The bridge builders at KUKA
Manufacturing Excellence, Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement – do you know these terms? If not, no problem. Because the Industrial Engineering / Advanced Manufacturing department takes care of everything behind these terms. What this means for us exactly and why our colleagues there are the bridge builders at KUKA.
Ideally, it works like this: products and solutions are developed in R&D, mature into prototypes and are manufactured in the production halls. Sounds simple in theory. In practice, however, it is often a bit more complicated. The development of a product is very theoretical. Plans can therefore often not be transferred 1:1 into practice. This can lead to problems in production when development is actually already complete.
And this is where the Industrial Engineering – Advanced Manufacturing team comes into play. As the name suggests, this is where development is linked to production and the bridge between the two worlds is built.
Linking two worlds
Can the design plans be transferred 1:1 to the production lines and mapped there? Conversely, what needs to be taken into account during development so that a concept can be seamlessly transferred to everyday production? And how can production change so that new concepts can be standardized and profitably implemented?
The team deals with these and similar questions throughout the development process. The most important thing here is that there must be an exchange between R&D and production so that they can merge seamlessly.
“One of our goals is to standardize as much as possible. The more we can repeat and design so that we can use it for all kinds of applications, the more profitable we become,” says Rony Vranckx, VP Industrial Engineering & Advanced Manufacturing Global. The focus is not only on profitability, but also on “state-of-the-art” production.
Looking outwards to improve internally
To do this, the department also looks at competitors and other companies. “There is always a company that is better. That’s why it’s worth looking outside KUKA to improve our own processes,” Vranckx knows. Improving processes means avoiding mistakes, becoming more efficient and also avoiding wasting resources.
The team is also on the move globally and provides support in China, for example. And there is also a team on site in Hungary. To train colleagues in the subject matter, the Continuous Improvement (CIP) team, which is part of the department, also offers “train the trainer” courses. In this way, new bridge builders everywhere at KUKA are to ensure that development and production go hand in hand in the future, right from the start.
But hang on: what are Manufacturing Excellence, Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement? Here you will find brief explanations:
Manufacturing Excellence describes the drive to meet and exceed internal goals that include safety, machine performance and plant capacity, employee training and satisfaction, customer service and deep organizational change.
Lean manufacturing is a production method primarily aimed at reducing waste within the production system and response times from suppliers and to customers, internal and external.
Continuous Improvement is a continuous effort to improve products, services or processes.