Customized Lean Case Studies

Author Abstract Keywords Anonym Company name Company address Company country Line of business (Approx.) yearly turnover Number of employees Percentage temporary workers Principal range of products Major product quantities Principal type of production organisation Who was the trigger / customer of the project? Project Type Lean is already fully established What was or is the main trigger to implement Lean? Case Study Top 1 waste Top 2 waste Top 3 waste Starting Situation Evaluation
Benjamin Buetfering This case study shows how to introduce Lean in small and medium-sized enterprises. A easy-modified 3-phase method is presented, which is divided into three phases: change agent training, building lighthouses, and roll-out. Lean, SME, Change Management, 5S Ja Germany Fabricated Metal Products, Except Machinery And Transportation Equipment 5.000.000€ - 25.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Small batch production Group manufacture Managing Director Introduction of lean production and especially workplace organization Not true at all Reduction in lead time

The project started with a change agent training. The change agent training was conducted as a two-day, in-house training with this company. The training focused solely on lean production issues. 12 people participated in the training, including all department heads as well as the plant and production heads. All of the participants could project the learned lean production issues to their areas and provided the first improvement ideas during the training. Shortly after the training, most of the participants had implemented the first optimisations in their work areas on their own. Independent optimisation primarily focused on workplace organisation in the areas of visual management and cleanliness and order (5S). Furthermore, all of the change agent training participants possessed the required understanding of production waste to aid in the following transition initiatives with the necessary acceptance.

After the change agent training, a department for building the initial lighthouse was selected together with the plant and production heads. The goal of the lean production lighthouse was to modernise a department through a reorganisation project. The reorganisation project is divided into a planning workshop, an implementation workshop, and a roll-out phase.

After that was the planning phase carried out, which was held during a 3 day planning workshop. In order to consider all perspectives in a reorganisation project, it was necessary to integrate some of the employees from the department to be reorganised, the upstream department, and the downstream department into the praxis workshop. Additionally, a member of mid-level management (production head) added the business foresight and gained acceptance. All of the participants then had to be brought to the same level of understanding and were therefore trained in the types of waste in production, housekeeping (5S), visual management, and Standardisation.

Figure 1: Training topics for reorganisation of production

A photographic audit of the department to be reorganised was made in order to project the newly-learned information to real life application. The workshop participants had to independently find and photograph examples in their departments of all of the issues they had learned. They then made these photos into a current-state collage according to types of waste. A layout planning was then made by hand. A true-to-scale department layout was drawn on a poster, and the required inventory (machines, cabinets, work benches, etc.) as well as new equipment was drawn true-to-scale out of paper. This preparation allowed the group to try out various layout scenarios and evaluate them according to waste (inventory and storage, movements, waiting time, etc.). Once the ideal layout was found, then a needs and measures planning in preparation for the following implementation phase had to be completed. The planning phase ended with the introduction to the management for acceptance and for approval of the required Investments.

Following the implementation phase was performed, which was also held during a practical workshop. The duration was five days in which eight people were involved. The start of production (SOP) began directly after restructuring and to implement all of the fine work such as marking, labelling, etc. during production in order to keep production down-time as low as possible.

Inventory Motion Waiting
  • Traditional structures

  • Very disorganized workspace

  • Too big material buffer stocks

  • No experience with Lean Management

  • High motivation (at all levels) to change something
  • Very long transition periods between the planning phase and the implementation phase because of orders / delivery times. The total duration of the project was 4 instead of the planned 3 months.
  • A Result after a six month long roll out was a 43% reduction in lead time in the modernised department
  • The investment were amortised within six months
  • After the lighthouse, the company was able to modernise additional departments on its own. In total, the lead time decreased by approx. 40%. With the roll-out to additional departments, the company’s financial profits were improved by about 20%.
Gu van Rhijn Supplying more products with the same number of people by making the primary process smarter and through a smarter product design: implementation of Lean and Flow Factory at Biddle, The Netherlands in several steps: demand flow and lay out in fabrication (puncing, bending, spot welding, coating parts), flexibel assembly flow lines and workinstructions, demand flow, pull, factory lay out, assembly cells Nein Biddle Kootstertille; www.biddle.nl The Netherlands Electronic And Other Electrical Equipment And Components, Except Computer Equipment 5.000.000€ - 25.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Small batch production Cellular manufacturing Managing Director Flow, factory lay out and workstation design Partly True Reduction in lead time

Approach:

1. Preparation: overall awareness and introduction of demand flow and lean

  • Involvement of employees in working sessions, training and implementation

2. Groupsessions fabrication (operators from puncing, bending, spot welding, coating parts)

  • process map (value stream map)

  • current lay out and material flow

  • assessing examples of waste

  • from push to pull

  • improved lay out and workstation design

  • implementation (lay out, kanban, workstations, maximum buffer, carriers)

3. Groupsessions assembly (involvement of operators, engineering, proces engineering, management)

  • assembly process scheme for a number of products
  • improving product design (design for assembly)
  • definition of celluar assembly flows (based on product mix, expected numbers of products, demand )
  • design of each assembly cell (product carrier, material location, racks, handling of heavy parts, in process Kanban,  testing)
  • design of workinstructions
  • implementation on the shop floor
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  • Traditional structures and lay out (functional)

  • Very disorganized workspace

  • Too much (intermediate) material buffer stocks

  • No experience with Lean Management

  • Long lead times

  • Manufacturing by batches (push)

  • material handling (physical load);

  • searching for parts

  • unplanned overtime work (stress)


  • Increase of turnover by 40% (same amount of employees)
  • Reduction of change over time:

  • flexible production of small sized batches,

  • lower work in process

  • Production is less hectic, no need for overtime work during busy periods (saving  up to € 15.000 per year).

  • 2 FTEs fewer are needed during pre-processing

  • 25% fewer assembly hours per machine

  • Reduction of WIP of around €100.000

  • ROI of one year

  • Reduction of physical load

  • Communication between engineering and production: Design for assembly and work instructions

Production Manager (Biddle): “The demand flow project has changed the organization of our production enormously, from a traditional production company to a demand-driven production environment. This has significantly increased the involvement of the production employees, because they have to consider their internal customer during the process – that is, the next stage in the process. The first step is to optimize supply for your internal customer, followed by optimizing your own work environment – that raises the interest of employees in the work processes, and therefore their motivation. Lean is not just for production, but actually for the entire order preparation trajectory, including the supply chain.”


Jens Mehmann In today’s constantly evolving and innovating world, competition is also growing. Industries are therefore trying to be as efficient as possible by optimizing their processes and reducing waste. Customers’ demands needs to fulfilled without keeping them waiting, industries produce goods in small batches which increases the changeover time or setup time. Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), a Lean Manufacturing tool, is a concept used for reducing setup time and thus, reducing waste and increasing productivity. In this Case Study, the discussion brings light to the SMED technique applied to an FishFood Producer Company. The main objective was to reduce waste, viz., time wasting, by applying the SMED technique. The result should give us setup time in single digits, i.e. less than 20 minutes; thus reducing the cycle time of the process. The basic task was to identify the internal activities and convert them to external activities. SMED Ja Fish Food Company in North West Germany Food And Kindred Products 1.000.000€ - 5.000.000€ 250 - 500 0% - 5% Products tailored to customer specifications Small batch production Group manufacture Managing Director SMED - Project Not really true Reduce the cost

There were many customers and their product variants make high variety for the company. So, initially customers having more product demand are considered for pilot study and all the data of the processes was collected. All the processes along the production line were observed and analyzed briefly. The various processes of the different production lines were observed and activity time readings were noted to determine the overall time taken by a process. To avoid human error, we also shoot videos of the complete changeover process 1. Then, verified all activity time readings with videos taken and finalized activity cycle time. Next step after data collection was to analyze the data of various process. Activities are categorized in to 3 types viz. VA operations, NVA operations and NVA but necessary operations, to priorities action plan in order to easy and smooth implementation. After the improvement in the production line, we studied critical machines (having largest set up time) of various production lines and reduced the setup time.

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Company have some factories with different capacities located across the world to fulfil requirements of customers in respective region and so on. Company was facing delivery issues though its customers are located nearby to the company. After analyzing material and information flows of all processes by using value stream mapping, few major problems come on surface. One of the critical things was large amount of time spent in changeover activities. Hence we decided to reduce setup time and help them improve production output and timely delivery to the customers.

After the analysis of all the charts, excel sheets, time study and bar graphs, the Kaizen approach was used to eliminate the time consuming factors.

In the End we clustered the improvemts in NVA, NVA but necessary, and VA. Fpr the proction Line 1. We reduced NVW from 16 minutes to 0 minutes. NVA but nevessary wwas reduced von 57 minutes to 14 minutes. The VA-time was not changed.


Gu van Rhijn Placeholder: Assembly flow at Tobroco machines Placeholder Nein Industrial And Commercial Machinery And Computer Equipment 500.000€ - 1.000.000€ 250 - 500 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Small batch production Line production Managing Director Placeholder Reduction in lead time Placeholder Transport Inventory Waiting Placeholder Placeholder
Logan Vallandingham One-of-a-kind and highly customized products can require large degrees of manual assembly. The manual assembly system should be designed according to the customer requirements and characteristics of the product. Strategic elements for the assembly system design can be decided based on the framework. Manual assembly, One-of-a-kind, assembly system Ja Electronic And Other Electrical Equipment And Components, Except Computer Equipment 25.000.000€ - 50.000.000€ 100 - 150 0% - 5% Products tailored to customer specifications Make-to-Engineer (one-of-a-kind) Shop fabrication Project Manager Lean improvement Not really true Reduction in lead time

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Oladipupo Olaitan An implementation of a Nested Configuration of Lean Production control mechanisms and Other control mechanisms developed and carried out in a high product mix manufacturing company. Polca, Conwip, Kanban, control mechanisms Ja Furniture And Fixtures 25.000.000€ - 50.000.000€ 1.000 - 5.000 0% - 5% Standard products, plus variants Small batch production Line production Project Manager Introduction of lean production control Not really true Reduction in lead time placeholder Inventory Transport Waiting

Too big material buffer stocks

Low visibility and traceability between operations

Most of existing improvement efforts have focussed on process technology innovations

Limited experience with Lean for production control

High motivation (at all levels) to apply other changes to get the best out of process technology improvements

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Birger Raa This case study handles the job shop scheduling problem in a flow shop at the case company. A simulation model was built to compare several algorithms based on priority rules. The effect of manpower allocation on the problem was included. An implementation plan is proposed for the suggested algorithm. Data obtained from a condensed implementation validated the theoretical results. Order sequencing, sequence dependent, simulation, priority rules. Ja Belgium Electronic And Other Electrical Equipment And Components, Except Computer Equipment > 1.000.000.000€ > 5.000 0% - 5% Products tailored to customer specifications Make-to-order (one-of-a-kind) Shop fabrication Project Manager Production planning Partly True Reduction in lead time

Order sequencing is the search for a schedule that defines start times of production orders in such a way that certain objective functions are optimized. The objective in the Piping production environment at the case company was to minimise average lead times of the products. Production lines at the company have a higher variety and lower volume than typical mass production lines. Piping section has 20 workstations, most of them contain one or two identical CNC-machines. Operators perform a fixed setup at the start of every production order and a variable changeover depending on the current settings of the machine and the required settings of the next production order. The used dataset contains 660 different order types, on average these are produced on only 2 workstations.

The Piping facility is a flow shop; the flow of production orders between workstations is always in the same direction. Further important characteristics are the rolling horizon and the sequence dependent changeover times. New production orders are continuously added to the system, there is no clearly defined start or end point. The situation is called dynamic. Further, the changeover time of a workstation is both dependent on the last produced product type and the next one. The objective is to find an algorithm that will provide the operators what production order they need to start next, in a way that minimizes overall lead times for the production facility.

A lot of variations exist on the traditional order sequencing problem and a lot of research has been done about it. A simulation model was built to evaluate several priority rules. The current sequencing method was implemented to validate the simulation and to have a reference point to evaluate possible improvements. Currently the operators combine a First-In-First-Out policy with a minimisation of changeovers. In general, they select the oldest production orders and within this group they will minimize the total amount of changeovers. The data obtained from the simulation was then compared to data from the production facility to validate the model. The simulation model approximated the real situation, though not with great precision. The simulation was also validated with a second dataset to confirm its robustness. The model allows rapid comparison of several priority rules. The simulation also provided means to optimize small adjustments to the sequencing algorithm. The model was made as general as possible to allow the company to evaluate the effect of several possible changes to the production environment, and to possibly be used for further research to optimise the production facility.

 
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Scheduling at the company is dynamic, it happens on a rolling horizon as opposed to the typical situations in this subject. There is no distinctive start or end point from the schedule as jobs are continuously added to the system. As a consequence, jobs with an availability time larger than the current time are unknown. The schedule has to be reevaluated continuously as new jobs are added to the system. The makespan of the schedule cannot be defined because of this endless character. The performance of a schedule will be evaluated by looking at the leadtime of production orders, which is defined as its completion time minus its availability time.

Another difference in comparison to the general job shop problem is the presence of sequence dependent setup times. That means that the total production times are not known exactly until the schedule is made. A production order at the shop can only be started when the Processor is available, and an Operator is ready to start the production.

Several rules were tested in the company and the best performing rule was selected. The selected rule assigns to each production order the value of its changeover time (CO) plus its average processing time per operation (AVPRO). The next production order to be processed on a workstation, is then the production order with the lowest value from all available production orders. In the simulation, this rule decreased the average production leadtime per order type with more than 20%.

The implementation was started on one workstation. The initial results were promising; the obtained leadtime reduction of 25% was even larger than expected from simulation, while the leadtime of a control group lightly increased. It was expected that the leadtime of order types with a large value for AVPRO would increase, and this behaviour was observed from the implementation.

Hendrik van Landeghem In today’s constantly evolving and innovating world, competition is also growing. Industries are therefore trying to be as efficient as possible by optimizing their processes and reducing waste. Customers’ demands needs to be fulfilled without keeping them waiting. This case study demonstrates a Lean implementation project in a manufacturing company. Lean, 5S, visual management, standardization, Layout planning, value stream mapping. Nein ASSA ABLOY Nieuwpoort Belgium Fabricated Metal Products, Except Machinery And Transportation Equipment 1.000.000€ - 5.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Make To Assemble (one-of-a-kind) Shop fabrication Project Manager Introduction of lean production and especially workplace organization and flow, factory layout and workstation design Not really true Reduction in lead time

Case Study:

Following goals established for the project:

- Instructions and working methods standardization.

- Training multitask workers.

- Standardize order flows.

- Optimize product flows.

- Implement 5S.

- Manage inventory of components.

- Make better use of space.

During the project implementation, process maps and spaghetti diagram were designed and following assignments determined or accomplished:

- Testing alternatives for laser.

- Setting up customers complaints Indicator.

- Calculating the number of work desks.

- Equipping work desks.

- Designing a new layout.

- Dividing inventories: fast movers at front, slow movers in the back.

- Providing Rack for keys saw machine.

- FIFO system for orders.

Some of the achieved results are:

- Clear status of orders and workloads.

- 5S implementation.

- Smooth product flow.

- Reduction of walking distance.


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- - No or limited work instructions.

- - No view on workload, delivery time of orders.

- - Unstructured product flow.

- - A lot of excess material present at work station.

- - A lot of components present on workstation. 

- - 10 work stations, for max 4 operators.


Here are some outputs of the projects:

- Reduction of order lead time from 3 weeks to 48 hours

- Reduction of surface area from 101 m2 to 84 m2.

- Reduction of work stations from 10 to 6.

- Substantial reduction of work in process.

Also a to-do list for after the project was proposed:

- Centralize and prioritize the orders.

- Instead of the components keep unassembled cylinders in stock.

- Examining the possibility of electronic data transmission to the laser and key machine.


Manouk Nijhof Variass implemented a customized version of POLCA to improve the process of 91% of the total amount of order flows. Two additional strategies were used to improve the process of the other 9%. POLCA - Customized POLCA - QRM Nein Variass Electronic And Other Electrical Equipment And Components, Except Computer Equipment 5.000.000€ - 25.000.000€ 100 - 150 0% - 5% Products tailored to customer specifications Make-to-order (one-of-a-kind) Cellular manufacturing Managing Director High variety in electronic equipment True Increase the rate of reaction

In 2010, a POLCA-scan took place to assess the suitability of POLCA within the assembly department of Variass Veendam. To reduce variability, an overview of the inter-cell traffic between several cells was designed. Eventually, a schematic overview with the most important POLCA-loops was established. These POLCA-loops capture 91% of all order flows.

Since the variety of products, production times and production routings are too high to just use POLCA as it is, the design team of Variass made adjustments to make POLCA fit for their purpose. They decided to link POLCA cards to cells instead of different POLCA loops. In addition, it was chosen to use one central POLCA board, centrally located and accessible to all cells. The information on this central POLCA board helps to make sequencing and dispatching decisions in the cells and provides information about the staffing within each cell. A combination of this information helps the production manager to decide whether it is necessary to move employees from one cell to another. The figure below shows the central bulletin board which indicates staffing information along with POLCA cards indicating the need for jobs. The manager is pointing to the number of workers in a particular cell.

CONWIP: a limit was set on the number of jobs in the CB unit. This measure takes care of short average throughput times of jobs.
2.       FIFO: the workers were stimulated to focus on the oldest jobs in the on-line scheduling of jobs on the work floor. This principle reduces the variability in throughput times of jobs.
3.       TAKT: the time principle was added to the system. The workers should be informed about their productivity: do they realize the manufacturing target of the day? 

The workers in the CB unit are responsible for having no more than a certain number of jobs in the system. The daily output of the CB unit, in terms of the number of jobs, indicates the number of jobs that may be released daily by the planning department. Released jobs are made visible in an input buffer. The first operation in the CB unit was punching. At this station, some nesting of jobs was important to save setup time. The puncher picks the best jobs from the input buffer A.

In order to support the workers in the CB unit, a screen is placed at the work floor that gives information about the Work-in-Process level, the FIFO-priority of jobs, and the extent to which the unit realizes the required TAKT-output.


Manouk Nijhof The reduction of lead time by making use of a QROC light. A temporary cell which is similar to a lean production line, in which a small batch of quotes moves between different departments with a takt time of one hour. Quick Response Office Cells – “QROC light” Nein SPX Flow Technology Assen The Netherlands Miscellaneous Manufacturing Industries > 1.000.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Make-to-order (one-of-a-kind) Line production Managing Director Customized lean in office operations Not really true Reduction in lead time

The case study was a longitudinal study, which started in 2010 and is not finished yet, since projects are distributed among the entire organization. The first solution found was to recall the production of standard parts to Assen, to reduce the overall lead time. However, the managers decided to stick to the original production division. They argued good inventory management was enough to realize short lead times for the customer.

The organization started to focus on the administrative processes first. Several MCT maps showed long and varying waiting times in these processes. They started to concentrate on type A and B, to get successful results more easily, to create enthusiasm and support among the employees.

The processes contained four steps, performed in different departments:

1.      Sales and customer service

2.      Finance

3.      Planning

4.      Purchasing

The process (1-2-3-4-1) took at least three days, due to several waiting times between the process steps. According to Quick Response Manufacturing, a common solution for this is to organize a Quick Response Office Cell (QROC) for a specific market segment. A QROC is a dedicated, multifunctional team, in which members are closely located to each other. However, the capacity requirements were too low to create a separate QROC for these Type A and B pumps. Therefore they found their own new solution: the QROC light.

A QROC light is similar to a lean production line, in which a small batch of quotes moves between the different departments with a takt time of one hour. The next morning, there is a team meeting, consisting of two people from each department. They discuss divergent topics, such as the priority of orders, a change within the safety stocks or the need for an increase in production capacity. Directly after this meeting, all quotes could be send to the customers.

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SPX experimented with several process improvement tools for ten years. The implementation of Lean manufacturing gained considerable attention after the take-over by SPX Process Equipment (USA) in 2007. The organization started to implement Kanban to reduce lead time and inventory. Due to the high-mix, low volume environment in which the organization operates, the implementation resulted in a disappointing outcome. All pumps, approximately 15000 each year, are produced based on a customer order. Due to the endless variation, the managers of location Assen were challenged to find an appropriate solution for the logistic situation.

All products can be divided into different categories, type A, B, C and D. Type A en B are relatively simple pumps, which are produced based on assemble-to-order. The lead time of these types is approximately two to three weeks. Type C and D are pumps with specific requirements, around 40% of the orders. These pumps are produced based on design-to-order. Type C pumps only have some customization (30%). Type D pumps have multiple customer dependent requirements (10%). These projects could last for months.

Customer specific parts are produced in Assen. Approximately 100 employees work at this location. The focus within this location is on speed and flexibility. Generally, all standard and simple parts are ordered and produced in India. In India their focus is mainly on efficiency.

Consequently, SPX FT has to deal with a high mix, low volume production and a long lead time for standard parts produced in India. The goal was to organize an organization which has reliable and repetitive lead times.

The QROC light resulted in a lead time of only one day. The overall MCT changed from 18 to 16 days (a difference of two days in the administrative processes). The companies delivery reliability increased from 76% to 93%.

After this first project, the organization started to focus on Type C and D pumps. There is enough capacity available for these types to create a real QROC, in which people from different disciplines work closely together.


Manouk Nijhof After a takeover in 1997, SPX Assen started to refine markets and to focus on core activities (in contrast of being “stuck-in-the-middle”). This process could be related to the method of product profiling. The changes resulted in several positive outcomes. Product profiling – Refining markets and focus on core activities Nein SPX Flow Technology Assen The Netherlands Miscellaneous Manufacturing Industries > 1.000.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Make-to-order (one-of-a-kind) Cellular manufacturing Managing Director Focus on core activities Not really true Reduction in lead time

After the takeover, a number of changes were implemented, mainly focused on redefining the markets and focusing on core activities. The core activities of the company were defined as the development, production and sales of centrifugal pumps. The company finished their work for third parties, which previously accounted for 20% of the production capacity. The company also decided not to make displacement pumps anymore. The design, plus the associated markets, was sold to another company. One reason for the sale of this type of pump was the required investments in production (manufacture + assembly). Besides, the nature of the required R&D efforts did not fit with the further development and production of centrifugal pumps. 

Furthermore, management decided not to make the standard parts of the centrifugal pumps anymore, but to have them delivered from a sister company in India. This means that SPX Assen only produced small series of parts.

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In 1995 the organization was confronted with the consequences of a general economic malaise. The operating profit decreased. The market placed increasingly higher demands and more serious competitors were added. Furthermore, internal operations were under stress due to the deteriorated situation.

In 1997, the organization was taken over by another company. In this case description, we focus on the company’s strategy to refine markets and focus on core activities.



The changes resulted in a significant reduction of the lead times of customer orders from several days (depending on the product type) to one or few days.  Due to the choice for only making centrifugal pumps and the increased efficiency in the assembly, the number of employees has been reduced from approximately 160 to only 100 people. This was achieved through natural redundancy of personnel.

The market situation improved considerably is the upcoming years. The company supplied and still supplies high-quality pumps for a wide variety of applications. Often customers do not have a real alternative to the pumps. And if there was an alternative, SPX Assen competes on quality and speed. They are not the cheapest among all the competitors.

In the course of years, the manufacturing department of the company became also considerably smaller. The management of the company however decided to keep modern production equipment and, eventually purchase new machines, in order to produce special or unique components.  These items are directly delivered to cells. There is no need for a warehouse between parts manufacture (elsewhere or at home) and assembly. Only for very large series, which are supplied from India, the warehouse is used.

Manouk Nijhof Reorganizing the assembly department layout (u-shape) and the way of working helped SPX Flow Technology Assen to reduce the assembly lead time. U-shape assembly Nein SPX Flow Technology Assen The Netherlands Miscellaneous Manufacturing Industries > 1.000.000.000€ 50 - 100 0% - 5% Product types plus customer-specific variants Make-to-order (one-of-a-kind) Cellular manufacturing Managing Director Reducing assembly lead time Not really true Reduction in lead time

After the takeover, a number of changes were implemented. One of the greatest changes was related to the assembly department. In the past, all parts required for an order were picked from the central warehouse and brought to benches where the assembly was carried out by the assembly workers. The parts were located on one or more pallets. The production management has put a lot of effort into reducing the throughput time of the assembly. They basically made an assembly organization in which no time was needed anymore for picking the correct parts. There are a number of assembly cells: a separate cell for each pump family. An assembly cell consists of racks containing parts, placed in a U-shape.  The assembly of pumps are performed on carts, trolleys. If the demand for pumps from a certain family increases, more assembly workers can be assigned to the cell, each of them taking care of the assembly of a pump on a trolley. The assembly worker walks with the trolley (or mobile assembly table) along the racks. The fast running parts are on the lower part of the racks, the slow running parts are higher. The stocks of parts are placed high or in the back of the racks. Two bin systems are used to fill the rack with new, standard, modules. Due to the modular product structure, a pumping family comprises a large number of variants. The batch sizes of assembly orders are small (1 - 3).

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In 1995 the organization was confronted with the consequences of a general economic malaise. The operating profit decreased. The market placed increasingly higher demands and more serious competitors were added. Furthermore, internal operations were under stress due to the deteriorated situation.

In 1997, the organization was taken over by another company. In this case description, we focus on the company’s strategy to reduce assembly lead time by reorganizing the assembly department layout (U-shape) and way of working.


By using this new assembly organization, the picking of components from the central warehouse has not to be done anymore in the lead time of orders.  Furthermore, assembly time has been reduced by means of a smart 5S design of the assembly trolleys.

The changes in component manufacture and assembly also resulted in a significant change in the layout of the company. There is more space in use for the assembly.

Finally, this new way of working makes it easy to change the amount of workers that are assigned to different cells, according to the demand of the pumps. Additionally, when a specific type needs to be produced in a large batch, there is the opportunity to work with two persons in this u-shaped cell, see figure below.


Oladipupo Olaitan Placeholder Placeholder Ja Furniture And Fixtures 25.000.000€ - 50.000.000€ 1.000 - 5.000 0% - 5% Standard products, plus variants Small batch production Line production Project Manager Introduction of lean production control Not really true Reduction in lead time
  • Too big material buffer stocks
  • Low visibility and traceability between operations
  • Most of existing improvement efforts have focussed on process technology innovations
  • Experience with Lean for production control but significant room remained for achieving its full benefits
  • High motivation (at all levels) to apply other changes to get the best out of process technology improvements