grammar School
On Monday morning, my work placement started with a short briefing and a tour of the company by Ms Ubl, Head of HR. Then I spent the day sitting next to Janine, a toolmaking apprentice. Tools for the various machines and production lines are manufactured in the toolmaking department. This department is also responsible for repairing faulty tools. Our task on this day was to make another shovel based on a model of a shovel. This involved flexing, welding and the precise measurement of the model. I was also allowed to watch a CNC mill machine making new parts. This machine is now so advanced that it can be programmed by hand so that it can run automatically and very precisely.
I spent Tuesday in the machine department. There various turned parts are made from metal rods that are loaded into the machines. Parts are made on single-spindle or multi-spindle turning machines. In the morning, I was allowed to help retool one of these machines to make other turned parts. Because the machines are so complex, it took almost the entire morning. When this kind of work is carried out on the machines, there is usually already a completely configured tooling trolley available with all the parts that need to be replaced. This saves time.
The dimensions of the manufactured turned parts are documented at regular intervals in an SPC station to ensure that the manufacturing process is monitored.
The Transco – automatic lathe department was my third port of call. This is where the turned parts are reworked, i.e. the press blanks are made into turned parts in several steps by various tools. This process creates chips, which, if they get caught in the wrong places, can cause the machine to malfunction and stop. One of my jobs was to remove these chips under supervision and to turn the machines back on. I was also allowed to replace the plates that by machining, cut the right contour into the screws. Because oil is used as a coolant in metalworking machines, working on these kinds of machines is a little more difficult.
I spent the fourth day at the thread rolling machines. The produced parts are fed to the threaded rolls where they are then pressed into shape under 10 tonnes of pressure. Operators of these machines always need to ensure that there is no interference caused by trapped screws or sensors that have accidentally tripped. In addition, the machines need to be refitted for other turned parts, and dimensions must be regularly recorded, for example, wobble and various diameters.
Sales was my fifth and last department this week. Here I learned how much behind-the-scenes management is required for a production line. It is important for the sales team to know how many parts are in a shipment at any one time, so that everything can be packaged and delivered on time. However, several quotations are often necessary before a new product can be produced. Steps are also taken to check if the parts can be manufactured to the customer’s specifications. Communication, both with customers and with employees, is the most important factor here.
At the end of the week I can say that I spent a very interesting and informative time at Bilstein & Siekermann®. It's amazing to see how everything has to be taken into account when making a seemingly simple product, such as a screw, and how many different variations of a standard DIN screw there are.