Woodbridge Expands Focus on Global Quality with Implementation of ZwickRoell Modernizations

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The Woodbridge Group (“Woodbridge”), named by Deloitte as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in 2017, is applying state-of-the-art processes and technology to continuously enhance product quality in support of customer needs. Woodbridge, a global supplier of innovative urethane and particle foam products, has partnered with ZwickRoell, a leading worldwide supplier of material and component testing systems, to take its centralized quality management system to the next level.

Trends in global trade and the subsequent expansion of manufacturing into emerging geographic markets have heavily influenced the automotive supply chain.
Manufacturers expect suppliers to perform on a global level while retaining the ability to meet the needs of regional production centers. Such requirements place increased emphasis on quality as suppliers seek opportunities to demonstrate consistency as a source of competitive advantage.

Woodbridge recognized the value of a centralized quality management system early on and implemented a framework of people, processes and technology to support manufacturing centers across the globe. Ten years later, advancements in materials testing software and networked computing now enable Woodbridge to forecast the emergence of potential quality issues and recommend key processes at quality centers around the world. The company’s partnership with ZwickRoell on the rollout of a worldwide network of modernized materials testing systems represents an integral part of its global approach to quality.

“Customer specifications for performance tolerances are becoming more demanding. Our goal with this initiative was to reduce the potential for error and variability in testing so we could address increasingly stringent customer requirements. The support we received from ZwickRoell to manage the project and implement testing protocols on a global scale was outstanding,” stated Dennis Payne, senior laboratory manager at Woodbridge.

P3T Lab, Woodbridge’s corporate quality laboratory, provides corporate and external testing services for a large range of specifications in accordance with international and customer-specific standards. More than ten years ago, Woodbridge management identified opportunities to leverage process controls developed at the company’s P3T Lab in Toronto, Canada. P3T Lab subsequently developed and implemented centralized testing protocols at all Woodbridge locations worldwide through the company’s proprietary Laboratory Standardization and Information Management System (LSIMS). As customer needs have evolved and as product performance tolerances have become more critical, Woodbridge turned to ZwickRoell to begin the process of modernizing a globally connected network of testing systems.

“We worked closely with Woodbridge’s P3T Lab to identify the requirements for this global series of modernizations. We outlined the complete scope of tests to be conducted and the corresponding test methods to be applied, down to the parameters that would be used and how the results would be reported. We documented the ranges of acceptable values and provided support for the communication between our testXpert II software and their proprietary system,” explained Vinay Desai, product manager after sales at ZwickRoell.

ZwickRoell’s implementation team determined that a single, standard version of the testXpert II testing software would optimize the Woodbridge user experience and enable quality teams across the company to easily communicate test results with P3T Lab. The decision to freeze the version of the testing software further supports the centralization of testing protocols and testing program management objectives. An additional component of the global rollout was the introduction of the testControl II controller for all installed ZwickRoell testing systems. The combined solution makes the testing systems compatible with the latest technology.

Woodbridge supplies products that offer comfort, acoustics, and safety, as well as structural and insulation properties. The company’s products include seat cushioning, seat frame components, interior soft trim, occupant safety components, noise and vibration solutions, as well as additional products and assembly services for the automotive, commercial, healthcare and recreational vehicle sectors.

"Lightweighting is a trend that influences product design and performance specifications across these markets. With the capacity to set control parameters for testing of products on a remote basis, Woodbridge can prescribe the exact procedures for testing crucial elements for same or better performance in lightweighting and durability with tests such as hardness. The result is accuracy in measurement at each testing center," stated Cynthia Emili, global marketing manager at Woodbridge.
“There is tremendous value in the capacity to truly standardize the process of testing and to then support that on a global scale through the analysis of quantitative data,” explained Payne.

Following the definition of tests to be performed and the associated procedures, the next step was the setup of communication protocols to automate the download of information from each of the Woodbridge plant labs to P3T Lab through the company’s global network. Scripting capabilities in the ZwickRoell testXpert II software enabled Woodbridge to accomplish this transfer of key data in a format that could be readily accepted by its LSIMS system.

“This modernization effort has enabled us to align all of our hardware and software assets at our plant lab sites. testXpert II software includes capabilities that allow us to view key diagnostics such as cycle times, the condition of sensors and other performance indicators. This includes parameters that confirm when results are coming in outside of preset envelopes and report when a machine is approaching a scheduled maintenance horizon,” stated Payne.

The modernization process enables P3T Lab to gain insights into the performance of each testing lab and to provide support when it is needed. “P3T Lab management can now review inbound data from the global network of sites and identify when there are opportunities to support plant labs. They can make these decisions based on quantitative data and preset performance parameters,” said Desai.

As automotive manufacturers continue to expand performance requirements, there is greater pressure on suppliers to meet tighter specifications. A global approach to quality delivers consistency across manufacturing sites to support customer needs. P3T Lab at Woodbridge develops centralized testing protocols and test methods to suit customer requirements, delivering accuracy in measurement and support for manufacturing process controls. ZwickRoell’s testXpert II testing software works in concert with the Woodbridge LSIMS system to dispatch all testing procedures and parameters and to report inbound data. Plant labs throughout Woodbridge sites around the world achieve reliable test results and support a truly global focus on quality.

“We are pleased with the reliability of the machines and the consistency of the results that they produce. The modernization effort has enabled us to make reporting a turnkey process. Now we can simply export the data we wish to share or further analyze with our choice of programs,” said Payne.