BASF’s Coatings division has opened a new laboratory for automotive OEM coatings at its site in Münster, Germany. The modular “Lean Lab” concept aims to ensure optimized, digitalized and transparent processes, and efficient use of resources in the laboratory area throughout Europe.
Discrete working processes of the lab employees and the use of standardized and automated processes allow BASF to be flexible and quickly meet future market requirements. In line with this, the workforce in Münster is supported by a lab dosing machine that was specially developed for BASF and is the only one of its kind in the coatings industry.
“BASF cooperates very closely with all major automotive manufacturers worldwide to develop advanced coatings technologies,” said Dirk Bremm, president of BASF’s Coatings division. “Through the digitalization of processes, optimized use of resources, and automation, we can respond even more efficiently and address our customers’ needs.”
Since 2014, BASF has invested $28 million to completely overhaul an existing laboratory building for this purpose, which included adding an extra story. The building now features four bright and airy laboratory levels with spacious offices and state-of-the-art lab workplaces that are all digitally linked. Discrete work processes are intelligently designed to foster customer-specific product developments, manufacture paint samples and perform application tests. An optimized logistics concept also ensures that all materials for daily work – and for this work only – are available, which positively impacts resource efficiency.
A lab dosing machine that is unique in the coatings industry and was specifically built for the lab in Münster facilitates work and assures quality. BASF collaborated with machine manufacturer FRICKE Dosing + Filling Systems from Minden, Germany, to develop the machine. At 12 meters long and weighing eight tons, it can manufacture standard formulas from over 300 liquid raw materials.
“It is said that digitalization affects everyone,” said Karl-Josef Laumann, minister of labor, health and social affairs of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. “BASF’s Lean Lab clearly demonstrates how certain occupations, such as that of a laboratory technician for coatings, are being redefined. It is still about researching the features and appearance of colors and paints, but it takes place in a high-tech environment today. Young people who take this job need knowledge in chemistry, technology and IT alike. This proves to me that vocational training is modern. It is attractive. It is the starting point of a career.”
All job orders and the associated experiments within the lab are digitally stored and documented, which promotes transparency, reproducibility and knowledge transfer among the individual sites.
“The Lean Lab in Münster is our pilot project,” said Wolfgang Reckordt, product development Europe automotive OEM coatings at BASF Coatings division. “Since late 2017, we have been gathering experience that we can use for introducing the Lean Lab at other sites in Europe in Würzburg, Germany, Guadalajara, Spain and Clermont, France. Lean Lab is our new European standard and will open up many possibilities for us to intensify product development and respond flexibly to new challenges.”