Freudenberg-NOK has a 20-year history of employing lean principles to drive continuous improvement across the enterprise. Growtth (Get Rid of Waste Through Team Harmony) is the manufacturer's continuous-improvement program, and it adopts concepts of the Toyota Production System, including the pursuit of single-piece flow.

Given the company's history with lean, it may come as no surprise that Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies has taken the idea of single-piece flow to its molding presses. While many of its molding presses are of the traditional variety – meaning large, heavy pieces of equipment that produce batches of components from multiple cavities -- Freudenberg-NOK has begun introducing to its manufacturing facilities a smaller, more nimble single-cavity press that produces seals one at a time.

See Also: Operations Management Strategy & Best Practices

The impetus for this technical evolution? Better quality and material savings are two drivers, says Theodore Duclos, vice president and general manager of the Global Fluid Power Division of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies.

With the single-cavity molding, "we are able to make better parts more consistently," Duclos says. That's because the new production operation allows for better control of such variables as temperature and pressure. Better quality up front means fewer man hours and machining required on the back end in trimming operations, and less waste material to address.
"The less operations you need to perform, the better," he says.

Employing lean, Freudenberg-NOK has squeezed significant waste out of manufacturing operations over the years, but those improvements have not been addressed on the technical side. "We asked, ‘How do we bring the technical aspect into this," Duclos says.