“There is a key question that drives our company forward: that is great, now how can we improve?” So says Steven Cuyper, CEO of Orfit. His firm uses innovative technologies to develop and produce the most precise and reliable thermoplastics for medical use on the market. Its products are used across the world in hospitals and rehabilitation centres.
Integral to the company’s vision is the belief that there is always scope for making things a little better. Steven explains: “The focus is on how we can help our customers even more by investing in R&D, innovation and product development, while holding ourselves to the highest possible quality standards. Thanks to the ‘We can do better’ improvement project with Accezz International, we have been able to optimise our processes and systems.”
Fresh eyes often offer novel insights.
Fresh eyes often offer novel insights, especially when employees have been in the same job for a long time. Steven says this has certainly been the case: “We have achieved a great deal. Our non-conformities have decreased and efficiency has increased. By working together, management and staff have moved a mountain. The collaboration with Accezz has been the catalyst we needed to realise ongoing improvements throughout the chain.”
Steven notes that the extrusion department’s production line conversion is a prime example: “Accezz has saved Orfit considerable time by developing the optimal operational sequence and adjusting the conversion process. The result: the same cost but increased production.”
Conversion times have been reduced from 30 to 12 hours. Steven highlights this as a brilliant result. “And things continue to improve. The people on the floor know best what needs to be done better. Sometimes the solutions are simple, such as a small adjustment to the forklift that helps move an element of the extrusion line immediately without having to set it down first. We also invested in a small hoist, allowing us to place a product directly into the oven. We now measure downtime, setup time and uptime. Downtime, in particular, has been greatly reduced.”
He is convinced that a new way of working or a more effective use of human resources offers great potential. The company has already reduced turnaround time by 40 to 50%.
Orfit often lost significant time in changing or repeating work due to planning fluctuations. Accezz therefore closely analysed each aspect of the process and introduced a planning freeze in all departments. Schedules are now discussed on a weekly basis and locked in for the week.
Steven explains: “Solid planning provides stability in the production process and harmony throughout the chain. Consistently good results afford us the opportunity to continuously invest in improvements. We have implemented simple software tools and appointed a professional planner. Our delivery reliability has increased and we have fewer customer complaints.”
Turnaround speed has greatly improved in the packaging department: movements are more efficient and run times are quicker due to layout adjustments. “There have been significant reductions in stock differences and the average number of hours spent on rework. Thanks to these lean improvements and better staff planning, we have reduced packing time for orders”, says Steven.
Revenue has increased by 20%, which has been achieved with about 10% fewer staff in the packaging department. Steven is delighted: “Another great result. We have now got our eyes set on reducing production waste even further. Maintenance, technical and production staff along with the operations manager are all working together to realise this. It means we stay the course and keep our heads in the game thanks to our KPIs. Everyone on the floor knows our indicators. They know what needs to be done.”
During the Accezz project, KPIs were introduced in all departments to assess and improve performance. Steven says Orfit continues to monitor outcomes and make appropriate changes: “We now have a better management information system and can arrange follow-up meetings and implement adjustments. Today, the department heads draw up the KPIs and make their own improvement plans. The work floor is highly motivated to continue the improvement process. Continuous structural growth is indeed fully embedded within our organisation.”
Going into the programme, Steven admits he tended to focus too much on the operational side of the business: “I can still hear myself tell an employee: ‘I think I’m actually doing your job.’ Truth be told, it can be part of the job to do a bit of everything. After all, you want what’s best for the company and the customer. But if you give your employees a goal and the means to achieve it – competencies and ap- propriate tools – they will always be motivated. They will own their role within the company.”
Steven concludes: “Working with Accezz has given me more perspective. This both quiets and sharpens the mind and affords Orfit room to grow. We are now building a new fac- tory just 500 metres from here and implementing a vertical integration. The plant will produce a fibre product that we used to source externally. Everything is being done from scratch, from construction to machines and engineering. A wonderful added result thanks to our collaboration with Accezz.” He smiles and adds: “We can always do better!”