Metal-processor Provan is a regional manufacturing company that has already applied QRM4.0 to great success. Provan even won several awards because of it. In one article, we summarized how Provan was able to slash lead times with QRM. Part two zooms in on the details of how they successfully applied QRM during the tryout, changed it to QRM4.0, and rolled it out to the whole production floor.
Provan is a subcontractor in metalworks that provides tailor-made metal solutions. It’s a complex manufacturing process for metal, aluminium and stainless steel products that consist of many parts:
1. profile machining ○ tube laser ○ sawing ○ bending
2. sheet metal work ○ laser cutting ○ angle folding / bending ○ punching / pressing
3. welding ○ robotic ○ manual
4. assembly ○ partial / full ○ surface treatment ○ packaging
This presents a challenge, as customers are more demanding than before. They want bigger variation, and thus smaller series, more flexibility and shorter delivery times. In 2012, Provan manufactured big batches, one product at a time, with a minimal lead time of 4 weeks. Now, customers demand smaller batches of different products at the same time. For example, a specific customer of 130-part ovens was so happy with Provan’s work, they wanted them to run 3 different models at the same time, with a maximum lead time of 3 weeks. The production and sales team were always bickering about the long lead times, so Provan took this specific customer request to start doing things differently.
The existing method caused some problems in answering the customer’s request:
● The mix of three models would increase internal stock.
● There is not enough storage space available in the warehouse for processing, shipping and internal stock.
● In the current set-up, product changes are only desirable after production of 180 sets, otherwise we would be left with too many scraps and we would need to rework parts.
● The first kit of 15 sets can still only be shipped after the last part is completed.
● Possible changes in delivery times are very difficult to accommodate and manage.
Finally, they performed a Quick Response Manufacturing tryout on 130-part ovens.
The manufacturer therefore decided to set up a QRM cell dedicated to production for this specific customer:
➔ Provan physically placed together all of the machinery required for making its various stove models.
➔ They selected some staff members who trained each other to use each machine in order to produce the specific oven models.
➔ They assigned cell operators for workflow control
➔ Visual elements such as coloured flags on the transport carts help the workers to keep an overview of what is going on. The numbers on the flags indicate the order of the processing steps, so that different operations can follow one another in rapid succession. They also used pictures of a stacked pallet as a template for each time they had to stack them.
➔ They used carts especially built for collecting and transporting the parts that the robot needed
➔ They decreased production batches from 60 sets to 15 sets, so they would exactly produce what is ordered. This resulted in less production orders to monitor, less administration and less lead time.
QRM results and benefits
● The new workflow is 85% faster, fulfilling the customer order in just three days.
● The method is easy to understand, so
○ The training period was as short as half a day.
○ Detailed planning is not needed anymore.
○ There’s almost no production steering needed.
○ The team is completely self-steering.
● No component stock and a 600m2 reduction of storage space.
● They can react better and faster to requests, because adjustments or changes can happen directly on the next production run.
● The client can react better and faster on consumer sales requests, because lead time is shorter.
● The quality of the manufactured products improved.
Scaling the QRM method
To scale QRM to the rest of the company, Provan needed to improve the accuracy of planning. So they needed to invest in digitization – or “industry 4.0” and more efficient ways to involve and train the team.
In the old days, the movement of products between all staff was just one big spaghetti, as one person operated just one machine. Now, there are different manufacturing cells in which people collaborate and are trained to use different machines.
They receive their work instructions on an iPad. With custom, clear visuals, they know exactly what to do. It also allows them to perform random checks and their input on the iPad digitizes the status of every product.
Screens with the Propos program show which orders are in process, in buffer or on their way for every step in the workflow. The most urgent order is always on top, taking real-time changes into account. You can read more about the tools here.
Sidenote: Set up times are always an issue, as people think of it as lost time. It’s old-fashioned thinking, and you will never innovate or improve. Set up costs are big but really don’t match the big savings in efficiency, storage space and lead times.
The success of QRM4.0
“QRM4.0 is now the guideline in our company”, says Ben Proesmans, owner of Provan. “Staff members now communicate and collaborate effortlessly within and across their teams. We noticed that exchanging people from different cells leads to educational communication and improved efficiency and quality.Our staff experiences more flow, as they are automatically informed on possible back-orders and can anticipate bottlenecks. Provan does not need a human planner anymore, as the digital tools do a faster and better job. Automatic reporting and full traceability allows for problem tracking and time analysis, which decreases lead times and yields better quality.”
Provan has won the Factory of the Future Award 2015-2018 for QRM, the Factory of the Future Award 2018-2021 for digitization & a VOKA award for innovation. and subscribe for a demonstration or support on this website at a later moment