A propensity to innovation and continuous improvement are the two important factors which prompted Sacmi to kick off the Lean Innovation Ceramic Project at their Imola plant in May of 2008.
Sacmi is a metal manufacturing company that produces machines for ceramics, and also for beverages and confectionery, food and plastic processing.
The main focus was on the ceramics division, Sacmi’s most prominent department, making up 60% of its sales totalling almost one and a half billion Euros.
Objective: a new ceramic press and to improve the development process to cope with competition from China and increased market competitiveness.
From the initial assessment and initial Value Stream Mapping (VSM) activities, the following critical business issues emerged:
- Frequently repeated operations and milestones.
- Little synchronisation between activities.
- Communication barriers.
- Stops and delays in production.
- Frequent rework and changes to all work groups.
- Lead times that needed to be reduced
- Lack of shared standards.
- Excessive variability in the duration of expected processes and outputs.
The Value Stream Mapping analysis, that is the mapping of the status quo, and the subsequent Hansei sessions – time spent reflecting on the gap between the desired state and the current state – were the starting point to define new product development processes, to be further defined and tested in a pilot project that would lead to the new machinery.
Having analysed the AS-IS processes, we were able to define the TO-BE: through workshops, the Sacmi/Lenovys team mapped a new product development process in an attempt to resolve the critical issues that emerged in the previous stages of analysis. In comparison to the previous one, the new process:
- Complied with the logic of co-design with suppliers – more upstream involvement in the process.
- Followed set-based concurrent engineering techniques.
- Provided reduced time to market and lowered new product development costs.
In this way, not only were the duration of the process and the time taken to resolve problems related to communication and repetition of activities reduced, the final product also had higher quality.
With the drafting of the concept paper we entered the project’s implementation phase. By analysing cost drivers, competition, and customer needs the team discovered that innovation had been a customary practice up to that point, a way of avoiding product obsolescence and loss of market share. So we looked for other drivers to lead innovation in terms of improved effectiveness and efficiency: for example, a more user friendly interface, troubleshooting on a PC at the press, the improvement of suction devices. Each improvement task was prioritised, according to whether it was a “must” or “nice to have”.
Twenty-five conceptually different alternatives, to be evaluated according to the team’s criteria, emerged from the set-based concurrent engineering process: this was the phase of exploring the concepts (Kentou) of the new product development process. Thanks to an evaluation matrix and the visual management system it was possible to build trade-off curves which facilitated the final evaluation.
The whole project was managed by adopting the Obeya System in the project’s operating room, which then became a modus operandi for the company, together with the new product development process.
The new Sacmi PH 3200 machine was presented in Tecnargilla in September 2010, the most important world expo for suppliers to the ceramic and brick industry.
A captivating design, the ability to change a mould in thirty minutes were just a few of the prominent features that mark innovation in an industry that most thought to have reached maturity years ago.
There are also many improvements to existing processes:
- Lead time -30%
- Cost -10%
- Machine set-up time -83%
- Improvements to diagnostics, speed and ergonomics