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Kaizen Case Study: Siemens Oostkamp

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Siemens Oostkamp produces electronic components such as relays, connectors, and coils. The combination of fewer orders from their parent company and increasingly intense global competition forced them to look for new markets.

On his first tour of the plant, the kaizen consultant asked the supervisors if specific information was available, such as failure rate or setup times, and the answer was always, “It’s in the computer.” But when asked to retrieve it, no one ever could. The first task was to get the management to understand the need to collect data and make this information visible and accessible. Without this data, there is no way to know where to start.

kaizen case studyThe management at Siemens Oostkamp overcame initial resistance to change with their hands-on approach. They knew that their place was in Gemba and continuously motivated their workers to collect data and review their work.

Within a few months, they had enough data to know where to start. To put the kaizen activities in motion, self-managed work teams were formed in which the goals of kaizen were carried out with methods that the teams developed themselves.

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With each employee a part of a team, they became more conscious of problems on the line and were able to solve the problems themselves. With this new clarity, they suggested and implemented small, incremental changes. And using the newly collected data, they assigned themselves specific goals to shoot for.

5S, visual management, and just-in-time were the main kaizen tools utilized by the teams to achieve their goals. In areas where 5S was implemented, the machines and floors were spotless, and the machine layouts were changed for a more efficient process ow.

Visual management was evident everywhere. Large charts were displayed that showed plant goals with numerical data and trend charts for each item. Tools had specific, clearly marked homes, and floors were marked showing designated areas for supply carts and finished products.

The just-in-time model revealed that changeover times at the molding department were taking too long. They instituted a new procedure that minimized the batch size and the number of boxes of work-in-process, thus decreasing the changeover times.

So, did kaizen help Siemens Oostkamp?

→ They were able to reduce the cost of inventory by 30%. Lead time for their brake coils went from 12 days to half a day.

→ Before kaizen, they kept a three month inventory of cable connectors; this is no longer necessary because the lead time has been reduced to three hours.

→ The number of product types has been reduced by 33%. Storage area was reduced by 10%.

→ The employees are now problem solvers. When a defective product was found, it used to take days to find the problem. Now they can see it right away and make adjustments.

Those are the tangible results. What the numbers don’t show is a happier, more fulfilled staff that enjoys coming to work. That translates to fewer sick days, less employee turnover, and better safety. That’s a success by anyone’s standards.

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