Go with the flow
Carefully synchronizing the market, materials, machinery and manpower can free up potentials in mechanical engineering, too. Bernhard Stalder, head of TRUMPF SYNCHRO Consulting, and his team apply their expertise at interested companies – to help products flow and to encourage skeptics to rethink their positions.
Anyone who thinks about holistic production systems, like SYNCHRO, and thinks first of tidy tool cases, scrupulously clean workplaces, and assembly line operations is seeing only one small part of the entire project. Reorganizing and optimizing sequences in production is only a partial aspect and in fact just the beginning of a comprehensive change process.
SYNCHRO is, according to Stalder, a philosophy that has to be internalized and embodied by the entire company. It requires turning away from traditional actions in every area. It involves radical rethinking and the absolute and declared intention to institute change. The SYNCHRO philosophy has been firmly anchored at TRUMPF ever since 1998. It was at that time that the company began building machines on synchronized assembly lines. What had up to that time been associated only with mass production was quickly found to work for smaller batches, too. Four years after introducing SYNCHRO at the Ditzingen campus, the production system – at that time unique in machine tool engineering – earned two awards in the “Factory of the Year 2002” competition.
Today all eighteen TRUMPF production sites employ SYNCHRO. This success and the interest expressed by customers, suppliers and other businesses prompted TRUMPF to offer the production system to other companies, as well. The TRUMPF SYNCHRO Consulting company located in Baar, Switzerland, provides support based on its experience and vast know-how in implementing SYNCHRO.
Following the principle “Learning from the best,” TRUMPF took a peek at the automotive industry when developing its own production system, tailored to the needs of mechanical engineering. The essential elements of SYNCHRO are eradicating all waste and undertaking a departure – from stand-alone work stations to flow assembly. Short production runs of complex parts, typical for mechanical engineering, are by no means a hindrance here. “Clearly defined standards make it possible to deliver superior quality at short order and significantly lower costs,” according to Bernhard Stalder.
In concrete terms: Finished products or clearly delineated assemblies are manufactured in small, self-contained production units, responsible for their own actions. Important here is that all the tools, materials and parts required for manufacture always available be when they are needed – not too early and most certainly not too late. Working in exact synchronization, every production unit ensures that the parts, assemblies or machines it manufactures are passed along to its internal or external customers – at a defined point in time, at the best quality, in accordance with the “pull principle.” The worst kind of waste – overproduction – is avoided by just-in-time production.
But assembly is only one cog in a great big wheel. SYNCHRO means optimizing all the processes in a firm and harmonizing them with each other. “It’s true that we essentially always launch the change process in the assembly sections, since successes are seen there immediately. But under certain circumstances the sources of problems are far upstream from assembly – in sales, in development or in purchasing, for instance,” Stalder notes. That is why SYNCHRO, over the course of years, has developed to be- come a “holistic” system for change. Only if all the processes and their interactions are scrutinized will success be durable.
The primary prerequisite for such fundamental interventions in operational structures and processes is that the vision be understood and embraced throughout the organization – beginning in the boardroom and extending through the entire hierarchy.
Today, whenever Stalder visits companies interested in SYNCHRO, it is important for him to put himself in the company’s shoes. “I ask very pointed questions, look at everything, and – together with management and employees – uncover potentials for improvement,” he explains. Intensive communication, the exchange of ideas, and the extensive enlightenment define the entire implementation process, all along the way. “People are naturally anxious about change. They can be persuaded most lastingly when they understand how meaningful these changes will be and when it is clear what an important role they will be playing.” Stalder is convinced of that.
Bernhard Stalder defines his role as a consultant primarily as an “eye opener.” He supports his customers so that they can develop, as quickly as possible, an eye for waste and the potentials for change in their own organizations. “My associates and I consider ourselves successful if we are able to let the customers stand on their own feet as quickly as possible and if they continue to apply the knowledge they learned from us – without us looking over their shoulders.”
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in autumn 2011.