Three key employees at Wila have completed the education “Lean navigator in production” at Institute of Technology in Odense. The purpose is that Lean principles in the forthcoming years will streamline and optimize the quality of the whole production so that the goal of doubling revenue and earnings will be realistic within the next five years.
The principles of Lean were developed by Toyota in the 1960’s when the competition from USA threatened the Japanese car manufacturer’s ability to survive. In brief, Lean is about adding more value while using less resources. The production is optimized by systematically eliminating all sources of resource waste.
– Resource waste must be thought of broadly. Waste come in the form of time, capacity, economy and raw materials on all levels. Are there any working procedures that can be simplified? Is the production line optimally designed and does each employee have the optimal possibilities of managing the job? Are we keeping too much on inventory? Asks the quality manager Tom Jensen who in collaboration with factory manager René Lauridsen and planner Peer Kristensen completed the education with an exam in the middle of June.
One of the principles of Lean is to keep all qualifications in the right position so that employees only spend time on what their qualifications grant. If you for instance are specially trained to handle a CNC cutter, it is waste of resources to spend time on transport to inventory or looking for components. Then it is better to insert an employee, a so-called supplier, who can solve all the smaller side tasks that are present in all productions.
– The employees see the logic when they use a schedule to lay down all the time they are away from their workstation during the day. This often adds up to hours during a work week, days and weeks during a year, says René Lauridsen who is coordinator on the Lean project.
If you think that Lean is about robot-like discipline and top-down management, you need to remove two of the words. Lean is not top-down managed, and Lean does not entail silence from the employees. Far from it. On the daily, structured board meetings, the employees are free to come up with suggestions for improvements because they are the floor staff who know where the shoe pinches. At the meeting, the tasks of the day are reviewed and unsettled business decisions from yesterday’s meeting are followed up on. Once a week, the top management attends the board meeting. With the attendance of the employees in Lean, you secure a direction for the productivity while keeping up with customer requirements.
– There were certain employees who in the beginning found it a little difficult to understand the purpose of the daily morning meetings around the board. But the majority see that it strengthens the production and the solidarity in the company. Formerly, you would grumble in the corners if something did not make sense. Now, you can address it and respond to it. This is simple and effective, says Peer Kristensen.
Peer Kristensen feels a definite support on Lean among employees because they are involved much more in the decision processes that they are used to. Himself, he had very limited knowledge about Lean when he began on the education and there have been a few surprises on the way.
– I was surprised that there is so much to save by abandoning the batch production for inventory and instead concentrate on one-piece production when the components are used, says Peer Kristensen.
Tom Jensen also notices the habit of producing for inventory as an obvious focus area for Lean
– We have traditionally produced 200 pieces of the same component. Then we have used some of them for a new component which is put on inventory before finally being placed in a finished product for the customer. The transport to and from the storage is a waste of time and we bind high values in a large inventory. With Lean we produce all components and put them together in one working procedure as far as possible, says Tom Jensen.
René Lauridsen mentions a hypothesis with a finished product with a sales price of DKK 1000. If the unit is handled 12-13 times before leaving the factory, the earning is lower than if, by the help of optimization, it is only handled two or three times.
The implementation of Lean is a continuous process, but that first stage is due this year. Among other things, some redeployment of machinery in the five production halls will take place so the transportation between the halls is minimized. Lean’s five S’s, which stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain, mean marking on floors so everything has a fixed position, increased cleanliness and tidy conditions.
– We want to double our revenue within the next five year without expanding the factory. So Lean needs to help us with process optimization so that we can produce a lot more on the same space, says René Lauridsen.
“At Wila A/S, we have a dedicated and skilled staff who perform all tasks with common sense, great professional pride and expertise”