Lean works. The bare figures are enough to excite anyone interested in profitability. In just one manufacturing cell, our Lean program has increased efficiency (+44%). Reduced short-term sick leave (-27%). And reduced workers’ movements by more than 95%.
Flemming Pedersen, Production Supervisor at our Ängelholm factory, has been looking back at how our Lean program has been introduced across the company. “Right from the start, we recognized that our Lean program wasn’t going to be just about numbers. We identified three overarching strands that were important to our customers.”
These were quality, price, and availability. Get the processes right, and you get quality that consistently exceeds customers’ expectations. At the same time, improved efficiency ensures competitive pricing and reliable deliveries with short lead times. “In other words, the total value package that our customers expect,” Flemming observes.
“We had big ambitions, quite rightly. But we also had the sense to start small,” he says. “Transforming a factory could have been overwhelming, so we started with a pilot focusing on a single production cell, for our MX lift tables.”
One of the first activities was to record and analyze the workers’ movements. “What our spaghetti diagrams revealed was astonishing. Making a lift table was taking movements totaling 1200 meters. So we got together with the people involved and thought a lot about the cell layout. Things like the provision and positioning of tools, and the placement of component storage.”
Once the improvements were implemented, movement was reduced to just 50 meters. “What a difference!” says Flemming. “That was a great result. Quite apart from anything else, we want our people to go home satisfied with their work, not worn out by having to walk all day.”
Spaghetti diagrams were just one tool. Others included Kanban and iterative PDCA (plan, do, check, act). “But whatever the tool, we kept our people constantly involved. We make them the drivers, because they are the experts in what they do. They are in the best position to find and implement improvements.”
“Our task was to encourage a positive mindset, one that was ready to help create and then implement a whole range of new SOPs for the cell. We wanted improvements to emerge from the cell, rather than changes be imposed on it. Industrial history is littered with examples of change that has not been supported among workers, and that has only made things worse.”
The way things have turned out has exceeded expectations. “I think it is fair to say that our people were once a little suspicious of change. Now, they are enthusiastic about it, and constantly coming up with fresh ideas for how they can do their job better. This is continuous improvement as it should be,” says Flemming.
There are other benefits behind the headline numbers, both within the cell and, more widely, for customers. “HR are delighted, because better ergonomics improves health and safety. Staff absence and turnover are reduced, which all helps to reduce costs,” Flemming points out. “And quality has improved by all kinds of measures – less waste, fewer faults, and reduced claims, for example.”
It will take time for the widest gains to become noticeable. “But we are confident they are there,” says Flemming. “Our lift tables will work more efficiently, smoothly, and reliably, year after year, which cuts costs for customers and reduces demands on natural resources.”
With lessons learnt, the program is already being extended to the production cell for the ultra-compact M0 lift table. “And then on across the whole factory, where we expect similar improvements to efficiency, quality, and our people’s wellbeing. I love Lean!” concludes Flemming.