Anything but Dirty – 21st Century Manufacturing Jobs

German American Trade magazine, May/June 2012 

 

With approximately 220 employees in North America, KOMET of America Holding is the largest subsidiary of the KOMET Group®, a manufacturer of highly engineered metalworking tools headquartered in Besigheim, Germany.

 

The Schaumburg, IL facility manufactures standard and custom-engineered drills, reamers and other hole making tools for preeminent clients in the automotive, aerospace, energy, agricultural, and general machining industries among others. Competing at the global level with very large, mass-production focused organizations, but also at the local level with small, low-cost production facilities, KOMET must strive to achieve the shortest possible lead times, consistent on-time deliveries and flawless quality.

 

The company does so by constantly investing in new, technologically-advanced equipment, providing training for its workers, and promoting team work. KOMET prides itself on the long tenure of its employees, with several veterans cumulating 20, 25 and even 30 years with the company. Not a small feat considering that KOMET is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in the U.S. in 2012! One of the challenges it faces is to meld this rich experience with continuous improvements and adaptation to state-of-the-art manufacturing processes in order to maintain its leadership position.

 

Starting in 2009, the company took advantage of the economic downturn to conduct Kaizen activities with the objective to implement a cell-based production process. Each team, or cell, is responsible for an entire production process, and for meeting and improving specific time, productivity and quality metrics.

 

On top of instilling responsibility and accountability, the cell-based production process helps develop more skilled workers. VP of Production Thorsten Wardemann comments: “Each individual is cross-trained on several machines within their cell and they constantly learn from their peers. They understand the whole production process, are involved in problem solving in a team environment and can tackle production planning at the cell level.”

 

When walking the production floor at KOMET – a clean, well-organized environment which resembles a tech center – one cannot miss the ubiquitous Q-Punkt signs sprinkled throughout. “The Q-Punkt, or Quality Points are meeting points for members of a production cell to congregate, look at their metrics, and discuss how to improve them” explains Wardemann. They are a component of the cell-based production process which helps KOMET implement a culture based on the values of entrepreneurship; information; competence, trust and tolerance; and delegation. Wardemann adds: “A supervisor becomes more a trainer or a coach than boss. It is more about participation and delegation than pure authority.”

 

But how does all of this translate into a real competitive advantage for KOMET? A recent example is a cell which worked on a Kaizen project to cut throughput time from an average of 30 to currently 4 days. The initial initiative brought the throughput time to 5 days, but then the Q-Punkt metrics showed that it slowly climbed back up to 8, 11, and 12 days. Recognizing the negative trend, the team got together and devised improvements that brought the numbers back down to 4 days, with the ultimate goal set at 3 days. In parallel, delivery performance went from mediocre before the project to 100% on time in a recent week.

 

Such results and the culture of cooperation that is prevalent at KOMET allow the company management to have a bright outlook on the future. Dr. F.- Hans Grandin, President/CEO, summarizes it in the following words: “KOMET owes a substantial part of its extraordinary success to the continuous improvement processes that were implemented during the economic downturn. We kept more people on board than the numbers were telling us to, because we had that vision of using the slow down to work on improving our operations. We invested time and resources to working on the business, and we did so as a team with our employees. Consequently, we emerged with much quicker reaction times and excellent reliability that have helped us generate remarkable growth. Now we need to stay focused on continuously improving our efficiency even further in order to master this growth.”

 

With approximately 220 employees in North America, KOMET of America Holding is the largest subsidiary of the KOMET Group®, a manufacturer of highly engineered metalworking tools headquartered in Besigheim, Germany.

 

The Schaumburg, IL facility manufactures standard and custom-engineered drills, reamers and other hole making tools for preeminent clients in the automotive, aerospace, energy, agricultural, and general machining industries among others. Competing at the global level with very large, mass-production focused organizations, but also at the local level with small, low-cost production facilities, KOMET must strive to achieve the shortest possible lead times, consistent on-time deliveries and flawless quality.

 

The company does so by constantly investing in new, technologically-advanced equipment, providing training for its workers, and promoting team work. KOMET prides itself on the long tenure of its employees, with several veterans cumulating 20, 25 and even 30 years with the company. Not a small feat considering that KOMET is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in the U.S. in 2012! One of the challenges it faces is to meld this rich experience with continuous improvements and adaptation to state-of-the-art manufacturing processes in order to maintain its leadership position.

 

Starting in 2009, the company took advantage of the economic downturn to conduct Kaizen activities with the objective to implement a cell-based production process. Each team, or cell, is responsible for an entire production process, and for meeting and improving specific time, productivity and quality metrics.

 

On top of instilling responsibility and accountability, the cell-based production process helps develop more skilled workers. VP of Production Thorsten Wardemann comments: “Each individual is cross-trained on several machines within their cell and they constantly learn from their peers. They understand the whole production process, are involved in problem solving in a team environment and can tackle production planning at the cell level.”

 

When walking the production floor at KOMET – a clean, well-organized environment which resembles a tech center – one cannot miss the ubiquitous Q-Punkt signs sprinkled throughout. “The Q-Punkt, or Quality Points are meeting points for members of a production cell to congregate, look at their metrics, and discuss how to improve them” explains Wardemann. They are a component of the cell-based production process which helps KOMET implement a culture based on the values of entrepreneurship; information; competence, trust and tolerance; and delegation. Wardemann adds: “A supervisor becomes more a trainer or a coach than boss. It is more about participation and delegation than pure authority.”

 

But how does all of this translate into a real competitive advantage for KOMET? A recent example is a cell which worked on a Kaizen project to cut throughput time from an average of 30 to currently 4 days. The initial initiative brought the throughput time to 5 days, but then the Q-Punkt metrics showed that it slowly climbed back up to 8, 11, and 12 days. Recognizing the negative trend, the team got together and devised improvements that brought the numbers back down to 4 days, with the ultimate goal set at 3 days. In parallel, delivery performance went from mediocre before the project to 100% on time in a recent week.

 

Such results and the culture of cooperation that is prevalent at KOMET allow the company management to have a bright outlook on the future. Dr. F.- Hans Grandin, President/CEO, summarizes it in the following words: “KOMET owes a substantial part of its extraordinary success to the continuous improvement processes that were implemented during the economic downturn. We kept more people on board than the numbers were telling us to, because we had that vision of using the slow down to work on improving our operations. We invested time and resources to working on the business, and we did so as a team with our employees. Consequently, we emerged with much quicker reaction times and excellent reliability that have helped us generate remarkable growth. Now we need to stay focused on continuously improving our efficiency even further in order to master this growth.”

 
Production cell meetings at KOMET of America
Production floor at KOMET of America
 
 
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