Project Leader Bas Simon doesn't believe in improving for the sake of improving. Improving is only improving when it supports your company's mission. That's precisely his focus at Vebo, one of the Netherlands' largest producers of pre-cast concrete, steelwork supports, and aluminum products for the housing market.
Don't improve for the sake of improving; what do you mean?
"It's often said that every improvement is good. True as it may be, it doesn't make every improvement right—the right improvement aligns with your vision and mission. You have to focus on the plan to make the right choices - or maybe even decide not to do anything. If you take on too much, that can hinder you in achieving your goals".
Is every improvement a good one? It could be. But not every improvement is right.
What does that mean in practice?
"When I started working at Vebo a year ago, I inherited 36 open improvement projects. But which one does the most for our vision? And if you have pause projects because you can't do everything at once, is a given improvement project still relevant a year later?
We are now taking a breath. We'll finish what we started and continue to work on our direction and mission before moving on. Then we'll place the improvement proposals that fit our mission in Cierpa Kaizen, and we can automatically rank by effort and profit what to start with. This isn't just about saving money: it's about achieving your goals. A sustainable business looks far beyond improving its margin".
Vebo manufactures both standard and custom products. When developing a broad and changing range of products, is it difficult to streamline and improve production?
"Of course, it's easier if you mainly make standard products. Or if you use a kind of Lego construction for custom products, where you work with fixed blocks and the customer assembles their product. But that means you limit the customer. And that doesn't suit us.
So we search for improvement in standardization and automation. The process sequence is always the same: draw the product, make the mold, pour the concrete into the mold, place the drainage, and finish the product. And so you can automate parts of that process, like the drawing process, for example".
Standardization and automation enable us to optimize the process while not limiting the customer with standard production.
You make good use of the Cierpa Kaizen app. How does it help you?
"Right now? We get much more reporting of dangerous situations. It's so easy to take your mobile, take a picture of that nail lying on the floor, add a line; it's almost like an app.
In the past, we had to use forms to report when something was lying around that didn't belong there. These barriers resulted in far fewer reports. The team leader had to transfer this to Cierpa Kaizen, and only then would it reach the safety committee. So it took a lot of time before any information would get to the right place.
So the more issues we know about, the better it is. Safety on the work floor is like a pyramid. The lowest, broadest layer contains dangerous situations. Above it are near-misses, then accidents, and finally fatal accidents. You hope never to experience those. If you make that bottom layer as wide as possible, the chances of reaching that point become smaller and smaller. And that's what we're going for".
The more safety issues we know about, the better. Cierpa Kaizen app helps us make a report in no time.
How do does Cierpa Software fit within your improvement strategy?
"Well, we use the Cierpa Kaizen software to achieve our improvement goals. But the Cierpa company does so much more: it's a business partner in our process.
I contact our account manager almost every week. We may talk about Cierpa Kaizen, the best improvement approach, expanding production, or developing a vision. And if we find additional points where the software could support us, I notice they start thinking about that. It's a unique collaboration that benefits us massively"!