New Construction ²

Inspiration

Kurtz-Ersa Group:

Machinery & equipment along with automation solutions for electronics production, particle foam processing, light metal casting and 3D metal printing.

RALPH KNECHT
Managing Director
Ersa GmbH

CHRISTOPH WOLPERT
Manager of Application Development
Ersa GmbH

JOACHIM BRÖNNER
Director of Inside Sales
Ersa GmbH

ANDREAS SPIESS
Director of Inside Sales
Ersa GmbH

RAINER KRAUSS
Sales Manager
Ersa GmbH

Even at a hidden champion and world market leader, there is often potential lying idle. The soldering machine manufacturer ersa, of wertheim near stuttgart, germany, shows how quickly and purposefully this potential can be exploited. This electronics system supplier used the new construction of its production hall to successfully optimize production and order fulfillment processes.

The decisive role that the time factor plays was something that the whole world had to learn painfully, especially at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic – the keyword was exponential growth. In response, capacities for manufacturing respirators were increased around the world. A customer of the soldering machine manufacturer Ersa also needed new systems on short notice last year, in order to be able to scale up its output of respirators. This was no problem for Ersa: just four weeks after the order was placed, the machines were delivered as promised.

Not every order relates to life and death in the truest sense. However, reliable delivery is critical even in non-pandemic times; it presents a clear competitive advantage. In order to achieve this degree of delivery reliability, Ersa had undergone a very clearly structured process, which began in mid 2018.

“Ersa has grown consistently in recent years. In the process, we determined that the larger the company, the more difficult it is to maintain communication and speed. That’s why we needed to make a break and we brought in some external help. Linking the project to the schedule for the new construction of our production hall was a particular challenge. The ‘first shot’ had to hit the target – and Staufen AG did not disappoint us. Working with the Ersa teams, they helped us develop and adapt the new system. That’s why we were able to establish a system that the employees willingly adopt and put into practice. For me, that was the greatest success from this project. Now we’re at the point where our organization is broadcasting to other subsidiaries of Kurtz Holding and many of our suppliers. We are being perceived as an example.”

RALPH KNECHT
Managing Director Ersa GmbH

At the time, the initial situation in Wertheim was good at first glance: with approximately 500 employees, Ersa, based in the northernmost city in Baden Württemberg, successfully manufactured soldering machines for electronics production. Thanks to its innovative products, excellent customer loyalty, and a global sales and service network, the company had developed an outstanding reputation in many industries and it had been a technology and world market leader for many years. But it was clear to the Ersa team that something would have to change in order to maintain the company’s stable growth course in the future and achieve its ambitious sustainability goals. For Ersa’s Managing Director Ralph Knecht, the focus was on three points:

  • Shorter delivery times
  • On-time delivery
  • Optimization of costs

Working with Staufen AG as its external partner, a road map was created to re-orient production according to lean principles and slim down processes. The time frame for the transformation organized in four sub-projects was determined by the construction of a new production hall, which was already underway. From this arose a tightly-scheduled series of projects: the first project, “order fulfillment,” was started in September 2018. Just a few weeks later, at the end of 2018/early 2019, the projects “final assembly” and “component assembly” were started. In the first quarter of 2019, Ersa started up the new production hall – of course organized according to the previously formulated lean principles and an organizational structure oriented toward the value stream. In mid-2019, the fourth project, “leadership development” started up.

SUB-PROJECT 1: OPTIMAL CONTROL OF ORDER FULFILLMENT

Before the implementation, the project participants analyzed the actual situation: from order receipt to picking in the logistics center to shipping of the systems; the whole order fulfillment process was put under the microscope. After that, the tasks, competencies, and responsibilities of all process participants were defined, the process and communication flows were redesigned, and the data and systems in order fulfillment were optimized to ensure smooth processes. Important here was especially the visualization of the new concept for all levels, with defined quality gates and the introduction of value stream-oriented, effective regular communication. In the end, all order fulfillment was integrated into a SFM (Shop Floor Management) cascade. Short daily meetings inform everyone about plan deviations and they offer space for an active and committed cooperation of all participants in order to solve problems.

Schablonendrucker, VERSAPRINT 2 ELITE

“The hurdles between the departments were eliminated. Previously, uncoordinated agreements and a flood of email that could not be managed were slowing us down. Thanks to regular communication, we’ve got everything in hand now – even without the participation of the Executive Board – and on an operative level, we can detect and solve problems. We make decisions and maintain a factual yet friendly tone even in challenging daily business instead of establishing a task force or provoking an escalation.”

CHRISTOPH WOLPERT
Manager of Application Development
Ersa GmbH

The daily meetings quickly established themselves in the department as a central organ of control. Combined with up-to-date informative SFM boards, the clearly structured flow ensures quick but also very coordinated agreement. And there’s a positive side-effect: friction points are identified as early as possible, in order to de-escalate things and formulate an effective solution. One of the main goals of the whole project has therefore been achieved successfully: delivery reliability has reached an absolute peak level; there are only delays – if at all – in isolated instances. Especially with regard to the many cases of supply chains interrupted because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an outstanding result and a significant prerequisite for the planned growth.

“Today, employees have a “ different mindset. With the SFM board, they can communicate differently and participate better in the whole process. They are heard, they’re involved, and they’re more motivated. The SFM board was one of the biggest levers for optimizing assembly. By high noon everybody knows: how is the company doing, what do we have to do better today”

JOACHIM BRÖNNER
Director of Inside Sales
Ersa GmbH

SUB-PROJECT 2 AND 3: SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE ASSEMBLY TIMES

As part of the “final assembly” and “component assembly” projects, the lines were designed and timed according to lean principles. This includes a daily capacity check. Consistent separation of value creation and logistics helps keep work on the line much more efficient. In particular, the segmentation of the product portfolio into three independent production lines has proven helpful – now, one of the lines is always used flexibly in order to deal with sudden fluctuations due to priority orders. Material and tool provision was implemented optimally to increase productivity.

Another critical point is the new communication with SFM boards in the production hall. Regular communication does more than just inform people about daily tasks and current states of production. The boards also serve as an interface for problem-solving and clarification of breakdowns. Because all the actors participating in the production process are always informed and there is a lively exchange of information, possible problems are uncovered early on and corrective measures can be taken. In particular, the number of missing parts was reduced greatly

The SFM boards proved especially useful during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The employees were divided up into teams, which worked in assembly at different times. This way, smooth operation was ensured even during the lockdown – which would not have been the case with the previous setup.

The goals set by the management with regard to increased delivery reliability, shorter delivery times, and an optimized cost basis were fulfilled; and at the same time, flow production is much more flexible, and oriented according to a zero-defect philosophy and continuous improvement. For the future, this means that in Ersa’s production, the topics of Industry 4.0 and digitalization are now being approached more vigorously.

SUB-PROJECT 4: INTRODUCTION OF SHOP FLOOR MANAGEMENT AND COACHING OF LEADERS

In the fourth sub-project, the focus was on the leaders. In order to achieve continuous improvement and have the will to cast off traditional ideas and dare to do new things, the corporate culture and people behind it have to be ready to accept change. This was achieved with the introduction of SFM. When performing leadership tasks (e.g. regular communication, process confirmation, and the continuous improvement process, etc.), the leaders were accompanied and developed accordingly. In addition to one-on-one coachings, training was also offered on operational excellence, value creation on the line, and waste. The success of the coachings and the improved leadership performance can be measured and is reflected in the KPIs. Dynamics and quality may not be neglected despite the continuous growth trend. For Ersa management, the reorientation of the organization according to lean principles includes not just changing processes in assembly, but also approaching challenges differently and maintaining a consistent solution-oriented attitude.

“We’re setting new goals each year, and we’re managing to meet them together. Once a goal has been achieved, we already know what’s next on the agenda.”

ANDREAS SPIESS
Director of Inside Sales
Ersa GmbH

A DOWN-TO-EARTH WORLD MARKET LEADER

During the project period, Ersa became an example in the region and among customers. With a visit on-site, many companies have become convinced of the benefits of lean organization and the smoothly interlocked processes.

Werner Laub, Partner at Staufen AG and project manager on the consulting side draws a positive conclusion: “Ersa has developed very well in a very short time and should be proud of what it has achieved. Why was the project so successful? Leadership stood as one behind the project and demonstrated an absolute will to devote the necessary energy and attention to these future-oriented projects.” Staufen Consultant Lukas Förschner was especially impressed by Ersa; not only by the project team, but by the way the whole organization was working together: “The acceptance of the changes striven for was encouraged quite purposefully by the early incorporation of as many areas of the company as possible.”

Plus, the new organization was also greeted by Ersa’s customers. Directly adjacent to the assembly lines, there is now a separate, 600 square meter-large delivery room. This is where customers are informed about how to set up and work with their new systems. People like to take the opportunity in order to experience the modern, clean production of the Ersa soldering machines “live.”

This way, the customer gets a harmonious picture: from initial contact to ordering to delivery, Ersa presents itself as a world market leader is expected to do. For the company, this completes the circle of external presentation, quality awareness, and its down-to-earth Swabian nature and self-image. With the lean organization, now the responsibility is distributed rather than having it rest on individuals’ shoulders. Thanks to clearer structures and processes, this system works efficiently, securely, and in goal-oriented fashion. And this is also noticeable in the employees’ mood; they not only accept this way, they really exemplify it.

„Our cooperation with Staufen AG was one of equals. That suits our corporate philosophy very well. Ersa GmbH is a reliable partner that works unusually closely with customers and cooperates very well. We exemplify ‘We are family.’ And if the customer has his ‘aha’ experience when picking up his machine from the new production hall, then the whole arrangement is right and he knows: yes, Ersa was the right company for me.“

RAINER KRAUSS
Sales Manager
Ersa GmbH

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