“Lean” is the magic word at the moment. Fortatech Sp.z o.o. in Plochocin (Poland) has brought itself up to full speed thanks to the enchanting effects of lean management.

Toyota first laid the foundations of lean production in the 50s. The Japanese firm wanted to increase productivity all the while reducing costs. And with its method for designing low-waste processes, lean management continues to be on trend. The objective of this holistic approach is to avoid superfluous activities and create as much value for the customer as possible.

In 2014, Fortatech decided to adopt lean management so that it could continue to meet market requirements in the future. Critical analysis by an external lean consultant revealed wastage that could be eliminated in every process, such as unnecessary machine idle times, disorganization, and long transport routes. A set of measures for eliminating the defined wastage was drawn up. The company philosophy and employees were also taken into consideration when establishing the actions necessary.

“We are not going down the path of becoming slaves to lean management processes. This is because a clear vision, our company culture, and our employees are the basis for our long-term success”, explains Piotr Horszczaruk, lean project manager.

To start with, the offices and the workshop were tidied and then the one piece flow was introduced. One piece flow means that pre-assemblies are integrated into a production line to prevent the flow of goods from being interrupted, enabling time savings of up to 40% during production. Disorganization is prevented, as all tools and materials are kept within reach with visible labels. Shelves have also been adjusted to the packaging sizes and the storage locations have been visualized. The new, ergonomic machine and work tables now also have castors, meaning that they can be arranged to suit the requirements of the respective production order perfectly. Some machines now have visual and acoustic indicators for malfunctions, which allows time-savings to be made when remedying interruptions in production. What’s more, tool holders have been built that significantly decrease set-up times.

It is important that the whole team is working together when it comes to making continuous improvements. “To begin with, not everyone found it easy to fall in line with the lean philosophy”, explains Horszczaruk. But the success of the project quickly dispelled any remaining concerns. Fortatech is convinced that lean management will enable it to take another step toward increasing efficiency and delivering products to customers at competitive prices. Cost pressure from the customer and product complexity are on the increase, but product life cycles are growing shorter. However, since Horszczaruk is already aware of the future challenges, lean Fortatech Sp.z o.o. will be able to stay in shape for a long time to come: “This is why we need a stable and established lean management relationship so that we are able to adapt our processes quickly.”