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Picture of a red machine in the machine hall SEW Eurodrive, valantic Case Study SEW

SEW-EURODRIVE: Supply chain real-time planning makes us fit for the future

Lean manufacturing with maximum flexibility

appeared in: Technik in Bayern 03/2017
Wassermann is now valantic

In rare cases, the goal of digitalization is completely automated factories with no people in them. The drive manufacturer SEW-EURODRIVE GmbH & Co KG shows what the concern actually is: quick and flexible value-creation chains that enable the efficient manufacturing of variant-rich or customer-specific products. Essential for this is the process-oriented organization with continuous IT support that SEW-EURODRIVE implemented with the help of Wassermann AG of Munich.

Anyone who has the opportunity to tour the production facilities of the drive manufacturer SEW-EURODRIVE in Bruchsal will notice the small flexible factory units that are attuned to one another in lean processes. In order to achieve highly-efficient processes such as the ones that this company’s work requires, a lot of preparation is required. At SEW-EURODRIVE, this began with a project that put the company’s supply chain on the test bench. With a radical conversion of the planning organization, SEW-EURODRIVE created the prerequisite for the slim and flexible processes that significantly improve this company’s competitive ability today.

Process-oriented organization

The conversion of the organization began in the large drive plant in Bruchsal as a joint project with the process and IT consulting company Wassermann AG. Large drives are not mass products, and therefore two process variants compete at SEW-EURODRIVE for the same resources: Assembly to Order (ATO) for standard drives and Engineer to Order (ETO) for customer-specific drive solutions. In the past, these competing processes caused frictional losses. This is why the primary goal of the project was to be able to make reliable delivery date promises.

The SEW-EURODRIVE project team and Wassermann focused on two questions during the analysis of the actual situation: Who at the company is responsible for ensuring that orders are put through as quickly as possible and on time? And: can the entire value-creation chain be planned so that dates can be named, coordinated, and adhered to reliably? Two important requirements arose: the previously distributed responsibilities with respect to order handling were combined organizationally. Furthermore, areas that were not previously part of the planning, such as design and quality assurance, were also regarded as resources, incorporated into the planning, and controlled. These requirements were implemented through the establishment of an order center with continuous planning authority and the deployment of the in-memory APS software wayRTS (Real Time Simulation).

Central date responsibility

The most important organizational change that SEW-EURODRIVE used to achieve transparency and better order handling was the creation of the order center. Here the supply chain coordinator – a new position – is responsible for dates along the entire supply chain. He must ensure that all areas are integrated into the supply chain, from order receipt to shipping, and that they complete their activities within the defined time window. Starting with the confirmed date of the ETO-ATO customer order, the supply chain is planned, controlled, and monitored all the way along, starting with the raw material.
With order entry, all areas participating in the supply chain (Sales, Design, Planning, Quality Assurance, Purchasing, Materials Management, Production, Assembly, and Shipping) are planned. Furthermore, critical time windows as defined by the supply chain coordinator, potential bottleneck situations, and deviations within the supply chain are identified in order to be able to take corrective measures in timely fashion. This is a central aspect of order control for sections of the value-creation chain developed for specific customers. Precisely as production does, the designers also receive orders. These orders are distributed to designers and scheduled in wayRTS using drag and drop – this is similar to an order queue for a resource in production. With a specified time, each ETO drive must be designed and all of its components planning-ready for purchasing and production.

Daily practice

For central coordination, an order strategy team consisting of representatives from Sales, Design, Purchasing, and the supply chain coordinator meets. This is where newly-received orders are discussed. The final result: the customer receives the confirmed delivery date one or two working days after order receipt. Here, SEW-EURODRIVE uses the display in the Wassermann planning software as the common basis for discussion. All planning discussions take place in front of a large wayRTS monitor. This way, the team can see the capacities in all departments, schedule orders, simulate their effects, and at the same time, discuss countermeasures for possible capacity conflicts. Decisions about orders, dates, etc. are input into the system right away. Thanks to the wayRTS InMemory technology, these are implemented immediately as a synchronized planning picture. This planning picture represents a company-wide frame of reference on which everybody can rely. The transparency created this way ensures “peace” along the supply chain and prevents events such as bottlenecks and emergency stocks.

wayRTS and order center

SEW-EURODRIVE also consciously focused on central planning with respect to construction: The Performance Monitoring Center (PMC) is the control center for flexible supply chain management. In the Performance Monitoring Center, the supply chain coordinators always have a comprehensive view of the status of customer orders and important key figures thanks to a large wall of monitors. With a few clicks, they can call up detailed information (drill-down). Status messages filtered according to a traffic-light system draw the supply chain coordinator’s view to the events that require planning intervention.
This is how it is possible to act early and countersteer in case of bottlenecks, missing parts, and planning-relevant changes or disturbances, for all status information can be called up in the APS system wayRTS. wayRTS makes it possible to effectively master an overall view of all orders and all steps required for their handling. Thanks to the constantly updated planning, individual areas of the value-creation chain can work hand in hand. In case of disturbances, the supply chain coordinator and the teams in Purchasing, Design, and Production search for solutions together.

Transparency and slim processes

The slim production was refined further after the introduction of central capacity planning. Thus the principles of lean manufacturing and intensive IT support do not contradict each other; instead, they complement each other. IT-supported processes can help prevent waste, in the best lean tradition, and this is how time-consuming rescheduling of production orders and the release of assembly orders can be automated. Meetings “directly on the system” reduce communication effort. Print-on-demand processes at the workstations eliminate the need for distribution of production orders on paper because these can be printed by the employees on-site as needed. Thanks to partially-automated central planning, continuous “low-friction” processes are established and made transparent and plannable along the entire value-creation chain. The final result: Lean manufacturing, combined with a digitalized real-time planning process, provides the flexibility that a modern industrial company needs.

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Portrait of Christian Wahnschaffe, Vice President, valantic Supply Chain Excellence

Christian Wahnschaffe

Vice President valantic Supply Chain Excellence