We strive for continuous improvement
8 July, 2020
The only way to remain at the head of the queue is by constantly moving forward. In order to do that, we attach a lot of importance to continuous improvement. This is a never-ending process that we apply in various departments, from HR to production. Making BMT Drive Solutions better means working together towards specific goals and creating the right, positive energy required.
Matching projects with the correct methods
In order to improve processes and ways of working, a clear method is needed. Leo Geuens, our Global Continual Improvement Coordinator for BMT Drive Solutions, takes a holistic approach to the whole process. When confronted with a certain problem, he will evaluate the best method to deal with that specific problem. This can be implementing an idea of an employee or work with Kaizen- (Change for Good) or Lean-teams (Reduce the waste in the process) or improve the performance of a process by 6-Sigma (use a lot of data together with statistic techniques to find the key factors of the process).
Each plant’s Continual Improvement Process (CIP) Coordinators will then help him by familiarising our colleagues with the chosen method. Leo is also very keen to have our different plants sharing their experiences so that everyone can benefit from an efficient solution.
Another part of Leo’s job is to guide his colleagues in embracing the change in their ways of working. The teams he guides are led by people with an analytical mindset and a great eye for detail. That way, there is a great guarantee for success, which makes everyone involved in the process proud of the work they achieved. That way, and by investing time in our people, we further increase enthusiasm for change and, in turn, improvement.
Following the process
So how does continuous improvement work? Although different methods can be used to deal with specific problems, we usually handle a project in 5 stages. First of all, we will define the issue that can be improved. We usually do this through checking our digital dashboard for KPI’s that have diverted too far from our expectations. Sometimes, we also do this in tandem with our customers by going over all the steps of the process that can be improved.
Once we’ve done that, the next step is to measure and gather data of the last few months. Next up is the analysis where we look at which factors have a big influence on the data as well as what the important factors are. In the next step, we actively look to implement our improvements to obtain better results. These improvements are then monitored for 3 to 6 months to maintain stability. The final step in the process is control. Here, we look at how we will maintain the improvements as well as perform monthly audits.
The theory in action
So how does the whole system work in practice? In January of this year, a project was finished in one of our plants in China where we improved the way cutting tools are used. In their specific process, our colleagues turned a gear in two different ways. The first uses the left-oriented tool holders and the other the right-oriented ones to use different flanks of the insert. The working method is changed every time a new batch arrives at the machine.
The critical success factor was to check in advance whether wear would occur at the corner of the insert.
As it appeared, there was a chance for success. So we proceeded to test it and monitor the quality of the inserts as well as the quality of the gears. When controlling this new way of working, we found that the roughness of the turned surfaces remained within our quality demands while output per insert doubled. In short, by making better use of our cutting inserts, we are able to maintain the quality in our gears that our customers are looking for.
As the term says, continual improvement is a never-ending process. We realise this and it is also what motivates us to keep going. Seeing opportunities for improvement means that we can become even stronger in the leading position that we are already in. All of this is excellent news for our customers as they can rely on ever improving gears.