What Constellium Asked
Constellium is a global leader in innovative and high value-added aluminum products and solutions dedicated primarily to aerospace, automotive and packaging markets. Constellium has a global network of 25+ production facilities, state-of-the-art technology centers and offices around the world, employing some ~13,000 employees around the globe.
End of 2012, Yves Merel, then EVP for Lean Manufacturing at Constellium, initiated a massive Lean Transformation program across the company. Rob was invited to support the development and deployment of the just-in-time pillar across the organization, particularly at three of their largest facilities, in Neuf-Brisach (F), Issoire (F) and Singen (D).
Now, Constellium already had a strong experience in Lean, and in traditional supply chain management. But just-in-time manufacturing was something new to them. Aluminum manufacturing involves complicated routings, with many operations, backtracking and even multiple passes on the same resource. Furthermore, the operations typically involve many technical constraints that often require certain batch sizes, sequences, and groupings.
But challenges did not only exist from a technological perspective. We also were dealing with both heavy-weight and hot coils, extremely large facilities with long distances between operations, and large and complex production lines, involving massive casting furnaces, hot and cold rollers, and a multitude of finishing lines, all operating in a five-shift operation.
Definitely not an easy environment to start with just-in-time manufacturing. It was clear, therefore, that bringing JIT to aluminum manufacturing would require the necessary “translation” activities.
What We Did
In all three facilities, Neuf-Brisach, Singen and Issoire, the strategy that was followed was very similar.
Firstly, an assessment was done whereby performance data were analyzed, as well as demand data (using ABC and XYZ analysis). Additionally, a qualitative analysis was done using a value stream analysis and an analysis of routings.
Based upon the initial analysis, the scope (i.e., product family) of the initial step was determined, always starting with the customer-facing operations (shipping and finishing). From there, the transformation continued upstream following a roadmap that was constructed upfront (cold rolling, hot rolling, sawing/scalping, and casting). A project obeya was created where the progress of the transformation was managed on a weekly basis.
In each phase of the transformation, a multi-disciplinary team was assembled that performed a detailed study, and then designed the new working ways for that part of the value stream. This involved the determination of runners in the product portfolio, the identification of the required kanban loops, the sizing of the kanban loops and the required supermarkets, and of course the design of the material flow, storage areas and information flow aspects of the JIT operation. At the same time, the team translated all the proposals in standardized ways of working, as much as possible visualized on the shop floor.
Particular attention was given to the introduction of the new ways of working. In a five-shift operation, it is quite challenging to reach and train all operators. But a thoroughly thought-through training plan made all the difference in the start-up of operations according to the new just-in-time principles.
What Was Delivered
In four years, Constellium went through a massive JIT transformation.
In all cases, heijunka boxes were implemented in the shipping area, from which finished goods were picked from their respective supermarkets, using withdrawal kanban. Subsequent production kanban and batch building boxes were then used across the value stream to ensure timely replenishment.
Special cases that had to be dealt with involved complicated sequence rules in upstream manufacturing (particularly in rolling), and subcontracted operations in the middle of the value stream. Additionally, a good approach to the mix of a few make-to-stock fast-movers and many make-to-order slow-movers was required. But all were satisfactorily handled by the project teams while respecting JIT principles.
From a change perspective, the whole transformation was a tremendous undertaking. But the teams have successfully been able to take along both management and operators in these three sizable facilities.
Considerable attention was also given to the planning processes that allow pull to function properly. Particularly while Constellium was originally following a totally different course, based upon Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) systems.
Management routines, in which both performance and standards were followed up, were performed on a daily basis.
The JIT initiatives yielded impressive results in all three locations. The number of missed deliveries dropped significantly in the sites. And the level of inventories dropped at the same time. It was certainly not evident, but I think the teams have proven that JIT can also be successfully applied in such an environment.
Delivery performance improved from 45% to 80% with significantly less inventory on hand.
Right from the start we were fully aligned on the way to implement pull flow principles, and he succeeded in embarking our plants’ management teams on this disruptive transformation.