“Our factories are therefore working even more closely together.”
Liebherr is known for the manufacture of high quality and increasingly customizable refrigeration and freezer solutions. This premium manufacturer offers the very best quality and a wide variety of appliances for a broad range of customers and the most varied needs. But in doing so, Liebherr is faced with the challenge of guaranteeing the same high quality and the production processes needed for this quality at its various production sites. A uniform production system guarantees that all steps and processes at the sites in the various countries are optimally organized.
For very many years Liebherr refrigeration and freezing appliances have occupied a position in the premium segment where they meet exacting needs. “We strongly believe in providing a wide range both for private households and for professional use”, stated Hans-Christian Kraler, Global Lean Production Manager at Liebherr Household Appliances. Private customers can now use the “MyStyle” on-line configurator to design the internal fittings of their refrigerator exactly as they wish and to decide on the appliance’s design or color, or whether it is to be printed with personal images and texts. For its commercial customers, for example in the grocery trade, the catering industry or medicine, Liebherr has developed special appliances that are customized to meet the requirements of each particular segment. Liebherr’s attention is focused on individuality and the needs of the each target group.
More than 10,000 refrigerators and freezers leave the production sites every day
The refrigerators and freezers are manufactured in the network of factories spread across five countries including Germany, Austria and Bulgaria. Thousands of appliances leave the various production sites each day. But the increasing variety involves expensive and complex logistics which is now being trimmed further. “We had no uniform production system. To cut a long story short, each factory “did its own thing” and optimized the production processes without regard to the other sites. We are now placing greater emphasis on exchanges between our production sites. Our factories are therefore working even more closely together”, stated Hans-Christian Kraler.
The company turned to Staufen AG to set the necessary changes in motion. “The consultants were very convincing even during the initial presentation” Kraler remembered. “Although we knew what we needed, we didn’t know how to get there. Staufen probed into our needs right from the start. This customized approach is exactly how we deal with our customers; it was therefore a decisive point.”
Shop Floor Management as the key to the uniform production system
Every project manager was aware from the outset that the change process would take some time and would only be successful if all factories adopted the same perspective. To ensure that this happened, several workshops were devoted to the concept of a cross-factory production system. The analysis of the various sites provided insight into the strengths relating to lean management that already existed and also into the potentials in the areas of value stream and logistics, amongst others, that had not yet been fully exploited.
Lean expert Kraler added “Principles were therefore developed in stages and rules jointly defined to govern work in the individual manufacturing sites.”At the same time, potentials for lighthouse projects were identified and ultimately used to initiate the change process in the factories in Germany, Austria and Bulgaria. An important component of the new production system at this time was the introduction of Shop Floor Management. We created both a results-oriented management at the sites, and at the same time also ensured we had a value flow-oriented stable process design. “In this way Shop Floor Management became the key to the process of convincing as many local staff as possible to put continuous optimization onto a permanent footing.”
NEXT STEP: SYSTEMATIC PLATFORM STRATEGY
At the time of writing Liebherr has reached the stage of rolling out the new production system to all its factories. “We now have an appreciation in the works for the value stream from the supply chain through to manufacturing. One of the biggest plus points of the new system is that the factories recognized the advantages very quickly”, explained Hans-Christian Kraler. But this does not represent the end of the change processes at Liebherr. “The new production system is just the first building block. We are systematically extending our platform strategy to leverage further potentials and to increase standardization among our production plant in the years ahead.”
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