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Sky Man optimizing production systems using QRM, even in an office environment

Sky Man International, based in Boom (Belgium), is a firm believer in continuous improvement of both its products and its production systems and order processing. In this light, it introduced QRM into its production department and offices. This new collaborative team approach has made lead times even shorter and has further improved internal operations.
  • Introduction to and implementation of QRM
  • Q-ROCs developed via training, advice and support

Changes are sometimes only visible when we start to make comparisons: for example, we are seeing less stock on the shop floor in the production department. The racks there used to be much fuller. We’re now producing pretty much to order. Recently, a platform ordered by a customer took just one and a half weeks to produce, whereas previously this would have taken eight weeks.

Boom-based Sky Man International has successfully transitioned from being a traditional metalworker into a specialist in manufacturing niche products. Today, the company, operating from its two global sites, has become a world player in for example designing and manufacturing maintenance cages for high-rise buildings and other inaccessible locations.

The company wanted to optimize its production systems and stock management, and also achieve more efficient collaboration between the various divisions, resulting in quicker through times to production. Looking around for solutions to these problems, Sky Man management took a masterclass on QRM organised by Sirris. With Sirris's help it was decided to set up a 'Quick Response Office Cell' (Q-ROC) to enhance cooperation, communications, and lead times and so make order processing more efficient. For a year Sirris provided on-site support for the establishment, operation and implementation of the Q-ROC, through training, advice, and support.

One team, one area

When rolling out the first Q-ROC, the various departments, which were physically separated from each other, worked independently of each other and issued assignments to each other. This resulted in inefficient cooperation, meaning that sometimes information was lost and time was wasted. Against this backdrop, a single unit made up of 10 members from the different departments was established which worked together in the same office and was responsible for processing orders, starting from the customer stating its requirements and running through to their realization on the ground. This resulted in the members having continuous, direct contact with each other, fostering more and better-quality communications and faster reaction times, so speeding up the whole process.

Transparency and self-management

The Q-ROC operated differently from what the participants were used to, with two weekly stand-up meetings coordinating all the projects. These meetings use a series of boards displaying all the project information. The meetings go over the status of each project, and actions are discussed and the boards are updated. Using these boards makes sure that everyone is fully aware of the state of affairs.
Another major change is that the team is largely 'self-managing', with indeed the organisational structure being altered to make this possible. Active cooperation and involvement within the team was a radical change for some. But it works. As a result of direct consultation, problems, whether within the company or with customers, are often dealt with by the individuals concerned rather than by getting a manager involved.

Lead times reduced by a factor of eight

The success enjoyed by the first unit led to the establishment of another two office units. The production department is now also made up of three units. Soon, changes could be clearly seen, for example less stock on the shop floor in the production department and Sky Man working pretty much to order. The new approach means not only impressive reductions in lead times but also more projects being completed.
The next step in the production optimisation process is to adjust the layout of the production department with a view to achieving smoother flows and even better lead times.