How can we improve performance and respond more efficiently to market demands?
Lean thinking is the answer, which involves focusing on the concept of value and, above all, redefining it from the customer’s perspective, and involving the whole company organisation to make it grow.
The supporting pillar of lean production is precisely this: increasing competitiveness, distinguishing between value-added activities and the waste (muda in Japanese) that must be phased out.
In adopting this approach, Fonderie di Montorso chose to work throughout its organisation to ensure a value stream aimed at continuous improvement from a deeply customer oriented perspective.
Chiara Zaniboni and Lara Bergamini are members of the lean project team in Fonderie di Montorso. Their point of view is very interesting because they both have significant experience in the company, but also because they interface with the customer at the beginning and end of the process.
As customer care, Chiara is in direct contact with the customer, receives the orders, and enters them into the management system. Lara, on the other hand, is in charge of the logistics department at the Crevalcore plant and, together with her staff, follows the casting processes up to final product delivery.
With them, we talked mainly about lead time – the time the company takes to meet a specific request. Lead time is crucial to value for the customer, and a lean approach has a lot of benefits.
“When the order arrives, if it is less than the lead time, it is followed by a careful analysis to determine reliable delivery times”, Chiara tells us. “Planning is essential, especially with non-provisional orders, to correctly identify the deadlines. The challenge is to standardise anything that is non-routine as far as possible, without giving up flexibility. The goal is to manage customer needs as best we can, while being aware that they are often of a different nature and may change over time.”
A challenge that requires activity synchronisation and priority management.
“The more functions are integrated and the dialogue between colleagues is lean”, adds Lara, “the easier it is to meet deadlines by avoiding unforeseen situations or bottlenecks. This is essential to gain the trust of customers that are looking for quality, reliability and transparency.”
It is therefore strategic to work on process optimisation and quick feedback between the parties involved in fulfilling orders. Internal departments must share information and adhere to schedules in order to avoid interrupting the value stream. This process is also essential with external suppliers, because operational excellence requires a close, efficient relationship with them.
However, embracing the lean philosophy is not limited to mapping processes and applying techniques and methodologies. It revolves around involving people.
“Taking part in transversal work groups will get you used to a wider perspective”, Chiara and Lara confirm. “Clearly, to get the answers you need, you must know the right questions to ask. So, shared knowledge of the operational and information flow is crucial to the continuous improvement that each of us must promote.”