Vebo & Cierpa Kaizen: the road towards safe and sustainable undertaking
Project Leader Bas Simon doesn't believe in improving just for the sake of improving.
Purmo Group Belgium NV produces heating solutions. Every year, the company manufactures around 600,000 custom-made radiators. Claude D'Hondt is a Process Engineer, Environment Coordinator, and Prevention Advisor. 2019 will be the first year in which the company operated completely accident-free. An achievement to be proud of!
What does Purmo Group Belgium do?
“Purmo group Belgium initially started out as Radson. The first radiators were manufactured as early as 1966. Later on, we joined the Rettig ICC group.
Today, we have a staff of 250 people, working from our location in Zonhoven as Purmo Group Belgium N.V. We are a complete supplier of heating solutions, which means we manufacture various products: panel radiators, plinth radiators, design radiators, column radiators, trendy bathroom radiators, electric radiators, ventilated-convection solutions, heat pumps, and innovative floor heating systems.”
How does Purmo Group Belgium position itself within the international Purmo Group?
“Within the Purmo Group, we work with some 3,300 employees in different manufacturing plants located in different countries like Poland, Hungary, and China. In comparison, our problem is that we can’t compete with their low wages. That’s why we have to maintain and fortify our current position through innovative and efficient production. We mainly realize this by large-scale automation and a focus on high-level products. And we manage quite well: our productivity, measured in kg per FTE, is considerably higher compared to our sister companies abroad.”
“Our productivity is considerably higher compared to our sister companies abroad.”
What does production at Purmo Group Belgium look like?
“In short, we weld the different steel radiator parts together in the desired configuration (type and building height) and dimensioning (length).
Then we check whether the composite (the radiator) is leak-proof. Subsequently, the radiator is multi-coated. Finally, the finished product is visually checked. Only then will the product be packaged and stored in our warehouse. It’s an automated process, with many verification points.”
What checks are carried out?
“Obviously, we check the technical quality of the products. Do they comply with the prescribed specifications? Are they leak-proof? Pressure-resistant? To be able to guarantee and standardize the quality of our radiators, we comply with quality management system norms like ISO 9001 (QC).
Attention to the environment, (occupational) safety, and employee well-being also play a significant role in our organization. Purmo Group Belgium is part of the Class 1 group – GPBV companies (environment) and Group-A companies (safety), which means we are a high-risk company. To comply with the different rules and regulations and to be able to consolidate, we also adhere to the quality management systems ISO 14001 (Environment) and ISO 45001 (Safety – Well-being).”
How does the improvement process evolve?
“It’s a lengthy process. Many of our employees have been with us for quite some time (on average more than 20 years). When people have grown accustomed to doing their work a certain way, change can be difficult. Not just because people can be hard to persuade on the need for the change, but also in getting used to actual changes: people function mainly from the subconscious.
It’s essential to really involve people in the improvement or change process. Why is change necessary? Communication, involvement, and open-mindedness are essential building blocks. I come from manufacturing, which gives me the advantage that I know what’s out there on the work floor. We try to include newcomers in our way of working as well. My credo is: “Say what you do and do what you say.” It’s the way to achieve the best results together.”
“Say what you do and do what you say.”
How do you use Cierpa Software with that?
“We use the Kaizen Cockpit. We deal with all sorts of process and quality controls, and other obligations in the field of environment and (occupational) safety. The Kaizen Cockpit allows us to rank, plan, systematically manage, and monitor these tasks. Also, we can communicate the results of internal and external audits and improvement proposals, and plan the right actions. The system is clear and accessible to everyone. The single Excel sheets and action lists are a thing of the past.”
What is your greatest achievement?
“That would undoubtedly be our 400 accident-free days. In 1991, we had 106 work-related accidents in a single year. We started continuously improving our safety awareness, for example, by creating a proactive prevention culture, and we managed our activities in Kaizen. That led to our first year without any work accident. That is an achievement we are so very proud of. “