How to continue to increase production capacity without moving the company to more square metres? For Wila, the answer is Lean. A philosophy that creates smarter processes for both employees and customers.
Only one year ago, Wila’s employees would have raised their eyebrows at the mention of the Lean culture concept. Today, several of the employees have become familiar with this culture, and soon the employees in the entire company will think Lean in everything they do. As part of Wila’s great growth journey, the production has chosen to implement Lean – a collection of principles, which is a tool towards more efficient workflows and strengthened value processes.
Wila has been around for more than 20 years and this means that for many years several of the employees have been accustomed to carrying out their work and processes in a certain way. You cannot change that kind of thing from one day to the next. Therefore, Wila has broken the implementation of Lean into stages and has started with a department that produces various sub-components for Wila’s products. The department is called Workshop D and here, team leader Mick Weinreich Damgaard has had the task of introducing the Lean principles to the employees.
“When I was first introduced to Lean, I did not believe it would be a success. I was very sceptical. When you have been doing things the same way for many years and it is suddenly being changed, it is a radical feeling. But then we were given the task of making a trial order by using the Lean principles, which resulted in an increased efficiency. That’s where the penny dropped and suddenly I became curious to learn more and motivated to involve my employees,” Mick Weinreich tells.
Efficient but calm workflows
The first step in the implementation has been to move our machines around so that they are in line with the Lean principles.
“We have removed all disturbing elements, leaving us solely with the elements we need. This has resulted in much calmer workflows,” Mick Weinreich explains.
One of Mick’s employees, who has just experienced the calmer workflows, is Anders Nielsen. He has been working in Wila’s production almost since the company was founded. Like Mick, he was sceptical at first. In the production, he is responsible for both cutting and welding pipes, which are usually done in two operations. But now it is being done simultaneously.
“I start up the welder immediately, and then I start sawing the next pipe. This means that I have to run back and forth, and as there is a wall between the two machines, I initially thought it would be impossible. But I quickly found a rhythm and now I have discovered that it is far more effective,” Anders Nielsen says.
The employees lead the way
To get it right from the start, three employees have been on a Lean course, and an external consultant has helped with the implementation. Former factory manager René Lauridsen and consultant Kry Herholdt have started up the entire Lean project and have prepared the plans for Workshop D. Four months ago, Wila employed a new factory manager, Michael Nielsen, who has the black belt in Lean. He has taken over the project and has had a strong focus on getting the employees involved in the process and has introduced a target management board in the department, where everyone can compare their production efficiency, time, quality and safety to the previous day.
“This allows employees to visualise their performance so that they are motivated to constantly increase efficiency and quality. Without the employees, Lean would not be a success,” explains Michael Nielsen, who is immediately backed up by Mick Weinreich.
“To me and my employees, the target management board has made a big difference. It has turned into a competition – but in the healthy and fun way. One of my colleagues always says that he refuses to come in second,” he laughs and adds:
“The interaction with René and Kry has been an exciting and educational process, from which I have personally learned a lot.”
An important part of Wila’s growth journey
The first stage of Lean has been a great success. In addition to satisfied employees, the new approach has also made a big difference for the customers.
“There is no doubt that the quality in the production has increased. At the same time, we can to a greater extent take in urgent orders or advance deadlines when requested by the customers. The reason is that we have become more flexible and can move employees around to any peak load areas,” Michael Nielsen tells. Now the next step is to spread the Lean culture to the other departments in Wila.
”Wila’s growth journey means that new customers are constantly being added. But our location in Silkeborg means that we do not have the possibility to physically expand our production in terms of area and buildings. Now Lean has given us a setup which enables us always to meet the demand from our customers, and when we have finished the implementation, we can grow by up to 700% in the same square metres,” Michael Nielsen says.
“At Wila A/S, we have a dedicated and skilled staff who perform all tasks with common sense, great professionalism, pride and expertise.”