Benchmarks & Case Studies
Growth Excellence Project in Electric Mobility
An implementation success story of the KAIZEN™ methodology regarding the increase of production capacity of a large company, precipitated by an exponential rise in the electric vehicle market.
The company operates in the electric mobility sector and belongs to a larger group of companies, which is a national market leader in the areas of energy, engineering and technology.
Its mission is the design, development and production of charging solutions for electric and hybrid vehicles with recharging, contributing to the transition of road mobility into a sustainable model. The business includes the manufacturing and marketing of charging solutions for electric vehicles and associated complementary services.
The unit has a global scope of intervention based mainly on an export model and serving any geography from the competence centre and factory. Moreover, the company has an international presence level for commercial support, project management and customer support, namely in the United States.
The product portfolio includes around one hundred references of electric chargers of three different types (slow, fast and ultra-fast), implemented in public and private facilities, comprising standard catalogue items along with customised solutions for specific orders.
The sector has been undergoing rapid growth due to increased demand, technological advances and the competitive landscape, which have been stimulated by the increasingly complex range of products being offered. This led the company to concentrate its short-term efforts and resources towards development and engineering.
The increase in demand and the focus on strengthening the development and engineering department caused a mismatch between the load and the available capacity, making it paramount to focus on improving processes to guarantee service levels and market response.
The challenge was related to the goal of increasing output from 900 equipment in year N to 4,000 equipment in year N+1, reorganising the various production sections and respective support areas.
Working teams were set up to carry out the KAIZEN™ initiatives, with the participation of several departments: Commercial, Project Management, Production, Logistics, Planning, Purchasing, Innovation & Product and Process Engineering. Working in multidisciplinary teams made it possible to combine the know-how of all involved and break down day-to-day functional barriers, enabling high-impact ideas to be achieved in a short space of time.
Solutions were designed, tested, and implemented in four focus areas: planning and communication; procurement and logistics; manufacturing processes; and monitoring routines.
Planning and Communication
The first great opportunity was at the level of transactional processes with high waiting times in documentation transfer between departments, many with incomplete or incorrect information. Consequently, an intensive workshop was conducted on mapping and improving processes in the support areas. This was achieved by changing to an agile approach with a primary focus on digitalisation and flow efficiency (to the detriment of resource efficiency) and based on the standardisation of deliverables. The biggest disruption in this field was to start monitoring partial and actionable indicators throughout the flow instead of maintaining the focus only on the result.
In the case of production planning, it proved to be poorly structured and managed solely on an emergency basis. Given its importance in the coordination of the entire activity, an analytical tool was developed for capacity management, based on delivery time constraints and material availability. This tool allowed for the levelling of resource load, the coordination of the plant's logistics activities and real-time alerts.
Procurement and Logistics
To compensate for material disruptions at the line entry, the raw material inventory was dimensioned with the establishment of standardised safety stock to absorb consumption oscillations and delays in the replenishment time.
To anticipate difficulties in the supply capacity of the most critical materials, a survey, validation, and direct contact was made with alternative suppliers as a backup to follow, without constraints, the growth expected in the medium-term.
At a more operational level, the layout of the raw materials and finished product warehouse was totally redesigned, as well as the reception, storage, preparation of supply kits and replenishment processes with logistical trains. These changes were supported by robust visual solutions to detect and act quickly on process deviations.
The entire physical configuration of the unit was revised based on the principles of flow creation to significantly reduce the observed waste - excessive movement of materials, search for tools, empty runs, and material stopped between stations.
New flexible assembly lines were designed and sized, and the respective balancing of operations was carried out together with the implementation of optimised working methods, which facilitate performance measurement, employee training and versatility. This set of improvements resulted in an overall increase in factory productivity, ensuring a positive compromise between investment and return.
All the improvements of a more technical nature were supported by intensive work to install monitoring routines, both at the level of the natural teams and at interdepartmental level. These included daily routines for performance analysis by all operational teams, weekly routines between departments for the launch and follow-up of improvement actions within projects, weekly routines for the follow-up of the order backlog recovery plan, and bi-weekly routines for the management of material stockouts.
The results achieved during the one-year analysis period were measured according to four main indicators: productivity, material stock-outs, sales volume, and installed capacity.
In terms of factory productivity, there was a 22% increase, accompanied by a 57% reduction in material stock-outs. The combined effect of these factors allowed the number of pieces of equipment produced to quadruple, reaching the stipulated goal of 4,000 units. Turnover rose by the same order of magnitude as the output generated because, given the high demand, all production was converted into sales either by making up delays in the order book or by satisfying new orders.
Through the set of initiatives described above, the project made it possible to increase installed capacity by approximately six times, giving the unit a robust competitive advantage in preparation for the future growth forecast for the sector.
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