Ferenc Brozovácz puts on his welding helmet, checks the ventilation hose, and chooses his first welding spot. The piece of steel he’s working on stands on a workbench. Behind him, on a touchscreen, are glowing key figures, construction drawings, and DIN standards. “Ferenc can check this display at any time to find out where he needs to make the next weld spo — or to get other information that’s relevant to his job,” says Beáta Szolnok. She’s one of the experts in the Lean program FAST at the Hauni plant in Pécs, Hungary. E-documentation — the availability of important electronic documents directly at the workplace — is one of several dozen FAST projects in Pécs. It’s a crucial step toward paperless production processes. Today more than 300 employees at this plant are working with it.
FAST stands for “Flexible accomplishment, in synch and on time.” This program has been implemented throughout the entire Business Area Tobacco since 2013 in order to make production processes faster, more efficient, and more flexible. Among other goals, the program aims to decrease the throughput time of machines and installations and increase productivity by 2021. Digital advancement and the connected factory are providing the Hauni company in Hungary with the tools it needs. “However, the really crucial thing is to internalize the goal of continuous improvement as a basic working principle,” says CEO Gábor Katona.
The crucial thing is to internalize the goal of continuous improvement as a basic working principle.
Gábor Katona, CEO Hauni Hungaria
His attitude reflects the vibrant spirit of this city. Pécs can look back on a 165-year tradition of machine construction. In addition, Hungary’s first university was founded here in 1367. Pécs, which is located in a wide valley south of a mountain range in southern Hungary, has a population of 150,000, including many students. The Hauni plant, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019, produces the entire product range of the Business Area Tobacco: tobacco processing machines (primary); cigarette, filter, and logistics machines (secondary); machine parts (mechanical production); sheet metal assemblies and safety housing for machines (sheet metal production), as well as engineering and design. The plant is investing massively in IT and digital projects. “We are forging ahead with our transformation into a smart factory — and our efficiency improvements are benefiting our customers as well,” says Katona. One of these improvements is the comprehense digitization of the inventory, which was completed in 2018. Another one is the one user interface project, which ensures that every employee works with the same user interface, while various programs and applications run in the background.
The innovations are benefiting many employees. A total of 1,250 women and men work at the plant in Pécs, which is Körber’s second-largest production location globally. The plant grounds cover an area of more than 53,000 square meters, which is the equivalent of about seven and a half soccer fields. Meter-long steel pipes weighing several tons lie on a high outdoor rack. Inside the plant, workers are installing precision elements, some of which have a tolerance of only fractions of millimeters. In the enormous production halls, machines are humming, smaller devices are buzzing, and forklifts are beeping as they drive along marked paths. Large displays show daily targets and error rates. Logistics workers are carrying out their tasks by means of tablets, scanners, and mobile printers. This is a coordinated operation that is conducted by people, machines, and monitors.
In concrete terms, modern — that is, lean — production aims to reduce machine breakdowns and downtimes, avoid waste, and make processes more efficient. “Networking, digitization, and transparent processes are our most important innovation levers,” explains István Inotai, the Head of the FAST program. Every two weeks he holds a meeting with experts from the specialist departments, including Beáta Szolnok. The meeting participants share information about areas of progress and decide on the next steps to be taken. Instead of pursuing mammoth goals, Inotai relies on many smaller projects. Most of the time he forges ahead in a dozen or more areas simultaneously. The focus is always on improving efficiency.
Networking, digitization, and transparent processes — these are our most important innovation levers.
István Inotai, Head of the FAST program at Hauni Hungaria
The digital tool dispensing system consists of a cupboard standing about as tall as a person and equipped with a touchscreen. Inside of it are tools such as attachments, screws, and milling heads. The cupboard stands in a production hall that also houses dozens of machines. Here workpieces are being machined and milled, shavings are pouring into waste bins, and workers are watching over their machines on monitors.
In the past, if an employee needed a certain tool or a spare part for “his” machine, he would walk over to the tool dispensing center, stand in line, and then wait for a colleague to find the right item for him. “Today each tool and each spare part has its own individual code,” says János Nagy, who works in the tool dispensing center. “An employee simply chooses the tool he wants on his displa — and seconds later he’s holding it in his hand.” The system, which went into operation at the beginning of 2018, handed out more than 13,000 items last year. It was used about 1,700 times — and that means 1,700 trips saved.
Two smaller cupboards stand next to the big central one. They hold the calipers that are used to measure the diameter of drill holes, for example. In the past, calipers would often lie around for months at the workstation where they were last used. If someone needed calipers, he would have to make extended inquiries in order to find them. Today, a worker selects a caliper on a display, a green light indicates the right drawer, and that’s it. The worker can then use the calipers for up to 24 hours. If he still hasn’t returned them at the end of that time, he is sent a reminder. “That’s how we were able to reduce the number of calipers that we need in this hall by 30 percent,” Nagy says proudly. The new tool dispensing system also shows which tools are most often in demand or need to be reordered. This is exactly the kind of transparency and data networking that Lean System Manager Inotai aims to use productively. The benefits are twofold: The employees’ work processes become more efficient — and customers receive their machines and devices faster, in the top quality they are accustomed to.
Every department has the potential to reduce the waste caused by time-consuming processes. For example, until recently the procurement department would order a certain workpiece from a supplier and fill out the address, the work order, and any necessary changes by hand on yellow delivery slips. “The employees would spend a lot of their valuable time recording data and walking back and forth. Fortunately, that’s no longer necessary,” says Beáta Szolnok. Together with her colleague Regina Kövesdi, she has developed four apps and a small scanner. Today all the necessary information is entered via an app, and it is recorded at every process step by scanning a barcode. The delivery slips are created using a mobile printer. As a result, data recording proceeds much faster and the time saved can be used for other projects.
Kövesdi, an IT expert, worked with three developers to program the apps. “We’re delighted that our work has created measurable added value that has directly benefited our production performance,” she says.
E-documentation, digital tool dispensing, delivery apps: three smart factory projects that have a strong impact. And these are only three of the dozens of initiatives that are exploiting efficiency-boosting potential at Hauni in Pécs. This process is being enhanced by knowledge sharing and intense cooperation between all of Körber’s Business Areas. For example, the software specialists from Inconso, which is part of the Business Area Logistics Systems, worked together with their colleagues in Pécs to optimize production logistics. A completely modernized system landscape consisting of a tablet app for the ergonomic control of goods received as well as automated storage and retrieval systems was put into operation. Among other things, the time it took for incoming goods to be stored was significantly shortened.
Exchanging knowledge, passing along expertis — innovation develops its greatest impact when it’s shared, and also if it’s rethought and promoted again and again. As István Inotai puts it, “In a world of permanent change, there’s no stop sign for innovations.”