Knorr-Bremse is the world leader manufacturer of brake systems for rail and commercial vehicles and a leader producer of security-critical subsystems for rail and duty vehicles. It has over 100 sites in more than 30 countries. Knorr-Bremse Systeme für Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH delivers for example the brake equipment for the London Unterground and for the subways in Berlin and Washington D.C. as well as for high-speed trains like the ICE, the Eurostar 320 or the new TGV in France.

In order to provide higher safety and quality standards for its customers, manufacturing and quality control data must flow together. This is now possible thanks to a so called Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which monitors the different parameters of the manufacturing process.

InSystems Automation developed such a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) at the Knorr-Bremse headquarter in Berlin-Marzahn, where also the manufacturing of brake discs for railway vehicles takes place. The cooperation between InSystems Automation and Knorr-Bremse Systeme für Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH started already 2012. Since then, the applications have been steadily improved according to the needs of the facility.


The manufacturing of brake discs is a complicated process. It consists of several single steps, from the incoming goods to the mechanical work, the assembly, order picking and shipment. Before introducing the new MES-database, the monitoring, documentation and analysis of all these steps for a single piece was very difficult. Furthermore, the error search was very time consuming. The new MES should provide consistency for the monitoring and documentation of the manufacturing process.

Project Description

The first step was made by developing a central database, which collects all process data, as well as a Web portal with reports and configuration pages. After that, the brake discs were tagged with two code tags for each disc. For this purpose, a tagging client, a PC application, was programmed. This provides the basic structure, so that for every single piece all relevant supplier data are shown before it gets to the manufacturing area. Furthermore, already at this stage it should be clear for every piece, what it is and what it will become. InSystems Automation programmed a client software for every process step, which is equipped for the most cases with interfaces to manufacturing machines and allows a view of the assembly state including screw equipment, balancing system and SPC software for process control during ongoing production.  If an operator wants to work on a brake disc, he scans the manufacturing order via Client Software. The brake discs are all tagged with code labels. The connected machines work then automatically according to the instructions written in the database. This increases process safety.

The different client programs submit the process data to the database, where they get compared with the target values. Doing so, the operator can already verify the process quality online, for instance if the right torque was used at the screw fitting. If the quality test leads to negative results, the client blocks the brake disc in the database if necessary and prevents that the faulty product gets delivered.

The tagging of the brake discs occurs in an external hall of the logistic partner. The incoming and the tagged discs are stored there temporarily. In order to provide a customized logistic between the logistic partner and the production site in Berlin-Marzahn, a delivery control (ANS) and its extension, a delivery control for semi-finished materials (HANS), were integrated in the MES. These components allow an optimized production supply according to the pull production system.

With ANS, terminals were mounted on the processing machines, where the operators can order brake discs for the next manufacturing order. The orders are submitted to the logistic partner, so that they are on the loading list for the next truck delivery to Knorr Bremse. ANS generates a transport order label for the transported pallet, so that the operators at the terminals can see the availability of the brake discs in the external hall. When a truck is unloaded, the forklift driver can scan the label and knows where to deliver the load without wasting time.

The load tags also help the logistic to manage deliveries to the single storage spaces of a warehouse. This is important, since no more pallets can be delivered than storage places are available. In order to optimize the use of the limited storage places, the logistic partner only transports the goods, which are needed during the following hours.

The requester sees all the time the state of his orders and can estimate, when the goods arrive. The forklift driver sees the exact storage position on a handheld-device when he brings them to the storage place. The exact content of the pallets as well as the destination are accessible during the whole process. This allows tracking back later the whole path of a single piece through the whole production process.

Customer benefits:

  • The chance of mixing up single parts gets lower and error rate drops.
  • The quality increases by tracking back components. For instance, brake discs waiting for an inspection cannot skip any single step.
  • The system provides a higher transparency for the order processing with reports, since dashboards show the throughput time of the products.
  • The MES database is implemented with a system and service contract.
  • The assembly procedure is monitored at the assembly places by Pick-2-Light sensors and other technical help devices.
  • A position- and camera-supported torque check monitors the fitting of the screws.
  • Periodical internal and external calibrations requests are performed by the systems. If they don’t get executed or the requirements are not met, the plant shuts down automatically.
  • The ANS module in the MES reduces the materials at the Knorr-Bremse facility in Berlin-Marzahn. The order, cleanliness and process safety raise.
  • The application allows the integration of an autonomous navigating transport robot for the pallet transport in the production area via ANS module.