Kaizen at DSM Stanyl: “It’s not rocket science, but it works!”

Too many products made at DSM Geleen did not meet specifications. This led to so-called “wide-specs”. Based on data from 2012, this applied to 8% of products. After giving a LEAN training, Symbol was asked for help.

The aim was to save half a million euros by reducing the number of non-specification products from 8% to 2,9%. This goal was achieved in a very successful Kaizen process, which led to savings of no less than 750.000 euros, even exceeding the original goal!

In Geleen, South Limburg, DSM’s “Engineering Plastics” business unit produces the new, innovative material Stanyl. This is an extremely strong plastic that is highly resistant to extreme temperatures (maximum 180 ° C) and friction. The material has the ability to consolidate multiple metal parts into one. In addition, it is also a very light product. These properties combined make Stanyl interesting as a replacement of metals in the automotive industry.

“It’s not rocket science but it works!”

Ingo van de Moesdijk, production manager at the Engineering Plastics business unit, was the process owner of the Kaizen trajectory. He says: “The Engineering Plastics division had to deal with the consequences of the crisis so we looked for improvements. One of those improvement processes, a Lean process, was started following a scan by McKinsey. Lean was something new for us. To see for ourselves we went to look at another DSM factory in Meppen, where they already had extensive experience with Lean. We immediately saw the possibilities for our own organization. We called on Jeroen van der Weerdt from Symbol. He has trained multiple people here to become a Green Belt. ”

First: a testproject

Ingo continues: “After that training, we saw opportunities for Kaizen projects. Kaizen was also new to most people here. Together with Jeroen, we analyzed which projects could be considered. As an exercise, we first set up a simple Kaizen. We performed a SMED (Single-Minute Exchange or Die) on a valve in our factory, which sometimes has to be changed. Changing, securing and taking the installation out of operation took a lot of time. So if we could do that in a smarter way, we could save time and gain production time. We went from an average of 15 hours to less than 9 hour. The safety level has increased as we have moved from 7 to 3 bridges. A bridge means that a safety or instrumental protection must be temporarily put out of use in order to be able to work on the installation itself. The number of actions required to make a change has fallen from 129-89. This success left us wanting for more. ”

Second Kaizen a huge success

“We then did a second Kaizen which became the success story of the year. Sometimes a product is not produced according to its specifications due to a production transition or a process failure in the installation. The result is “wide-spec”. This means that the product has been produced outside of its specifications, but is still salable. It is sold exclusively to internal customers. But these customers have to adjust their machines to be able to process these products, which costs money. In the first months of 2013, our average 11 to 12% wide-spec. That was far above our target of 7%. The aim was, therefore, to produce the right product within the specifications in one go.”

“Together with Jeroen we made thorough preparations. We started with analyzing historical data after which we ran tests for a month with some ideas we gained from that. We then started the actual Kaizen week. First, as a team, we created a fishbone diagram to map out the causes for “wide-spec.” It turned out that too many people used their own methods to solve the problem in the different shifts. So we improved the instructions and put them on paper. We now have one clear instruction and it contains no more than five rules, made in consultation and understandable for everyone. And that works.”

“We then looked at the organization. We asked ourselves who is responsible for what? Who is the first point of contact and when is a case escalated? We then summarized that in a very simple diagram and we have been practising it ever since. In the end, it was all about transparency: clear communication, clear guidelines and keeping agreements.”

“The result is that we have reduced the “wide-spec” percentage from 8% to 2.5%, which is even better than the original target of 2.9%. And in October we even got as low as 1%. We ultimately achieved a saving of more than 750.000 euros. This exceeded the goal of 500.000 euros. And we have achieved a sense of ease in the organization. All in all, Kaizen is not rocket science. But it works! ”

If you do it right, you can achieve beautiful things in a week

“For a Kaizen you need to have a dedicated team. They are not allowed to work on other things during this period. Because if there is a distraction, it will not be a success. A Kaizen is intensive, because it comes on top of normal work and that puts considerable pressure on the organization. But then you reap the benefits so you get back the investments you have made.”

“It has had a very positive effect on the atmosphere. This case is used as an example throughout the company. You can achieve a lot with a Kaizen, things that we did not achieve in other ways for years. The striking thing was that the final conclusion was completely different from what we previously thought. That was because we didn’t speak to each other enough in the past. We never took the time to do this. But by talking directly to each other you also hear the consequences for each other. ”

“The result is magnificent. The most important thing I’ve learned from those Kaizens is that you have to include the people in the team who come into contact with the problem in the field. You have to believe in it as management, otherwise, you don’t even have to start. And your goals must be realistic. You should not want too much at once. You must prepare well. And if that is all right, you can achieve beautiful things in a week. But the most important thing is that people from the floor discover it for themselves. As management, you have to have faith in your organization, trust in your people. There is a lot of knowledge. Only sometimes there are no resources. Or sometimes you as a manager just don’t know why something does not work, while at some point people just give it to you in such a Kaizen. You have to let them discover it for themselves and if they have made joint agreements about it, it will be alright.”

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