Frank Dornseifer (final assembly foreman in the electrical division) thinks the decision to build a new hall was a crucial one: “It clearly demonstrates that the management is keen to invest in the Freudenberg site, which in turn allows the employees to feel secure in their roles. And then there’s the fact that there’s nothing better than starting from scratch in an empty hall and planning how we can do everything better.”
Building the new hall made it possible to shine new light on our processes surrounding assembly and the associated divisions and redraft these in line with lean principles. This resulted in a comprehensive, in-house project led by Peter Paetzold, Lean Manager at Bäumer. The aim of the project is to use lean management principles to cut down on lead times for internal assembly. “The lean approach is all about focusing on creating added value, as this is essentially where we create the kind of value that the customer is paying for,” explains Peter Paetzold.
Originally developed as a pilot project, the OFS contour cutting machine is now installed here. Demand for this foam cutting machine is high and its construction has been standardized as far as possible, making it ideal for trying out the new features.
Stefan Giesler (final assembly foreman in the electrical division) is very much impressed: “The hall is so bright and welcoming. Even just being able to work in daylight is already so much nicer. The workstations are clearly defined and really well organized, so everything is running much more smoothly than before, too. We just generally have more space now to build machines, and it’s also a safer place because we aren’t always banging into things any more. The new facilities are great: We now have compressed air and power at each workstation, so that alone is incredibly convenient. Before, I used to have to drag tubes halfway across the hall.”
The procedural innovations are particularly remarkable to say the least:
1. There has been plenty of activity going on in the pre-assembly area. The final assembly stage used to involve even more pre-assembly work, which meant this production step always used to take such a long time. Now, the number of pre-assembly levels has risen from three to four, meaning the final step really only involves the final assembly. The ability to carry out this pre-assembly work in parallel during the final assembly stage saves a significant amount of time and has made it possible to reduce the number of final assembly Workstations.
2. A new logistics concept for delivering parts is now in place.
A key feature of this concept is that the necessary materials are now consistently available at each workstation, which is already impacting on the goods provided by Bäumer logistics. As the assembly work at each station used to be significantly more complex, this meant that far more parts had to be provided at each workstation. This in turn meant that the order-picking trolley shared between multiple employees was big, heavy, and unmanageable. Many parts were needed either elsewhere or at a later stage – if they were even needed at all. There were also heavy parts stored on top of lighter ones, which would result in damage.
3. According to Peter Paetzold, “by breaking down the project pre-assembly stage into more phases and spreading these out over a larger area, we could automatically start receiving smaller parts packages. We had to then check these again to ensure they were assigned correctly and make any necessary adjustments. The result of this change is that every employee involved in assembly has their own order-picking trolley containing the exact parts they need for their work.”
4. Going forward, consumable materials will also be made available by the supplier in a new two-container system for each workstation. We have also been able to make fantastic improvements to our existing Kanban system: Instead of just screws, it now includes electrical consumables such as ferrules and cable connectors. As a result, this project has even allowed us to welcome a new supplier on board. The way it all works couldn’t be easier: If a container is emptied, the supplier takes the empty container away with them, fills it back up with goods, and re-delivers it the following week. In the meantime, the employees can get on with their assembly work using the reserve Container.
According to Peter Paetzold, “the new logistics concept might only save an average amount of time for employees working on OFS-H assembly each day, somewhere in the two-digit minute range, but if we roll that out across the entire Bäumer assembly team, we are talking about annual cost savings in the 6-figure range for this division. For this alone, it really is worth getting to grips with these improvements.”
5. Even within the assembly division, the materials just flow as they should and can be found right where they’re needed. We don’t have to deal with the same things twice. The ability to visualize workspaces keeps everything organized and transparent. Working materials and machines all have their own, fixed spots.
6. Workplace safety has improved, too, as we can now control the supply of compressed air and power via cable conduits in the ground, so there’s no risk of tripping over them.
7. Generally speaking, the hall is much brighter thanks to the strip lighting in the ceiling and the huge floor-to-ceiling windows around the sides.
8. The speed of the new crane system is infinitely variable.
Like so many others who work in the new hall, Frank Dornseifer is fully on board with this project: “We have been involved in the project from day one. Peter Paetzold approached us to ask what we thought and learn more about our experiences. This meant we could come up with the design for the new hall together and achieve the best possible results. I really enjoy working at my new workstation.”