How pilot series can help us develop reliable Mass Flow Meters and Controllers

July 18, 2017 Mark Berenpas

Quality is becoming more and more important for customers, but what is quality? Some people refer to quality as the accuracy of an instrument, others as the reproducibility of an instrument. I am writing this blog to let you know how we organize quality at Bronkhorst.

How does Bronkhorst deal with quality?

As Supplier Engineer at Bronkhorst, I have co-responsibility for the quality of our purchased parts. Together with our suppliers, we set up the supply chain using the Lean Six Sigma philosophy. The ultimate aim is to create a repeatable and reproducible supply chain, which is becoming more and more important for our Copy Exactly customers. By properly setting up the supply chain, we adhere to the ‘first time right’ principle, which reduces the chance of subsequent changes.

Cooperation between Bronkhorst’s Research & Development department, the supplier that produces the article and the measuring chamber that ultimately carries out the inspection is essential for setting up this reliable supply chain. If you know how a product is used, you can set up a good process. If you know the critical specifications of the function and the critical parameters of the process, you know what to measure in order to say something about the repeatability and reproducibility of the product.

Pilot Series Process

Once a design has been approved through a ‘Proof of Principle’, the release for the series can start. For this purpose, Bronkhorst has set up the ‘Pilot Series Process’. All new products undergo the Pilot Series Process, including our newest product, the ES-FLOW flow meter. The ES-FLOW is an ultrasonic Liquid Flow Meter/Controller, which has recently come on the market and works on the basis of ultrasonic measurement techniques.
Let’s take this as an example.

Pilot Series Process for the ES-FLOW, Liquid Flow Meter/Controller

An important part of the ES-FLOW liquid flow meter/controller is the stainless steel body of the instrument, which contains the measuring sensor. The technical requirements that this component must meet have been specified by the Research & Development department at Bronkhorst. Some of the important requirements of the ES-FLOW body include pressure resistance, leakage density and installation length.

ES-FLOW in action
ES-FLOW ultrasonic flow meter in action

The supplier will then set to work and will carry out a number of tests during the production process to convince Bronkhorst and himself that the body of the instrument and the sensor meet all the requirements.

During the Pilot Series Process, extra data (including measurements) of the critical function specifications and the critical process parameters of the component is requested. In this way, we can obtain a good overview of the reproducibility and repeatability of the process and, based on that information, a decision can be taken to release the component, the so-called ‘Article Supplier Approval’ (ASA). As soon as the article is released with an ASA, the Purchasing department can order the article in large series from the supplier concerned.

The results of the Pilot Series Process also form the basis of the component’s measuring plan, describing which specifications must be inspected in what manner when the product in the series is delivered.

Working with Pilot Series ensures that the knowledge of both the developer and the supplier comes together and that the measuring chamber knows what and how to measure in order to monitor the process functionally. The introduction of the Pilot Series enables Bronkhorst to reduce the risk of interruptions in the series and create a reliable supply chain together with its suppliers.

This entire process helps Bronkhorst to deliver high-quality products, which we consider a top priority.

Pilot process scheme

  • Do you want to learn more about the ES-FLOW ultrasonic liquid flow meter? Check out our video

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