Frontalee Ansicht der Modellfabrik (Image: TH Köln)

Modellfabrik (Model factory)

The model factory produces gear pumps and hydro-gear motors, like the ones that are manufactured by renowned German quality companies. The production range of the model factory includes swivel vane vacuum pumps, peristaltic pumps, fuel pumps as well as hydro-gear motors, of which some of them are produced in different versions.

Knowledge transfer is usually quite theoretical, so that often only a few or no references to industrial practice are provided. In this learning factory, on the other hand, structures and processes can be tested and optimized according to current business, organizational and logistical principles. In the model factory students of TH Köln as well as employees from industrial companies can experience how problems are identified and analyzed in practice. In addition, they learn which steps are necessary to efficiently find solutions that take into account the ideas of all participants. This allows the training participants to gain practical experience, apply their theoretical knowledge and acquire new skills. Practical learning and teamwork in the model factory are integrated into a continuous pedagogical overall concept.

By including the model factory in teaching and training, theoretical knowledge can be applied in a practical way. Thus, students, employees and managers can learn how parts for real gear pumps and hydro-gear motors are procured, manufactured and assembled. They also learn how the logistical processes should be designed to ensure efficient information and material flows. Avoiding errors by applying the Poka Yoke principle is of fundamental importance in this context.

Students and employees from companies learn how to optimize the manufacturing process of pumps and hydraulic gear motors under business, organizational and logistical aspects.

If one walks "backwards" through the factory from the customer's point of view, it has a dispatch area, quality assurance, an assembly area, a high-bay warehouse, a fibre laser, a CNC lathe, a horizontal band saw and a production control center (pictures 1 and 2 give an overview).

Teaching in the model factory

In training courses in the model factory, the participants (i.e. students and employees from companies) can be taught logistical interconnections between different operational functions. Job rotation enables them to gain a practical insight into the various functions of a production company. Alternatively, participants can also experience learning curve effects by staying at their workplaces during the production runs. In doing so, they will notice how more and more practice increasingly improves their performance (in for example output and quality).

In the study program, the model factory is primarily used to identify and develop rationalization potential in the sense of LEAN production. For this purpose, the procedures that are common in company practice are applied. The main topics  show a wide variety and range from 'Rationalization of the model factory', 'Green model factory', 'Automation in the model factory', 'Flexibility and efficiency in the model factory' and 'Industry 4.0 in the model factory' to the main topic 'Safety in the model factory'. Project papers have been written on these topics and the solutions developed have been visualized with small three-dimensional models.

The topics were developed in three successive steps:

  • as-is analysis to identify the main potential for improvement,
  • target concept to clarify the optimization approaches

and finally

  • drawing up an action plan with an estimate of the necessary personnel, time and financial resources.

By applying this procedure, students and other participants in the training courses learn to systematically analyze and specifically optimize the most important relevant processes of a production plant. The practice-oriented processing of problems in groups also promotes the ability to work in a team. In all practical activities in the model factory, great importance is also given to a clear focus on the optimal fulfilment of customer requirements in logistical project management.

Faculty of Automotive Systems and Production

Campus Deutz
Betzdorfer Str. 2, 50679 Köln