Driving Continuous Improvement in a Fabrication Department for the Trailer Industry

Since the beginning of the second quarter in 2022, I have had the privilege of being involved in the continuous improvement of a fabrication department at one of the largest Aluminum Extruders in Europe. Our focus has been on machining long profiles for the trailer industry. Together with the operations team, we embarked on a journey to increase output and establish a cost-efficient department. By implementing registrations and conducting a thorough analysis, we gained a comprehensive understanding of the current situation. From there, we initiated improvements in various areas, utilizing existing resources such as the planning system, critical processes, standard working methods, and the ERP system. We embraced internal philosophies and tools, including OEE registrations, VSM, Root Cause Analysis, SMED, SOP, the PDCA cycle, and establishing department KPIs. Our efforts have yielded remarkable progress, including record-breaking weekly production numbers and a significant increase in output. This achievement marks a great milestone, and we are excited to continue on this journey, aiming to further increase output and establish our department as a leader in manufacturing casted, extruded, machined and bent aluminum profiles for the trailer industry.
Since the project’s inception, our focus has been on streamlining operations, improving efficiency, and increasing output within the fabrication department. We started by implementing registrations and conducting a thorough analysis of the current state. This allowed us to identify areas for improvement and opportunities for optimization. With the support of the operations team, we set out to make impactful changes.
Utilizing our knowledge of Lean principles and industry best practices, we introduced a range of improvement initiatives. The planning system was fine-tuned to ensure optimal resource allocation and minimize downtime. Critical processes were reviewed and optimized, resulting in smoother operations and enhanced productivity. Standard working methods were established to ensure consistency and minimize variations in output. Additionally, we integrated the existing ERP system, enabling seamless coordination between departments and improving overall efficiency.
Throughout the project, we embraced various internal philosophies and tools to guide our improvement efforts. OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency) registrations provided valuable insights into machine performance, enabling us to identify and address bottlenecks. Value Stream Mapping (VSM) helped us visualize the flow of materials and information, leading to streamlined processes. Root Cause Analysis techniques allowed us to identify and eliminate the underlying causes of inefficiencies. SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies) principles were applied to minimize changeover times and increase machine uptime. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were developed to ensure consistent and high-quality output. The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle served as the foundation for continuous improvement, fostering an iterative approach to problem-solving. Lastly, we established department Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor progress and drive accountability.
The results achieved thus far have been remarkable. We have broken weekly production records multiple times in recent months, with an average output increase of over 20% compared to the previous year. These achievements reflect the dedication and collaboration of the entire team, and we are eager to continue working together to reach new milestones. Our next objective is to further increase output throughout the department and solidify our position as a leading provider of sawn, stamped, and machined aluminum profiles for the trailer industry.

I am excited about the future prospects of this project and look forward to accomplishing our goals alongside the talented team. Together, we are shaping the future of the fabrication department and driving continuous improvement in the trailer industry.