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«Do our workers experience the same convenience as when booking a trip in 2 clicks?»

The 18th ADMA Learning Network Event revealed key strategic actions of Stas Trailers, a highly innovative Belgian Factory of the Future Award winning SME, and Provan – the very 1st ADMA Factory of the Future Champion.

Until 2019, the yearly Belgian Factory of the Future roadshow has been organised physically at the factory premises. Due to Covid-19 the 2020 and 2021 editions went digital, thereby enabling also foreign company leaders to be virtually present and making a smart ADMA connection…

Teamwork is dreamwork

The STAS ‘visit’ was all about putting people first in their journey from a very functional towards an agile organization. One of the key starting principles to kick-off the work has been following question: « Do our workers experience the same convenience as when booking a trip in 2 clicks ? »

To enable this step increase in worker convenience, Stas decided 5 years ago to move from a “Hierarchy & Control”-organisation towards a much more agile “Trust & Autonomy” way of working. This meant that a logical process flow needed to be created, and also entailed the disappearance of line managers. ‘Squads’ – groups of team members with complementary expertise are now physically sitting together. People at the shop floor were given expert roles, incl. the responsibility to report to the Board. Career ladders for white collar workers have been re-configured towards taking up more responsibility on project level.

A question came from the audience : “How do you protect people from taking on too much responsibility with the possibility of getting a burn-out?” Pieter-Jan De Man, Stas board member, answered that clearly prioritising and – if needed – postponing projects has been the solution to cope with this risk.

Although the presentation mainly has been focussing on T5 – Human Centred Organisation, in order to become nominated as a Factory of the Future, has also been working along the lines of the other 6 transformations areas. This multi-year project has enabled Stas to structurally link up various projects, and to materialise their ‘Teamwork is dreamwork’-vision.

Since 2015, Agoria and Sirris have been organising a yearly “Factory of the Future roadshow”, a tour around the Belgian FoF Award winning companies.
These visits offer participants the chance to take a look around inside ‘the kitchen’ of highly performing factories to learn in detail about how these hosting companies have been transforming themselves. Throughout these years, already more than thousand participants have been inspired about the need to automate and digitalise to stay competitive, about how to launch their own transformation path to become a Factory of the Future themselves, or just to pick-up some ideas after seeing smart initiatives with high impact being put into practice.

Quick Response Manufacturing and Digitalisation as driving force

Provan, a family-owned metal components supplier based in Belgium, has one simple goal: zero inventory. That means: ever smaller series and a lot of production changes during the day. As a ‘one-stop shop’ partner, Provan applies Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) and Early Supplier Involvement and has become a specialist by integrating vertically and guaranteeing a positive TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) impact in the long run.

Provan’s first steps toward becoming a Factory of the Future stemmed mainly from the implementation of a QRM methodology. The idea is to keep idle time – the time lost between two process steps – to a minimum. Digitalisation was the driving force behind QRM. In this case: the implementation of a fully customised planning software.

Did you miss the ADMA Champion celebration of April, 22nd? No problem, just visit ADMA Final Event – YouTube and enjoy the aftermovies 😉

By linking office cells to the production department, every production department has become a planning hub on their own. Every machine operator decides independently what will be produced next. A smart ICT system supports the employees to take the right decisions. The results? Provan is able to process 3000 orders a month. Work-in-progress inventory levels decreased by a factor nine and assembly throughput times moved down from four weeks to no more than three days. Last but not least: employee involvement is extremely high.

Through the development and evolution of Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) (T6 – Smart Manufacturing) as well as Early Supplier Involvement (ESI) (T4 – End-to-end Customer Focussed Engineering) Provan has improved its productivity with 25% and increased its added value per FTE with 20% in the last five years. By talking about TCO at the right level (C-level) the success rate of ‘offer to order’ has exceeded 75%.

What’s next?

Provan will continue to invest in their employees’ digital skills. Furthermore, they are looking into robot process automation for the financial department. The company is also set on taking ecological and sustainability initiatives. Via the decrease of its electricity consumption, Provan already doubled its added value per consumed MWh of electricity over the past five years.

A few questions for Provan

Your company makes continuous efforts to innovate, improve and optimise all aspects of business, product and production. Which projects brought the highest shift in productivity?    

CEO Ben Proesmans: “The first would be the introduction of QRM, which enabled us to reduce the lead time of the production from a product from fifteen sets on four weeks to three days. We also rolled out a new commercial strategy: less is more. We spend more time on less customers and we become ‘trusted advisors’ by creating partnerships. Finally, by digitising our processes, we were able to simplify them and we created an interconnected factory where information has become available in real-time to the lowest level of decision making, the shop floor.”

Your employee engagement increased as well. How did that come about?

 “Thanks to our QRM organisation, our organisation is built on maximum involvement and ownership from the bottom to the top. What also helps, is our continuous investing in state-of-the art machinery. We notice that interesting and complex projects in growth sectors attract good technical operators. And we focus on human capital: we organise cross-training and teambuildings, invest in people development …”

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