Let’s be clear about one thing: changes in a company can only work with the cooperation of the employees. In fact, in recent years at the Bad Harzburg location where I took up the position of head of logistics in the middle of 2015 I have experienced just how true this statement is. My task was simple and yet a challenge. I was to work together with my team to establish the conditions to enable a more rational organization of the location. Today I can look back with pride on the performance of my team, our company and especially the people who make this location so special. Many people presented their ideas, sometimes even worked at the weekend, and in this way successively enabled the improvement of the logistics at Bad Harzburg such that today it need fear no comparison.
June 2015 was a good time to examine the logistics processes at the location more closely. Bad Harzburg had worked for many years at its upper limit of capacity. When companies have a high workload, basic things may suffer from neglect and in Bad Harzburg this turned out to be the logistics. In the context of our operations strategy we examined our plants around the world, and, put simply, defined what could be best produced at which location. At Bad Harzburg this lead to a reduction of products which released capacity for more basic activities and initiation of a new logistics organization.
As I mentioned before, such reorganization will not work if it is only imposed from the top. Naturally at MANN+HUMMEL we have the so-called “Logistic Basics” which are global standards to ensure a smooth flow of material. But each company location has its own special features so that the detailed implementation often has to be unique to take the respective circumstances into account. The best way to achieve excellent results here is to work together with employees to develop and implement solutions. This is exactly what we did in Bad Harzburg.
We started with inspection tours of the plant to establish the facts. Our team and also experts from the MANN+HUMMEL Logistic Basics team from our headquarters in Ludwigsburg participated. Each employee was able to get involved and make suggestions for his area of operations. We then created a Logistic Basics meeting point where we discussed and prioritized all the results on a weekly basis and defined the necessary process steps. This led to the development of action plans which we worked through to achieve specific goals. Right at the top of our list of things to do, for example, was the fleet of industrial trucks in use at that time, i.e. forklifts.
They were mostly powered by diesel fuel with the consequence that they were loud, dirty and also reeked of diesel. In the passing of time our mostly roof-covered dispatch area had become correspondingly soiled and the noise exposure for colleagues and neighbors had reached its limit. We therefore decided to replace the complete fleet in Bad Harzburg with new, battery-powered electric industrial trucks and christened this development “Harz unter Strom”, i.e. the electrification of the Harz region. When the diesel-powered forklifts eventually departed, a number of colleagues were once again able to open their office windows to enjoy the good fresh air of the Harz region during their daily work. We also cleaned the associated working areas, painted walls and removed any damage.
Then the new forklifts were delivered and the storage areas impressed with their new look. But especially noticeable was how easy it was to sustainably implement the Logistic Basics and our operations manager Bernd Stilgenbauer reported regularly on the amount of energy and even passion with which our employees took care of the new technology with the logistics department at Bad Harzburg. Despite daily use in the weather conditions of the Harz region, the forklifts still looked as good as new.
Another example is that up until June 2015 the tugger train remained hidden behind piles of packaging or behind our store of granulate. To be honest, the tugger train was not particularly loved by the employees because the supply and removal of items to and from the production areas worked better with simple lift trucks. But after many discussions and consultation with production workers also here we succeeded in finding a way, or rather a route, which completely changed the acceptance. In this respect we conducted countless tests to determine all the possibilities for the tugger train and finally found the best route. To do this we tidied up and reorganized the workplace and benefited from a special momentum. As the workplaces became tidier and cleaner, everyone then invested more energy in further improvements.
In parallel we also came up with a new structure for the “train station” to make loading and unloading smoother. The result is clear to see. At the location we now have an innovative and flexible control system for our tugger train and in the meantime none of the employees even think of using a lift truck anymore. In addition, due to the perfect cooperation of the team comprising Björn Prignitz, Logistics Coordinator, Jürgen Ellssel, Production Logistics Supervisor, Peter Rusack, Warehouse Logistics Supervisor, André Zwirner, Global Supply Chain Management and naturally the service provider FLEXUS we in Bad Harzburg are the first to use this control system on a tugger train. Thanks to the support of the team around Thomas Leverkus, Vice President Global Supply Chain Management, together with Achim Dürr, Global Supply Chain Management, we have also begun to align our material flow using E-Kanban to the MANN+HUMMEL standard and generate more structure and stability in this area.
In less than a year we passed an internal logistics audit. But we have still not reached a point where we are content. In line with the newly emerged need to also make logistics one of the best plants, we are once again looking for innovation. This can be through visiting specialist trade fairs. However, it is primarily by having an open ear for ideas and suggestions from colleagues. This is because those who work with logistic challenges on a daily basis are able to quickly recognize where there is room for improvement.