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Metrology moves further into the shop floor

Jan. 7, 2022
Technology advancements equip gauges for more than quality functions

In July, Mahr, a global manufacturer of precision measurement equipment used for dimensional metrology, appointed Manuel Hüsken as the company’s chief executive officer (CEO). Hüsken replaces Stephan Gais, who was CEO for almost 30 years. The great-great-grandson of company founder Carl Mahr, Gais has joined the company’s advisory board.

Manuel previously served as the company’s chief sales officer. In his role as CEO, he leads the executive board and is responsible for group strategy, corporate communications and direction of various business unit metrology departments. Together with his colleagues Udo Erath, chief operations officer (COO) and Dr. Lutz Aschke chief financial officer/chief information officer (CFO/CIO), the board managers are responsible for implementing the Mahr Group’s strategy (Figure 1).

"As a family-owned technology company, Mahr stands for trust and sustainability,” says Hüsken. “We want to live up to this claim for our employees at all locations and our customers worldwide and lay the foundation for strong growth."

Mahr was founded in 1861 and has its headquarters in Göttingen, Germany. "In three decades," notes Gais, “we have achieved a lot. Mahr has established an excellent brand reputation with customers all over the world, and our portfolio is well-positioned for the future.”

Mahr has been providing dimensional measurement solutions to fit customer application needs for more than 160 years. The company manufactures, markets and supports a portfolio of dimensional measurement equipment—from handheld gauges to technically advanced systems, measuring form, contour, surface finish, length and optical metrology solutions for customers within, but not limited to, aerospace, automotive, medical and optical production industries. Mahr also produces custom-designed gauges and provides calibration and contract measurement services. Mahr’s calibration laboratories are accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 NVLAP Lab Code 200605-0.

What are three key things that a machine builder, system integrator or manufacturer should know about your organization?

Manuel Hüsken, CEO, Mahr: Mahr manufactures and markets a wide variety of dimensional metrology equipment, from simple and easy-to-use handheld gauges to technically advanced measurement systems for form, contour, surface finish and length. Mahr is also well-known as a producer of custom-designed gauges and a provider of calibration and contract measurement services.

The movement of metrology away from a central quality function and out to the shop floor is one of the key industry trends currently driving product development at Mahr. We are continually adapting our organization to support that effort.

The metrology industry continues making incredible technological advancements. While we are proud to be a technology-focused company with highly technical products, one of the reasons our customers continually turn to us is for Mahr’s unmatched industry expertise. That’s because we also have the right people and expertise who can help to apply that advanced technology to meet a customer’s specific requirements, and we feel that is a unique value to our organization.

As a leading manufacturer in the precision instrumentation industry, it is critical that we continue to expand our team with subject-matter experts to support this initiative. This team has been built with a dedicated focus to quality and with customer service at heart, which has made Mahr a leader in precision measurement for more than a century—in fact, we celebrated the company’s 160th anniversary this year.

What new technologies are driving product development and why?

Manuel Hüsken, CEO, Mahr: A lot of new technologies are driving the development of precision measurement products. An overarching factor for all of them is the need for more data, a smaller footprint and reduced time to measure.

Optical technology is a major driver in our industry. As more data is increasingly required, higher-resolution machines are also needed to obtain it. However, optical is not strictly about higher resolution; the technology also enables lower error sources resulting from electrical or vibration noise. Because nothing is mechanically moved, the technology can produce better measurements. Optical systems also provide the opportunity to collect more data faster.

Another technology advancement relates to adaptable configurations that are smarter and more versatile. For example, enhanced control systems can help to create a more flexible, configurable machine shop environment. Our R&D group includes both hardware and software experts, always working to develop new and enhanced systems that allow our products to be configured across a wide range of manufacturing environments and controls.

Finally, the merging of technologies drives Mahr’s product development efforts. Historically, we produced distinct metrology tools—for example, one tool for surface form and another for surface finish. Technology now enables us to merge these products into a single machine that can do both. Our customers’ application needs are also powering this trend.

How does the Industrial Internet of Things figure into business strategy?

Manuel Hüsken, CEO, Mahr: The Industrial Internet of Things, also referred to as Industry 4.0, is definitely impacting our business strategy and the products we create, as we can build more interconnectivity and data-collection abilities into our precision measurement tools.

For example, typically many different components are created in the same manufacturing environment. Our tools can now interact with an enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) system to learn which features are supposed to be measured on these components and using what tools. This ties back to smarter, more flexible configurations.

Also read: How a 3D scanner and robot replace a complex manual trim process

Mahr was first to the market several years ago with integrated wireless for our hand tools such as calipers, micrometers, indicators and gauges. This has become a great advantage for us. Industry 4.0 takes data collection to new levels, monitoring processes all along manufacturing procedures, collecting and storing data from the individual measurements. Hand tools and digital indicators have data output built in, so data collection is inexpensive, fast and reliable, providing a great solution for many process or quality-control applications.

Small transmitters are incorporated into Mahr’s digital calipers, digital micrometers and digital indicators, allowing them to transmit data wirelessly to the gauging computer, instead of via cable, which was the norm. Each integrated transmitter in the measuring tool sends a unique identifier with the measured data that allows many gauging stations to communicate with a single computer simultaneously and also keep track of which devices were used to collect the data and ensure traceability.

With these transmitters, very large parts can be measured where they sit, or parts can be measured in the machine tool without having cables get caught in the tooling. Plus, the tools provide visual feedback by generating a signal to the operator that the transmission was received and acknowledged by the computer. This is virtually instantaneous, so as not to slow the operator down, and most transmitters can be configured to provide a go or no-go signal to the user depending on whether the part is within tolerance.

How is the development of software solutions impacting requirements for hardware?

Manuel Hüsken, CEO, Mahr: The development of new software solutions has certainly progressed, and making good software has become more important than making good hardware in many situations. We have clients across many industries, and almost all of them—from medical to high-tech to industrial—would say the same thing: software has become more important than hardware.

This is partly because software supports increasingly important ease-of-use, but we can also make a machine better or more accurate with the right software. It even enables us to make a machine that's less expensive because we don't have to do as much in the hardware, which is typically a more costly process. Sometimes we can simply measure whatever errors are present in a machine as part of the calibration process and apply a software error correction rather than trying to mechanically adjust a machine.

Looking into the future, how will technology change your organization or other organizations over the next five years?

Manuel Hüsken, CEO, Mahr: Technology will continue shaping Mahr’s future, five years out and well beyond; this ties together with many factors: enabling continued movement of metrology out to the production environment; taking advantage of the incredible technological advancements in the metrology industry to make our products even better; and further embracing the forward motion of technology such as the increased focus on software.

We will thrive by sticking to our core mission: providing the right team to help our customers implement new technologies that will enrich their work, while maintaining our unwavering focus on quality and customer service.

About the author: Mike Bacidore
About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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