Swiss companies discover kaizen to raise efficiency

Swiss companies discover kaizen to raise efficiency

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The Japanese management principle of “kaizen” is in high demand in Switzerland. More and more companies are using this management approach to raise efficiency and better satisfy their customers. For example, the underwear producer Zimmerli is on the kaizen trip, as is the adhesive tape maker SIGA, the auto supplier company Autoneum, the kitchen fittings maker KWC and a cantonal hospital. Kaizen means literally “change for the better” and refers to a Japanese philosophy that focuses on the enhancement of business operations such as production processes. The SCCIJ explains how five Swiss companies improved their business situation by resorting to kaizen.

Autoneum – The automotive supplier introduced identical manufacturing standards at all plants. The Autoneum Production System (APS) promotes a kaizen mentality among all employees in order to achieve continuous improvements in terms of productivity, time-to-market and just-in-time delivery. “With Kaizen, our employees become a key part of these processes, for instance by proactively proposing improvements”, the company said. In addition, APS speeds up the production cycle times in order to guarantee just-in-sequence deliveries. Thanks to this system, Autoneum also achieves consistent manufacturing processes and uniform product quality levels at all manufacturing locations.

Franke Coffee Systems – The Swiss coffee machine maker reacted to the strong Swiss currency with kaizen practices, the Swiss paper Tagesanzeiger reported. First, the entire flow of goods was analyzed. Then all processes from assembly through quality and precision to speed were optimized. Purchasing and relations to suppliers were also put under scrutiny. For example, suppliers were asked to deliver completed modules instead of many parts which in turn increased production efficiency at Franke Coffee Systems’ plant. Some of these gains were used to lower prices. This improved the position of Franke Coffee Systems especially in the business with McDonald’s as one of its main customers.

Luxury underwear maker Zimmerli – At the beginning of 2016, the Zimmerli team developed measures to optimize costs. The process was implemented in the spirit of the Japanese philosophy kaizen. Employees at all levels were actively involved and invited to create improvement proposals to help increase efficiency and to implement these jointly, the company reported. First steps are reflected in the merger of the two hitherto geographically separated departments: cutting and sewing. Today, all staff in Mendrisio work hand-in-hand on the same floor, organized in so-called islands, on which the up to 18 processing steps can be performed efficiently.

Baselland cantonal hospital, Liestal – The hospital began in 2013 to apply lean principles with the aim to have more satisfied patients. In order to better distribute the working load of its employees, a grid provides the rough day structure. The nurses now pass by every bed. As a result, the patients are less likely to ring the bell and thus to disturb the regular nurses’ work. Wall-mounted boxes with disposable gloves were put into each room. Before, the gloves were stowed in a cupboard. This forced the nurses to first disinfect their hands before opening the door. Also, a trolley for medicines and bandages was introduced. Now the nurses do not have to travel the relatively long distance to the material station anymore when they need an item.

SIGA – The adhesive tape producer’s kaizen approach is simple, but decisive: on nine days the work is done normally. On the tenth day, the production is stopped. The “rest day” is used to improve production processes and internal processes, the company said. The corresponding proposals do not trickle down from management to the employees, but vice versa. They come from those who work daily on the machines, on the computer or in direct contact with the customer. Each employee has to make at least one proposal every week. With 400 employees, this results in 20,000 improvement annual suggestions. The proposals are collected daily and evaluated, sorted and prioritized by the respective department.

Text: Martin Fritz partly with company material for SCCIJ; Photo: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

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