In 2006, Interroll decided to take a close look at the methods of the Toyota production system for wide-ranging series production. Toyota concluded in the first half of the 20th century that this was the best approach for fulfilling customer requirements at high level of quality, short delivery times and with a high productivity, at the same time.
These requirements also apply to Interroll. It is in this context that Interroll has to be able to produce a large proportion of its drum motors within two days. As most of these motors are customer-specific, this applies to the product assembly as well as the completion of key elements such as tubes and axles. The same applies to our rollers, with it being necessary for us to be able to deliver around 97 percent of all the versions we offer (around 60,000 without length deviations) within three to four days without stockpiling finished rollers.
Continuous improvement thanks to Interroll Production System (IPS)
The Interroll Production System (IPS) was developed to ensure the high availability of our products at the highest quality and with a very good price-performance ratio. In the area of IPS we work on four themes:
- Superb operational processes in all departments and on a department-wide basis through continuous improvement (Kaizen)
- Low levels of internal complexity through the development of product platforms
- Ensuring global product availability through local production
- Continuous improvement of our process of innovation so that products and solutions are developed for our customers that offer them a considerable benefit
We received professional help from external specialists during the process. For example, we work closely together with the Kaizen Institute in various countries. Particular use is made of the opportunities available for training employees to become Kaizen managers. At Interroll, one Kaizen manager for every 50 employees focuses fully on continuous improvement. There are also process supervisors who dedicate part of their working day to the prevention of waste.
Inclusion of all employees brings increase in Productivity of up to 50 percent
An important component in understanding the Toyota system has been study visits to Japan. On two such visits, each with 20 participants, we visited companies such as Omron and Toyota to get an idea of what makes the best just-in-time production facilities in the world.
The effectiveness of Kaizen is based on including all employees in the improvement of processes. Productivity increases of 50 percent through Kaizen workshops can be expected at the start, especially when shifting from detached assembly to one-piece flow assembly, or workshops are held focusing on the reduction of setup times.
Including employees always has a positive effect on their motivation. With Kaizen, the entire working environment is improved which also strengthens the position of our company as an attractive employer.
Introduction of IPS in five steps:
- Step 1: The first step in the introduction of IPS is always the thorough tidying and clear, understandable structuring of workstations. This almost always leads to the superior use of materials and machinery.
- Step 2: Regular audits evaluate defined standards using questionnaires to comply with the 100 per cent implementation of specified sequences.
- Step 3: The enhanced incorporation of our suppliers in our process improvement is another important factor. Through supplier-kanban we have been able to increase shift-specific deliveries to an average of 98 percent at our Wermelskirchen facility.
- Step 4: The degree to which IPS is implemented in the different countries still differs. To be able to steer this improvement process better at a global level, starting from 2013, we have been carrying out so-called system audits. The degree to which the IPS is implemented is evaluated using a specific questionnaire.
- Step 5: The actual state is shown on the basis of the results (Radar Screen). In the future, a three-year plan will be formulated from the results.
Permanent standardization of product platforms
The permanent standardization of our product platforms is also crucial for continuous improvement. We want to fulfill our customers' application-related requirements to the max, and keep the number of components required as low as possible at the same time.
Our customers expect, for example, drum motors with specific performance attributes in terms of speed and torque. At the same time, it is also necessary to fulfill certain geometrical requirements for installation in conveyors. This requires very high levels of flexibility with axles, surfaces and installed lengths. There are also requirements concerning interfaces for the purpose of information processing. Taking these framework conditions, we can then derive the options for the configuration of a platform. It is on this basis, for example, that it is possible to standardize the internal components of a drum motor to a considerable degree.
Kaizen is phased with customer requirements
The continuous improvement of the product platforms is a constant challenge and has to be regularly aligned with the customer requirements. Interroll used this approach for the first time on its conveyor rollers, with products such as the drum motors following later. We are currently working on transferring this methodology to all product groups. In the global Interroll Group, a center of excellence and/or center of expertise is responsible for every product group. The continuous improvement of our platform is also required under all circumstances in the context of the local production of our global products.
Interroll is doing all of this work in order to equip its products with the maximum customer benefit and to enhance its own competitiveness. IPS is to be understood as being a key element of the long-term growth strategy of our global group. It will take some time, however, until all of the production locations have achieved the same high IPS level, worldwide. Discipline and stamina during the implementation of these measures are, however, decisive – crucial to the benefit of our customers.