Marginal Column

Photo | Prof. Gisela Lanza

Prof. Gisela Lanza, D.Eng., Director of the Production Systems Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Photo: Prof. Gisela Lanza

Three questions for Prof. Gisela Lanza

 

Professor Lanza, what do you see as the greatest benefits promised by the TCO approach?

Manufacturers of high-quality machinery can profi t greatly from this development since, under certain circumstances, they can provide clear justification – from the business viewpoint – for higher up-front expenditures. This makes for a signifi cant competitive advantage. What’s more, users’ thinking about life cycle costs and maintenance costs can trigger greater demand for product-related services – services often offered by the machinery manufacturers themselves. Ultimately, most TCO concepts involve detailed exchanges between the machinery manufacturer and the users. Thus the maker has an opportunity to learn about where the products are used and what problems they experience. This can be used for continuous, customer-oriented product improvement.

Are these potentials being recognized and exploited in mechanical and systems engineering?

Companies have identified this as a highly significant subject but they differ widely in the degree to which it is addressed. Progress in implementation varies. There have been significant gains in recent years as regards technical services. TCO gives manufacturers an opportunity to observe machinery in the field, even after the guarantee period has expired. They can analyze their machines’ operating properties in the context of varying production demands. This promotes a better understanding of TCO.

Seen internationally, what is Germany’s ranking in regard to TCO?

Since the German economy is one of the very few typified by highquality production technologies, comparable concepts will be found only in relatively few countries. The international automotive industry – which plays a leading role in Germany – is the largest purchaser of machinery and equipment. Satisfying customer demands for high-quality production systems in order to continuously increase productivity has boosted the significance of the TCO approach in mechanical and system engineering, especially in Germany. The Production Technology Institute helps mechanical engineering companies and customers benefit from this development. Ford is deemed to be the pioneer in implementing the TCO approach in the automotive industry.

In 2001, for the first time, its machinery suppliers indicated the MTBF (mean time between failures) and MTTR (mean time to repair) for components subject to wear and tear. Fertigung (Production) magazine writes that in the U.S.A. and Great Britain less attention is paid to TCO than to the topics of reliability and upkeep. International comparisons also show that the mechanical and equipment engineering sectors in Germany assume leading positions in regard to TCO and life cycle costs. Slightly differing TCO concepts exist in other countries, making their success, significance and efficacy difficult to compare.