Smart services to optimise production at ZF Friedrichshafen AG

ZF Friedrichshafen AG, headquartered in Friedrichshafen, is a leading global technology corporation operating in drive and chassis technology, as well as active and passive safety technology.

The company, which acquired TRW Automotive on 15 May 2015, now has a presence at around 230 sites in around 40 countries. In 2014, the two companies, which were still independent at the time, achieved a turnover of over €30 billion with 134,000 employees. To ensure their innovative products are a success, they have – as they did in previous years – invested around 5% of their turnover (most recently €1.6 billion) in research and development. ZF is one of the three largest automotive suppliers in the world.

Project: group-wide environmental management system Meta-Level Software AG was tasked with developing a software-based environmental management system that will be used at all ZF sites worldwide that are obligated to maintain a management system in accordance with DIN ISO 14001. The software is used to support central management of data that is relevant to environmental management and the preparation of management reviews. This covers the topics of energy, occupational safety and sustainability (GRI). Since 2015, semi-annual reports have been prepared in addition to the annual reports.

In detail, the system offers:

  • Internal environmental reporting to the relevant site management
  • Benchmarking and sharing of best practices
  • Reporting for authorities, environmental verifiers or insurers
  • Provision of information for the audit during on-site audits
  • Data collection and a template for the group environmental report and website

Project: tool tracking In the context of optimising production and collecting production-relevant data, Meta-Level was assigned the task of developing software that collects all the data throughout a tool’s life cycle and makes it evaluable. This particularly includes reading and writing special RFID chips on the tools, supporting guided setup processes and monitoring tool life. The communication between the RFID chips and the software was implemented with the help of web services.

Project: workpiece tracking In production, it’s important to know a workpiece’s processing status at all times (i.e. which processing steps have already been carried out). Meta-Level’s task was to develop an application that could track workpieces by scanning DMC stickers (DMC: data matrix code – 2D barcode) on the associated transport baskets. The numbers determined in this way are compared with the stored production process data by means of an MES (manufacturing execution system – SIMATIC IT). If necessary, even assembly machines are blocked if the workpieces provided had not passed through necessary production steps properly.

Project: calculating key figures Key figures are important bases for decision-making in a company’s management team. Depending on their characteristics, they are used for an extremely wide variety of purposes – they are often related to efficiency, productivity and quality in the production sector. During the course of the project, Meta-Level developed a tool for use at all of the group’s sites, which firstly takes important input variables from production on a monthly or annual basis and, based on them, calculates relevant key figures (like KPIs, OEE, health rate, staff productivity, turnover rate or delivery reliability). Reports, budget figures and threshold values are prepared and made available as a result.


  • Analysing requirements
  • Developing functional specifications
  • Developing reports with MS SQL Server (SSRS)
  • .NET/C#
  • Silverlight
  • MS SQL Server
  • Balluff API
  • Motorola Scanner API
  • Web services

Expertise and technologies

  • System concept design
  • Implementation
  • Installation
  • Data migration from legacy systems
  • Maintenance and care
  • Further development