Increase the efficiency of a production line by 40%? Boer & Croon shows that it is possible. Stefan Starke senior manager Operations Boer & Croon started at Accell Group, one of Europe's largest bicycle manufacturers. He tells about his method in this video.
Accell Group makes (electric) bicycles, bicycle parts and accessories. Well-known brands include Batavus, Sparta, Koga and Babboe. The factory in Heerenveen roughly consists of two parts: the assembly department and the paint shop. When deliveries started to pick up again after the corona pandemic, it turned out that there was a bottleneck at the paint shop. Stefan Starke of Boer & Croon was then asked to investigate how the capacity of the paint shop could be increased using Operational Excellence applications.
Overall Equipment Efficiency
'I spent the first two weeks in the factory, including a few days in the production hall. There are 130 people working there, the factory covers a large area and there are many steps in the process. Before you can make improvements, you have to get a feel for it. In the paint shop, each part goes over a suspended track. So that determines the pace of the department. Then I started looking at what the perfect situation would look like: an optimally running conveyor, at the highest speed, with no rejects and zero errors.'
'With that method, you can clearly see where you are losing capacity. It's called Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). It soon emerged that the main reason why speed was being lost and the line was unnecessarily stopped was that there were regularly insufficient carts at the end of the line to remove the frames. It turned out that those carts were all over the plant, sometimes with rejected frames, without this being recorded. So this had to be made visual with a "rejected" sign on it, which made enough carts available again.'
Listening to the people at the workplace
'Halfway through this assignment, I was asked to become interim manager of the paint shop. In the six months that I had this dual role, there was no recurrence of the line coming to a standstill because of a shortage of carts. But I really didn't spend 10 months finding out that the carts were in the wrong place. The OEE method revealed several causes of speed loss. To do this, we first had to pull together all the data recorded by systems around the production line.'
'Then we created a model together with people from IT, engineering and those on the production line every day. Once that was all in place, we could measure where things were going wrong. Every morning we started the day with a so-called daily stand-up, during which I discussed the previous day's performance with the team. I also put in place a structure where ideas from the shop floor were picked up in short "sprints". I gave the team leaders a small project every six weeks to solve those things. As a result, OEE went from 50% to 71% (a 40% increase in efficiency).'
Making the process transparent
'I was also asked to help think about the factory's strategy in 2027. This revealed that considerable growth is expected in cargo bike production in the coming years, which will result in a different process and factory design. Among other things, this means that the efficiency of the cargo bike line has to go up considerably. Compared to an ordinary bicycle, there are many more parts on it that need to be painted.'
'I then made small bikes with K´Nex to mimic the process of making a bike. We did that with the people on the production line. This allowed them to look at the process in a different way and think of improvements that could also be applied in the production hall. I also made this game in Boer & Croon style. This can be used at recruitment events to show what kind of assignments we do and how we approach them. This allows you to immediately test whether such assignments suit you.'