ZF Lemforder is a leading vehicle manufacturer supplier. ZF Friedrichshafen AG acquired the tradition-steeped group of companies comprising Lemförder Metallwaren AG and Lemförder Metallwaren J. Ulderup AG & Co, headquartered in the northern German town of Lemförde in 1984. Worldwide, the manufacturers of approximately 50 vehicle brands use steering systems and chassis components from ZF. Its portfolio includes steering systems and chassis components and rubber-to-metal components for ideal damping and low noise emission.
The company has two sites in the West Midlands in the UK as well as in Germany.
Engagement with the SKILLMAN Project
ZF Lemforder has been involved with the Skillman project since its inception which includes participation in the project’s Workshop on Advanced Manufacturing for the Transport Sector under Work Package One of the Skillman project in March 2016. This workshop highlighted the major skills gaps and challenges from amongst the Skillman project’s industrial partner’s supply chain – these skills gaps were cited as the basis for the piloting trainings under Work Package 5 of the project.
In the course of the piloting, apprentices and skilled maintenance staff from ZF participated in several training sessions including Robot programming, Robot Processes and Functions, PLC programming, Process Optimisation, Fault Finding and Recovery, Introduction to Simulation Engineering, Machine Software Design Principles and Innovation in Automation. The customised workshops based on the skills challenges highlighted by participants formed the basis of the training and, techniques were shared and tailored to specific business needs.
Since taking part in the piloting trainings, the participants (apprentices) have been actively applying the know-how and knowledge they have acquired. ZDF also won an award at the JLR Supplier Skills forum in recognition of their participation and achievements in the course of the project’s delivery. ZF are also keen to review their current outsourcing of robotic maintenance and repair in order to bring some of this into the company as they develop capability as a result of the know-how, skills and capacity they have gained in the course of the SKILLMAN project. The feedback from the participants has been very positive. For example, it has ranged from Machine software design course attendees exclaiming about its relevance, stating that they were about to start a project using the same hardware and software used in the course. Many were conscious of the significance of learning more about how to use robots, stating that, in many cases, they had no previous robot experience but that the knowledge gained on the course would prove invaluable in helping them understand and ‘..design [cells] for ease of robot assembly”. Many were conscious of the significance of learning more about how to use robots, stating that, in many cases, they had no previous robot experience but that the knowledge gained on the course would prove invaluable in helping them understand/maintain and improve the efficiency of their machinery (robots) In the case of ZF, the company’s future European expansion means that training in robotics can be supported through the online resources on robotics available via the SKILLMAN website. Their attendance at the project end Capacity Building Workshop meant they also had an opportunity to look at how to setting up training going forwards as they look to train future employees.
Video with ZF Manager Darren Jones and two apprentices has been submitted as evidence to support the case study.