Actively implementing change

Photo | Bosch Rexroth AG
Marginal Column

Above: Materials stored on kanban shelves are always within easy reach, near the assembly line.

Photo | Bosch Rexroth AG

The kaizen workshop at Deutz AG: this is where employees build their own operating equipment with components from several Rexroth programs.

Photo | Bosch Rexroth AG

Using this transportation frame, which the employees made up themselves, transporting engines to the workshop is now easier and faster.

The staff at Deutz AG has introduced lean production methods to their daily work routines by implementing the Rexroth EcoShape tubular framing system. They are now able to assemble new equipment simply and quickly in a dedicated workshop

 

The Deutz AG Corporation, located in the Porz suburb of Cologne, Germany, stands for pioneering spirit, passion and innovative power – and also for the courage to pursue continuous develop­ment. “We permanently subject our work routines to close scrutiny and consider whether and how we could do things better,” emphasizes Ralf Laakmann, production systems manager at Deutz. This engine manufacturer’s goal is lean production with no waste. “To implant these thoughts firmly in our employees’ minds, we need both training courses and fast, feasible implementation capability,” continues Laakmann. With this in mind, Deutz not only arranges regular workshops but also relies on a kaizen workshop right in the middle of the production hall. That space is named after the Japanese production philosophy centered on continuous improvement.

No room for waste

Anyone wanting to know why this workshop with its melodious name is so important to the Deutz company, located in Cologne’s borough of Porz, need only take a look at the production environment there. At this location the company manufactures engines in one of the world’s most modern factories. Their customers install Deutz drive units in mobile work machines, agricultural equipment or ships. Individual customer requirements are varied and demanding. Production rates are high; a new engine leaves the factory every 90 seconds. The manufacturing section must be quick to react to new situations if it is to maintain output at such a high level.

This is why staff members always have access to the kaizen workshop situated at the center of the engine production facility. This facilitates assembling new operating equipment adapted to existing working processes. Workers can now test their optimization ideas to see if they are ready for factory use. This is done on the trial assembly line set apart for this particular purpose. Regular production need not be interrupted.

New operating equipment every day

Extensive stores of components from the EcoShape tubular framing system serve as the basis for the workshop. Rexroth’s sales partner, PTS Automation, supplied the components and also assisted Deutz in setting up the first items of equipment. The people at Deutz were delighted at how easy and quick it is to implement the “continuous improvement process” in daily work routines by using EcoShape. Hardly a day passes without new operating equipment emerging. “The number of possible combinations leaves nothing to be desired and is one of the reasons why this system sets itself apart from others,” says a happy Laakmann.

The 19 different individual components can be assembled error-free with a joining technique which follows the poka-yoke principle – a fault-prevention principle that was also imported from the Far East. Depending on the application involved, the assembly line workers can also draw upon two completely compatible Rexroth lines: “Manual Production Systems” and “Basic Mechanical Elements”. The finished units are made of robust aluminum and are ready for immediate daily deployment.

Geared up for the future

The number of possible applications is equally diverse: their workers, for example, constructed a support rack on which engines are moved to the workshop, ready to test mounting equipment there. This innovation means that transportation no longer requires undue physical effort. It is exactly this kind of exertion-reducing equipment that makes the EcoShape system worthwhile, not only now but in the future as well. “The average age of our staff is constantly rising due to demographic development. That means we must modify all the manual work in our production operations to accommodate this,” says Laakmann. This involves, for instance, keeping walking distances as short as possible and mounting boxes of parts at the ideal height for easy accessibility.

The company’s workers are already deeply involved in this development and are implementing such mea­sures as kanban shelves for example. This concentrates all the parts needed for a specific work process within easy reach. Both the kanban shelves and the engine transportation frame are just two examples of how Rexroth’s tubular framing system increases the workers’ motivation to participate actively in change processes.