How can the conditions for the continued growth of a company be created and product quality secured and prices kept stable at the same time? This was the question facing Palas® at the start of its lean management launch. After two years, the first phase of the restructuring processes is now concluded. The good development of the company confirms that this has set the right course for the future.
Lean management – for many employees this triggers alarm bells, because it all too often goes hand-in-hand with job losses. “This is also what the Palas® employees thought when preparations for restructuring the working processes in the company started two years ago”, Executive Director Leander Mölter recalls.
The starting point was the development of the Fidas® series of fine dust measurement devices. Fidas® 200 S was to become TÜV certified, as this was the prerequisite for successful sales, especially among public sector customers. This in turn necessitated the introduction of a ISO 9001:2008 quality management system. So we made a virtue of necessity and decided to introduce ISO certification along with lean management.
“The aim was to significantly raise productivity across the company with the recruitment of further staff and expansion of production space”, explains Authorized Representative Dr.Maximilian Weiß. The structures in the company had to be adapted in order to be in a position to produce considerably higher volumes of the respective device groups.
No directives “from above”
At the first staff meetings, Executive Director Mölter mainly looked into sceptical faces, because “we could not prove that the TÜV certification would really pan out”. This only changed once further employees had been hired: “From there on, the motivation was properly there and everyone stood completely behind the lean management method.”
Successful ISO 9001:2008 certification
It was crucial that directives did not come “from above”, but from the employees them selves who were involved in the process from the outset. Together with the management consultant, Gunter Fauth, they analysed in detail all the work steps in their area and made suggestions on how the workflows could be improved. From Purchasing through to Production and from Sales to Order Processing and Book keeping, the entire workforce was integrated.
Assembly of the Charme® aerosol electrometer at one of the new, modern workstations from Palas®
“The greatest safeguard is the exper-tise, the knowledge here in the company.”
At Palas® the individual employees are com pletely responsible for the device they build. Relocation of production was never a topic of discussion either. Because, even though the technology is protected with various patents, according to Mölter, still “the best protection is the expertise, the knowledge here in the company.” A decision that is also associated with the quality philosophy at Palas®: “The products have to work perfectly. We can guarantee this if the devices are manufactured completely here in-house.”
Guaranteed price stability with enhanced product quality
The focus of the lean management process was therefore on raising product quality and production efficiency. At the same time, the customer should be able to rely on stable prices. It very quickly became clear that there was also appreciable potential for improving productivity in Purchasing and Warehouse Logistics. After changing the delivery terms and introducing pre-picking for the various measuring devices,the workload for the employees in Production could be markedly reduced. All the required components are now at hand and superfluous trips to the warehouse to obtain a missing screw, for instance, are a thing of the past.
Changes in organisation had to be learned
When it comes to their technical knowledge, the employees hardly needed training, they were experts already. What had to be learned was reorientation of and changes in organisation. Because lean management also means
“more responsibility for the individual employee, but also more rules and more standardised processes. Only once everyone adheres”, explains Dr. Weiß, “does the desired effect show effect. This firstly had to take hold at Palas®.“
Order volumes noticeably increased
Not only with the Fidas® series of fine dust measuring devices of which 90 units were produced in 2014, but also in the area of Palas® core competence – filter testing technology – the demand arising from new developments in the fields of nanoparticle measurement tech nology and compressed air filter test rigs has also developed very well. The number of employees has doubled over the past five years. “Without lean management and their high
motivation”, Mölter is convinced, “the company would not have coped with this growth”.
But the process is not concluded yet. In all areas, with the support of Gunter Fauth, reviews are carried out to identify whether the agreed processes are working or need to be adapted. Lean management is a learning system that is already paying off for Palas® today