Processes + Products

"Fit for future" with planned Operation Excellence

For winning the GEO Award in the "Factory of the Year" competition, an important central factor at Ersa was the mature process landscape. In conversation with the process managers Joachim Brönner, Head of Production, and Roland Diehm, Head of Production Planning.

What was the starting point for further developing the process landscape at Ersa to a new level?

Joachim Brönner: First of all, we wanted to see where we stood in the competition - for us, this therefore also had a "sporting" tinge. It turned out that we are right up there with our competitors. Looking at previous winners and big players such as Brose, Kärcher, Voith & Co. we are very proud of our performance!

Roland Diehm: With our newly defined processes, we have completely geared the company to strong growth and made it "fit for future". Prior to the commissioning of our new production facility, we already had a clocked flow production in another hall, which, however, had more the character of a workshop production in some areas. In this context, we restructured the entire company so that we could set up clean, transparent processes. The bottom line is that we can see what the individual order status is at any time and react flexibly to unforeseen deviations.

Joachim Brönner

Head of Production Ersa GmbH, more than 27 years active for the company, retired since 03/2022

Roland Diehm

Head of Production Planning Ersa GmbH until 02/2022, since 03/2022 Head of Production

What were the goals for the new process approaches?

Joachim Brönner: We were concerned with defining the magic triangle in a sustainable way - cost, delivery reliability and quality. In all our process approaches, we have included this again and again. As a result, we have succeeded in significantly reducing throughput and delivery times, improving quality and, last but not least, increasing ergonomics and occupational safety. Just one small example: The current platforms are lower so that even workers who are not so tall can easily reach all assembly points.

What tools were used for the new shopfloor management?

Joachim Brönner: Shopfloor management is a very important tool for our production. In order to implement and live this permanently, it is essential for us to carefully select and train store floor multipliers who take part in the regular meetings and provide very good feedback as neutral observers with their empathetic and respectful manner.

Roland Diehm: For shopfloor management, it is also very important that we have a clean cascade. It starts in the morning with a meeting between the workers and the value stream manager - everything that comes up should be solved in this control loop. If this does not succeed, it is escalated to production management and on to the order board, where customer orders are considered as a whole. From sales to delivery, all quality gates are queried, and the management is involved once a week. This means we always have short decision-making paths and everyone involved is close to the issue.

The Worker Information System (WIS) provides all required documents for the current job
The Worker Information System (WIS) provides all required documents for the current job

What role did the "mindset" play in the workplaces?

Joachim Brönner: Our aim with the new production facility was to ensure that all employees have the necessary mindset to do things in a new and better way, more efficiently, and to take responsibility for their own area. Of course, they are all good skilled workers, but they also have a pronounced willingness to get to grips with new methods and work equipment. In other words, they are clearly ready for change and have the will to develop in a targeted manner. The result in the competition proves that we have put together an outstanding team.

How has process quality changed?

Roland Diehm: With our approach, we have actually increased transparency at all levels. Communication is very open - I don´t think it´s an exaggeration to speak of a very unique culture here. We have created an environment in which anyone and everyone can express themselves without receiving a correction according to the classic top-down approach. Here, everyone knows exactly what the others are doing thanks to newly introduced tools such as Shopfloor Management and Visual Planning. All information has been consolidated centrally and can be called up at the required location, so that the production process runs smoothly and without interruption. We can react to deviations at an early stage, even at the order entry stage.

Does this new process also have an impact on the machines outside at the customer´s site?

Joachim Brönner: That is indeed the case. When we put together the team, we made sure that QA employees were integrated into the production process and were already involved in deviation management during assembly. In other words, quality assurance already takes place during the value creation process and not just at the end of it. The digital inspection record during production also contributes to the quality of the finished machine.

What are the next goals at Ersa in terms of processes?

Joachim Brönner: We are working on rolling out the shopfloor management to the entire Group with corresponding rule meetings and also including other areas such as the order center, development, sales, etc. We are delighted to receive this award. However, we are not stopping at the current status quo, but are continuously optimizing our process-based approaches. In the future, the entire Kurtz Ersa Group will certainly benefit from the "Operative Excellence" of the new Ersa production.