"A change process can only work if you pick up the employees and actively involve them," says Peter Schäfer, Head of Investment Casting Production Unit 2 at the BLANK-Group. He demonstrated this by restructuring the casting processes in the company - and the success proves him right. The BLANK-Group presents three approaches that have led to significant improvements and thus changed the process flow in the long term.
Approach III: Cooperation
The third report in the series on process optimisation in the foundry is dedicated to the topic of cooperation. Beside many hard facts especially the soft facts contribute to employee motivation and productive cooperation. Therefore this aspect was also critically examined within the scope of the improvement processes in the foundry sector.
7. Working together
The cohesion of a department plays a decisive role for a smooth workflow. Within the shifts a sense of "we" quickly develops through daily cooperation. People help each other. It becomes more difficult with cross-shift activities: "In the foundry, for example, materials have to be prepared for the next shift or the furnaces have to be prepared accordingly. In the past there were always points of friction here. Each shift worked for itself, which often delayed the activities in the next shift," explains Peter Schäfer, "We were able to achieve a lot here through targeted discussions and new work processes. Preparing for the next shift is now a regular part of the workflow."
But cohesion is not only important within departments. Upstream and downstream processes must be also integrated. "There was often too much isolated thinking. Today, employees help each other out, move between departments and thus grow further together.”
This is right and important in order to survive in the sector of medium-sized businesses in the long term. Markets are volatile and to be able to react to them companies need to be flexible.
Many of the presented approaches aim to create a sense of community among employees. "When you help each other, everyone benefits from easier and faster processes at the end. This had to be learnt again in the department."
The changes led to a sustainable improvement of the working atmosphere. "The feedback so far has been consistently positive. People are having more fun at work," says Peter Schäfer happily. This is also reflected in an improvement in the key figures: The measures have led to a more stable and predictable output. "My conclusion of the past months is that automation, Industry 4.0 and optimisations in production are indispensable for keeping up with the times. However, it is just as important to pick up the employees and bring them along - and not simply present them with a fait accompli. Structuring before automation is the right approach here.”