In Schorndorf, a suburb of Stuttgart, Germany, one of the typical “hidden champions” of the German industry has its headquarters: Oskar Frech GmbH. This family-owned business with 850 employees is one of the world’s leading suppliers of die-casting technologies. Their hot-chamber and cold-chamber machines are in high demand – both in the automotive industry and in the manufacturing sector. The mid-sized company had been too set in its ways, and dissatisfaction with existing processes was growing greater. So in 2016, Frech decided to hit the reset button.
The problems that are commonplace among machine manufacturers – long lead times, trying to find the necessary parts for production, lines building up in front of the painting machines, rework due to errors – needed to become a thing of the past at Frech. They wanted to take advantage of the good state of the economy and continue optimizing their value chain.
With consultation and guidance from Staufen, Frech employees and managers analyzed their existing processes, identified the activities which did not contribute to the value chain, and worked out improvement potential in procedures. Their workshop-oriented assembly system thus turned into a process-oriented paced assembly line.
Dr. Tim Nikolaou, Geschäftsführer, Oskar Frech GmbH
Of course, we also looked toward the future and saw that we had to take the dynamic market into account and think about the constant increase in client specifications. And speed is very clearly a competitive advantage.
Dr. Ing. Timo Stock, Leiter Materialwirtschaft und Auftragszentrum
Lean is possible in every area, even in a very traditionally structured family business with its own well-established culture.
Thanks to shop floor management, the status of order processing and assembly is visible to everyone at a glance. If there are delays at any given point, everyone knows what effects that will have both upstream and downstream. Immediate actions to resolve problems can be initiated directly. And at the same time, the root cause of the problem can be clearly identified and long-term corrective measures can be implemented.
It has been a year since the project began, and initial successes are already apparent. They succeeded in lowering lead times by 40% in order management and by 30% in assembly. Not only that, process improvements yielded a significant upturn in quality and also lowered costs, Employees are tangibly more motivated nowadays. Everybody can feel a definite shift in the company culture.