19 Dec Trebortex changes the fabric of its production culture
Founded in 1999, Trebortex is part of the Trèves Group, and is dedicated to the manufacture of fabric for the automotive industry. Employing more than 120 people, it has recently experienced a considerable increase in demand both in volume as well as in product mix, which has resulted in a significant increase in the complexity of its core business. The main difference between Trebortex and other similar companies is that customer requirements change almost on a daily basis.
In December 2004 the management of the industrial group decided that the implementation of a tool to improve the planning and scheduling of Trebortex operations would be a key requirement. They therefore contacted a consulting company to pilot the whole process of organizational and cultural change that included modernising the way the company planned and scheduled production.
From the very beginning a steering committee was created made up of key personnel responsible for every functional area affected by the implementation process. The internal project managers, Operations Manager and Logistics Manager, driven by the company CEO, gave a presentation to everybody directly or indirectly related to the implementation of Preactor, a team of 20 people. The goal was to explain to everybody, from engineering to quality, including logistics, production, purchasing, etc. the critical importance of succeeding in the Preactor implementation. Last but not least, it would also demonstrate that the top management was really involved in the project. There is no doubt that this, in hindsight, was one of the main reasons for the success of implementing Preactor in Trebortex.
Another sign of the real (not just formal) importance this project had for the top management was the revision project meetings, These occurred on a monthly basis and comprised a summary of the past due tasks, possible risks and which organizational aspects were required to be modified in order to make the maximum profit from Preactor. The project was scheduled to be finished in less than 5 months. Called Phase I, its objective was to use Preactor up to 60% of its full potential. Later phases were planned depending on the success of Phase I, carried out by Binary Technologies the Preactor Network Partner for Spain, had the following objectives.
- Make the stocks levels reliable
- Make the BOM’s and routings reliable
- Clean and improve the quality of the demand, both from customers and to suppliers
- Preactor, Phase I
- Integration with the ERP
- Capacities and alternative resources
- Linking the requirements of materials to Preactor
- Weekly scheduling
As can be seen, most of the effort did not involve customising Preactor, or its integration with other data sources, but to ensure that the quality of the information that Preactor relies on, was clean and of the quality required for detailed planning and scheduling.
Another important aspect to be considered in the project execution is that, thanks to the realistic point of view that the general management had of the complexity of implementing Preactor, an additional bonus bound to the project success (achieving the goals, on time) was offered to Binary. When the project was completed, 90% of the bonus was agreed.
Trebortex’s manufacturing process is typical of the conventional operations in fabric manufacturing:
- Warping (Urdido)
- Weaving (Tisaje)
- Blow (Apertura)
- Rewinding (Trascanado)
- Dyeing (Tintura)
- Stenter drying (Secado en rame)
- Quality Control
It was clear that the slowest process was fabric weaving, so this became the focus of the scheduling process. Any product change in any of the circular knitting machines could cause unwanted changeover time of between a shift and a complete day. Hence sequencing was important in addition to meeting customer service levels.
The materials flow inside the Supply Chain of Trebortex is a mix of push and pull, depending on whether they are starting or finishing operations. For the scheduling of the initial operations it is required to have a horizon for both the medium and long term, with the main goal of smoothing the demand and avoid changeover time.
However, for the last operations, where sequencing is less important, these are much more linked to the sales orders, where the important issue is to set the priorities according to the delivery requirements.
And the benefits?
Within a few weeks of completion of Phase I the following benefits were achieved:-
- Global stock reduction, more than 45%
- Planning time reduced from 5 hours to 30 minutes
- Penalties for bad services, down by 94%
- Urgent transport costs, down by 95%
- Increase in productivity, circular knitting section, 10.3%
- Increase in productivity, finishing section, 16.25%
Those increments in productivity have allowed a significant reduction in standard manufacturing costs.
The Industrial Director of Trebortex talked about the implementation.
“The project was conceived from the beginning to be the motor for an internal organizational change. We were aware that to have Preactor up and running we would require a significant improvement in quality of data of our ERP to allow all the software functions to run properly. The involvement, from the first moment, of all affected departments was required to achieve the proposed goals. Thanks to Preactor we have been able to improve the productivity of the main sections, mainly due to the reduction of the changeover time. Additionally, we have been able to synchronize the factory and the external suppliers so they work to the same plan. All those who took part have adopted Preactor as their own tool, which is by itself proof of the success and public acknowledgement.”
The Logistics Director had further comments. “Thanks to Preactor we have got rid of many low value-add operations. This was absolutely needed to have maximum visibility of the current status of sales orders and to be able to set priorities accordingly. Now, twice a day we get updated with service alerts, present and future, depending on the current setup of all the supply chain components, including the latest changes in the customers sales orders, the latest update of the production plant, as well as the availability of resources. From this point on, we have some ratios that tell us about the main problems in the coming deliveries, as well as the likely excess inventory that would result from the current machine planning, where we decide not to reduce the production rate in line with real demand as against forecast. We also have tools that easily allow us to demonstrate to our customers that their requested changes in short-term demand can sometimes be not easily accommodated, and that places us in a much favourable position to negotiate higher margins.”
And the Future?
At the present time the project is in progress of optimising some functionalities, and Preactor has become the only tool for internal and external (outsourced jobs) planning of operations, as well as the core of the calculation for the materials replenishment.