What is the heaviest item in your supermarket? Think about it. The answer will follow at the end of this article. And why is this information important for Burgers Carrosserie, the Aalsmeer-based trailer manufacturer? Managing Director Ton Burgers explains: “We produce tailor-made transport trailers for various customers, including Jumbo, Coop, Sligro and Action. It is essential that we respond effectively to their specific needs. Once we know the weight and dimensions of a load and a customer’s further requirements, we start the design process to make the trailer compartments sturdy and light. Customers are then able to transport more products to multiple stores in a single run, while keeping everything sustainable and safe.”
Diminishing returns: many doesn’t mean good, but good means many
As customers have different needs, Burgers decided to design its own versatile trailer, the double-decker. It has become a great success: today, every Action trailer on the road is a Burgers double-decker. “As Action is doing well, we are increasingly busy,” says Ton. “At the end of 2012, we had 30 employees. Now, there are over 100 and the workforce is still growing rapidly.”
Given this expansion, Ton thought it was the right time to bring in Accezz: “We used to deliver a maximum of three double-deckers per week. Two months from now, it will be 10 per week. We used to think that more double-deckers would mean more employees.”
When Accezz arrived, employees took part in a workshop and were asked to put together a jigsaw puzzle of production parts. Staff soon realised that ‘more trailers equals more workers’ just isn’t true. Ton says, “The insight gained in that workshop, now influences the way we work and how we arrange our assembly lines. We used to spend between 480 and 500 hours on one double-decker; we are currently down to about 300 hours.”
Accezz carefully looked at every part of the production process, from the assembly lines, pressing and welding to procurement and the drawing office. It became clear that the design drawings were sometimes incomplete, and the production process frequently came to a halt because certain parts were not in stock.
“In the days of my grandfather and father this was much less of an issue”, says Ton, third generation owner of the company. “Back then, materials were more expensive than labour, but today hold-ups result in lost man-hours and are a big drain on the budget. So, we have now identified the parts required for each stage of the process and specified what employees on a production line need to do. As a result, familiarising a new employee with the job no longer takes two weeks but only two days. And for the procurement department, it is now much clearer what needs to be ordered and when. This maintains the flow of production. In addition, we have started with more outsourcing, which also saves time and space.”
Isn’t working more efficiently the same as working faster?
Does saving on costs automatically means working faster? “Not necessarily,” says Ton.
Our assembly lines may be next to each other, but when a trailer part on the second line has an imperfection from the first line, it has to return to the first line. And that takes time. It is therefore better to do a thorough check beforehand. The goal is of course to do everything right the first time.”
Ton continues, “By the way, employees were aware that implementing new standards for each production stage was not about control; it was more a case of ensuring all parts of the process were properly integrated. Thanks to the standards brought in by Accezz, the procurement department, for example, can now better anticipate when an item needs to be restocked. And it has been agreed that employees will in some cases actually spend more time to complete a stage.” Structures within the organisation have also been adapted and are now more effective. For instance, today, there are seven foremen who at the end of each day report to Ton and to each other. Soon, they will report as well to a newly-appointed operational manager for new contracts.
“The reporting is based on a consultation system introduced by Accezz,” explains Ton. “We carry out a structured analysis of what went well and what could have gone better and learn from each other. Any subsequent actions are assigned to one person with a deadline and are recorded and monitored. At first, this consultation took 45 minutes; now everything is settled within 20 minutes. The list of actions has also been reduced to one page.”
Burgers could have achieved the same results without Accezz, right?
“Could we have done it without Accezz? Probably, but it would have taken four to five extra years,” says Ton. That would have cost a lot more time, effort, frustration and money. “We are glad that we brought in Accezz. A case of the sooner, the better!”
As an organisation is growing, isn’t there a downside?
“Part of me is missing the time when you not only knew all your employees by name, but you were also aware of how things were at home. If someone was going through a difficult period, you were there for that person offering your support. However, we are trying to maintain that special family atmosphere. And I must say that the Accezz consultants fitted in very well with the mindset here. They arrived at 7:30 am, just like the rest of us, and stayed right until the end of the day. That has not been our experience with other agencies,” says Ton.
Ton Burgers cherishes the firm’s tradition and proudly shows an invoice from 1925 when a trailer only cost a few hundred guilders. It is sometimes said that the further you can look back, the brighter your future is. It’s a saying that certainly bodes well for the future of Burgers.
And now, the answer to the initial question. You perhaps thought of a bag of sugar or a bottle of detergent. But the heaviest product is a pack of diapers. Surprising, isn’t it?