This article: The Lean transformation of Philips Lighting
|Lean: The value adding organization|
Seeing is believing, and believing is copying
The Lean transformation of Philips Lighting
By Dr Jaap van Ede, editor-in-chief business-improvement.eu, 15-02-20171. This article is also available in Dutch
Next, Evers demonstrated the importance of standardization, by showing how Leader Standard Work makes his own work more effective. Nearly his complete, openly visible, agenda now consists of timeslots. Not cycle times yet, but it comes close. In addition, Evers records strictly when he adds value for the company. Being a manager, useful activities are coaching, support and the improvement of processes.
Thanks to the Lean transformation, Philips Winterswijk can assemble lighting fixtures make-to-order via a 'normal' Lean production line. When a product only changes a little bit, the assemblers can read and understand the new work instructions within one cycle time.
The factory of Philips Lighting, in the city of Winterswijk in the Netherlands, makes LED lighting fixtures. These are elegant and tailored light boxes, usually to be mounted in ceilings, for example for the illumination of offices.
‘Our production model is mainly make-to-order. We design a lighting system according to the customer's wishes, and then we manufacture it’, says production manager Bart Evers. ‘To illuminate an office we usually produce several hundred pieces, but also single-piece production occurs. We do not produce large numbers of standard products, this is done by a factory in Poland.’
Besides the LED lighting solutions, a little amount of fluorescent tube products is still made in the factory in Winterswijk. ‘But frankly said, the necessary machinery for that blocks the path to create an optimal production layout.’
Lean assembly line for lighting fixtures at Philips Lighting in Winterswijk
In my experience, such a Lean assembly-to-order line is unique. More about how Philips Winterswijk accomplished this later!
‘To make sure that there is sufficient time for replenishment, we alternate small and large production runs. If you would plan two single piece orders after each other, you would have only one minute - the takt time - to bring the new parts to the assembly line!’
The LED boards are purchased. The production of the parts for the housings starts with sheets of steel, with a thickness of 0.6 or 0.8 mm. The production of those parts roughly encompasses the steps: laser cutting or punching, bending, spot welding and powder coating. All those steps are not always needed. To finish each step, one day is reserved. Therefore the throughput time in the whole factory, from sheets of steel to finished lighting products, is several days.
Starting from the assembly schedule, the ERP system (SAP) calculates backwards, to determine when each production step should start, to have the parts needed for assembly ready on time. ‘Between the production steps there is a demarcated space for a buffer of semi-finished materials. When a buffer is full, the production step before it will stop producing.’
Introduction of the rule that deviating from the production sequence is not allowed when parts have priority, did not help. ‘In part this is a cultural problem, but above all it is caused by a lack of insight. Insight in the consequences of a delay for subsequent production steps.’
Can it not simply be made compulsory to observe the production planning? ‘No, that does not work. When people have worked in a certain way for years, they will not change their behavior until they understand the benefits themselves. Therefore, you should give them the experience of a better approach. Make them understand why it is neccessary to make the production Lean. You cannot enforce that.’
Bart Evers (Philips Lighting): ‘People will change their ways of working only when the see the benefits. Let them experience those benefits, or lead by example’
‘Every day we have a short production meeting, in a part of the plant with improvement boards. We started to focus on small quality issues. For example two lighting fixtures with problems, in a batch of one hunderd products. By ensuring together that these problems were corrected quickly, we could still deliver the complete production order on time.’
These actions increased the delivery reliability already a bit. However, a side effect was much more important. The team leaders had to work together, to solve the quality problems quickly. That created a bond. In addition, they started to understand the relationship between their production activities and the steps before and after them in the production chain.
‘As a result, they began to consider these dependences, when they wanted to adapt their planning. Other production departments were consulted by them more frequently. Eventually, they even started to apply Lean tools such as 5S, entirely on their own initiative. Nice to observe.’
To stress the importance of standardization, Evans took the same approach as when he wanted to make the production planning Lean. He demonstrated the benefits, hoping that others would follow.
Evers' agenda now resembles the time slots at an airport. Even the comparison with cycle times forced itself upon me!
In addition, Evers records which things he does add value or not, to identify improvement opportunities. And perhaps most important: his agenda is visible on the intranet for everyone, including personal improvement goals such as "building bridges instead of focusing on differences."
Leader standard work: the agenda of Bart Evers has time slots
A manager has customers: the operators, the assemblers and the team leaders. A manager can create value for those customers by coaching and supporting them, by giving direction, or by contributing to process improvement. Everything else a manager does is in Lean terminology waste!
Benchmark for Leader Standard Work
The far-reaching application of leader standard work within Philips Lighting Winterswijk, was noticed during Lean audits by Philips. Managers from other Philips Lighting sites now visit the factory in Winterswijk to learn from this. Philips Lighting is being split off from Philips. However, also managers from Philips still visit Winterswijk, because this production site is seen as a benchmark for leader standard work.
Even the coaching sessions of Evers with his employees now follow a standardized pattern. ‘When you give each other direct feedback, assesment interviews aren't needed any more. Therefore, those assesments increasingly become shorter.’
Another example of Leader standard work: meetings via a fixed schedule
As said before, when the modifications are small, the change-over time at the assembly line is only one minute (the takt time). For experienced assemblers that interval is long enough to absorb the new instructions. ‘However, those assemblers initially didn't believe that this was possible. Therefore, I decided to start a pilot, by simply assigning one of those products to a Lean assembly line.’
Today, the Lean assembly-to-order works like a charm. In fact all customer-specific products are now assembled that way. ‘When only a small number of products needs to be assembled, we assign this to a line with relatively experienced people.’
The assembly lines are equipped in such a way, that it is possible to put together the most complex products in several steps. Steps that are not needed for a certain product, are simply skipped. ‘When we recieve orders to make a product more often, we continuously refine the corresponding work instructions. Sometimes we even physically adjust the assembly line.’
When products are assembled more often, the assembly line is gradually fine-tuned. At this assembly line it is possible to work on two sides, to built relatively large lighting fixtures.
‘This is called daily kaizen by Toyota. You should look for improvement opportunities - kaizen - every day. The intention is that everyone improves at least one thing each month. In addition, improvement opportunities should be realized within three days, than you have a true Lean culture. To raise interest in this, I started again to apply it myself. Every thing I improve regarding my leader standard work, is visible on our intranet.’
To start the cultural change needed for daily kaizen, the aim for the improvement rate is temporarely raised to one mini-kaizen per person each week. ‘By adding daily kaizen to my daily standard work, I am reminded to do it. This approach is already copied by the production team leaders. Daily kaizen is also repeatedly brought up by me, during one-to-one coaching sessions. Especially if people have problems applying it. That way, a PDCA-circle is again created. An example of a personal daily kaizen is a "macro", I created in one of my Excel spreadsheets. Now, with one press on a button, I can clear my standard work template.’
An example of a daily kaizen in production, is the rearrangement of the materials along an assembly line. ‘By looking over the shoulders of the assemblers, you can quickly put the material containers in a logical sequence, as close to the workplace as possible. These kind of adjustments often take only a few minutes, and can be executed immediately. By demonstrating this yourself you set an example. That can be an eye opener for your employees’
Standard Work and Respect for people are the basis of Lean within Philips Lighting. Note the word growth in the top of their "Lean house". Growth makes it possible to combine efficiency improvement with the preservation of jobs.
But the most important thing is customer satisfaction. ‘Customers can create growth of our production volume. This is essential when you want to succeed with Lean. On one hand Lean makes your production more efficient, but on the other hand you want to preserve jobs.’
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