Continuous Improvement in Elterlein

Continuous improvement in Elterlein: Preparing the expansion of air tank production for EURO 6 Trucks

A new project within the lean drive of Frauenthal Automotive is currently underway in the German air tank factory in Elterlein, aiming to optimise the production of the new EURO 6 compressed air tank generation. The focus is on efficient material flow and improving customer satisfaction.

The project team is creating a new value stream design for the future Euro 6 steel air tank production. The specific goals are clearly set out: increasing productivity, reducing processing time and stock as well as improving ergonomics.  The results form the basis of the new manufacturing layout following extension of the production area in Elterlein at the end of 2014. Frauenthal Automotive Elterlein Managing Director Detlef Schubert underscores: "With the results of this lean project, we will be able to better master the challenges of the new compressed air tank generation of the EURO 6 vehicles. Our material flow will become substantially more efficient and we will be able to react to changes in customer requests much more quickly.”

Production employees as knowledge carriers
Involving production employees is decisive for success: As knowledge carriers, they play a key role when it comes to continuous improvements. For example, employees in the final assembly and maintenance departments cooperated with management and the heads of manufacturing and technology to develop the new value stream design, determining how manufacturing will work in the future.

Batch sizes were adjusted and their bandwidth and time-based dispatch batch sizes determined in SAP, to allow for more flexible manufacturing and to cover the larger variety of models. In SMED workshops, set-up times are currently being optimised and batch sizes further reduced. Using cardboard engineering, the project team produced a cardboard replica of the welding line's new basic layout on a 1:1 scale in order to simulate the work flow and optimise the material flow. According to this model, the pilot line will be established after enlargement of the production area and the employees involved in the project will work there.

Improved productivity and competitiveness
The goal of all continuous improvement activities in Frauenthal Automotive are better competitiveness, productivity, and higher satisfaction at the work place. The employees at all locations of the Frauenthal Group receive continuous training and participate in workshops in order to identify potential directly at their workplace and implement specific changes in teams.