Two years ago, ITC moved to its new facilities but that wasn’t the only change it experienced. Others included the launch of a new organisational method in its production process: lean manufacturing.
We spoke to Salvador Gázquez, Operations Manager at ITC, about the benefits the company has enjoyed thanks to this new model.
Salvador, why was a new assembly system established?
We needed a way to better organise our assembly section as the product range had increased considerably. The number of units per order had also increased and we were receiving orders for any model asking for anywhere between 1 and 200 units. We needed to devise a new method that would allow us to give customers precise delivery time frames and enable us to be more productive.
Can you tell us about the journey to taking this decision?
We contacted Leanbox asking for advice and their help in launching the project.
They used Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and detected different points that could be improved.
- Major displacements to access the materials needed for assembly.
- Continual location movements for finished products awaiting the next process.
- Difficulty in alternating with small orders when large orders were being manufactured.
- Difficulty in defining the system’s maximum capacity.
What proposals were made to increase productivity?
After the data was gathered and then analysed, one option suggested was to design a U-shaped cell to improve productivity in manufacturing our main product families. Rather than working to improve assembly speed, the aim was to prioritise being able to assemble any model, starting from scratch, whether it’s for 1 unit or X number of units.
The first step was knowing what our weekly pump assembly capacity had to be to meet all of our customers’ requirements.
The aim of the U-shaped manufacturing cell is really simple: manufacture unit by unit, eliminating all wastage (such as unnecessary movements, and reducing intermediary stocks of pumps being manufactured and raw material stocks).
In addition to establishing a U-shaped cell, other physical changes were made. These included:
- Use of the one-piece flow method.
- Grouping of machinery and job posts to manufacture several products in the same family.
- Design of diaphanous spaces where operators are close to one another, facilitating communication.
- Assembly tasks are performed indoors where only people are present.
- Replenishment of raw material in the outdoor site with dynamic shelving
What results have you seen in the two years since this new system was introduced?
The main changes were:
- Manufacturing that keeps pace with our customers’ consumption and a shorter delivery time frame.
- A massive reduction in the time it takes us to detect flaws or errors.
- Enhanced space productivity, with improved work post ergonomics and the resulting optimisation of staff productivity (which has improved by 185%) and a 225% reduction in the space occupied.
What is the secret to the new system’s huge success?
All technical projects like this are closely connected to the people involved. They are the ones who must adapt to the new production system and embrace it. The project has been extremely successful thanks to the engagement of our excellent staff members.
At present, ITC’s internal team is keeping up its training with continuous improvement with a view to fully establishing our new way of working. Continuous improvement is essential to us maintaining and increasing our productivity.
Tracking and interpreting KPIs, combined with problem-solving techniques, like the five whys, are key to us refining our method day after day and implementing small developments that will be assimilated and combined to achieve our targets.
Today, the ITC team is adapting its assembly processes for all other product families. But our philosophy remains the same: lean manufacturing.