In order to stand out as a steel construction company in today’s market, it is important to streamline your processes as much as possible. That is why Voortman Steel Construction has placed work planning, production and assembly under the microscope to see what can be improved. The first changes have been successfully implemented on this basis: the results are already noticeable.
Arjan van Dijk: “Around nine months ago you regularly heard someone sighing: ‘everything is going wrong’. But what exactly was going wrong and why, was often unclear.” Something therefore had to change, but where to begin? Arjan: “We started by recording all anomalies, simply with pen and paper. This was already being done from assembly and now we have introduced it in production too. Any employee who comes across an anomaly can report it; this is no longer restricted to assemblers on site. This will enable us to work on structural solutions.”
It rapidly became apparent among other things that the holes drilled in the part-manufactured items were exhibiting anomalies and that the marking out unit was positioned incorrectly. This affected the next step in the process. An investigation showed that anomaly arose when cleaning the machines, in which the sensor was touched sometimes. And sometimes a burr is left on the end of the beam after sawing, which creates ‘another’ datum. This can also lead to anomalies in hole and marking positions. These points are now being given the necessary focus.
Furthermore, a partitioned layout has been created for both part-manufactured items and finished products in the outside storage area. Marinus Schelfhorst (Production Group Leader): “This enables sideloader operators to see at once which part-manufactured items are located where and to which workplace they need to be taken. They deposit all finished parts for a structure together in the same bay outside. In this way I can see at a glance which parts we need to arrange transport to site for.”
Since October the production crews’ day starts with a work talk by the foremen (Harmen Nijkamp, Wim Nijhuis and Harry Nijkamp). In about five minutes, the foreman says what went well as well as what could have been done better. We will then inform the crew about the projects they will be working on that day. What are the key points? What specific requirements are being imposed on the structure? The foreman directs the production crew to the workstation where they are to start. Once they are finished here, they report to the foreman and go on to the next workstation. Marinus: “This enables us to manage properly and, if necessary, to switch rapidly.” 3D illustrations of the project are also posted at workstations in order to give the crew an overall picture of the structure they are working on.
The new working method generates a great deal of information, but the production crews lose a great deal of time now updating lists. Marinus: “For instance inspectors are keep a record of which employee has worked on which part on their so-called ‘mark-item list’. This is scanned and saved in ConstruSteel. We also keep a record of daily production in our production schedule so we can see when a phase is ready.” Arjan: “The intention is that everything that we now record by hand, will be automated by scanning within a few months. Scanning gives us a quick insight into the status of a part, which matches our ‘planning & control’ improvement item in production.”
Because less was recorded previously, unfortunately the results are not comparable although the benefits on the other hand are appreciable. One of them is better controllability of our processes. Arjan: “We have built more control points into the production process so we can take action when necessary.” Feedback and a check take place after each operation: after the part-manufactured item is ready after the machining process, after assembly and after welding. The last step is welding inspection. Upon approval, the part can be taken outside for loading.
These improvements are also bearing fruit in the implementation phase. Arjan: With all these changes we are providing more structure and this can be seen again in project implementation. We are already seeing far fewer anomalies in assembly.” Project manager Jan Lubbers is also noticing that it works: “Project failure costs are going down. If it emerged during implementation that things were amiss, engineering, production and assembly all needed to be involved at once on account of progress and consequential costs. This occurs less often now. The result is greater calm in the project concerned and less encroachment on other projects. Another important factor: it also has a positive impact on the work atmosphere.”