Medical Marvel From order to invoice, Siemens Computed Tomography optimizes total logistics to serve its customers. ByDavid Drickhamer Siemens AG, Medical Solutions Computed Tomography, Forchheim, Germany At A Glance
Web-Exclusive Best Practices Benchmarking contacts: Claudia Wörle, material management, [email protected], +49 91 91 18-8954; Karin Ladenburger, order management, [email protected]Take A Step Back Key to the success of the Siemens Computed Tomography division is the attention that the managers and the empowered teams have dedicated to long-term, strategic goals. Franz Grasser, former vice president of logistics for Siemens CT, sharply criticizes his fellow operations managers for focusing too much on fighting fires. "They don't take the opportunity to take one step back, close the door and think about the complete situation," Grasser states. "In many cases managers are crying for additional fire crew members. 'There's another fire, I need two more fire crew.' " He advises managers to take the time to identify root causes and really solve their problems, and not spend time helping their fires grow. Interestingly, Grasser views kaizen and the whole "continuous improvement" bandwagon as a small contributor to world-class performance. In visiting other manufactures, he has observed that roughly 90% will say they're doing kaizen. Continuous improvement should be a given, he says. "Why should I stress that I have to brush my teeth every day?" Not-So-Fancy Flip Chart Nobody said best practices have to be high tech. In the production area of Siemens Computed Tomography division they use a simple flipchart to track order status. Every day at 10:15, the people from the manufacturing line meet with managers in a designated place on the factory floor for 15 to 20 minutes. They discuss each customer order and write down any issues. Missing parts are a frequent problem. When the errant part arrives an assembly worker marks it on the flip chart, giving anyone who's interested an immediate view of what issues have been resolved what issues are still outstanding. Staying On Top Of Customer Orders Like Fed Ex's package tracking system, where you can enter a number and follow a delivery through to its destination, Siemens Computed Tomography organization uses an internal project management tool to track the order status for its x-ray systems. Linked to the systems of its major freight forwarders, the communication system allows Siemens project managers in its customers' countries to instantly know the status of an order whether it's in production, testing, packing, or in the air and on its way. Each user can customize the display to see only the projects with which he or she is involved. The system has effectively replaced many phone calls and e-mails and frequent miscommunication, according to company managers. Training The Experts The representatives that Siemens Computed Tomography division sends to its suppliers to complete the final installations of their x-ray systems are well qualified. These system experts, a.k.a. CT specialists, have completed a yearlong training program. During this stint they gain experience working at each of the assembly steps, becoming intimately familiar with the complexity of the whole system. Before they are allowed to go to customer site and finalize the installation, they spend at least six months in the final test area. Because the system experts are so well qualified, they can complete the on-site set-up relatively quickly. They don't have to read and follow instructions because they know the system. Siemens CT began this program almost three years ago in Germany and have cut installation time from two to three weeks to three days for its high-end model, and two days for its mid-range model. The company has since extended the program to western Europe, and the current challenge is to implement the strategy in the rest of the world. Making Up For Lost Time Finding the time and resources for adequate training is a perennial issue for manufacturers. IndustryWeek's Best Plants typically dedicate over a week to training per employee per year. Siemens Computed Tomography division is no exception. Employees there spend six days each year in various training programs and seminars, including language classes so that they can better communicate with their international client base. This amount of training requires an even greater commitment in Germany. Each German worker has 30 days of vacation per year, plus an additional five sick days. Add in the time spent training and that equals 40 days, or almost two calendar months, of zero productivity. Open Your Doors To Suppliers The Siemens Computed Tomography plant in Forchheim, Germany, built and shipped 1,250 x-ray systems in 2001. At such low volumes many manufacturers say it's just too difficult to enlist the cooperation of their suppliers, even when the parts are relatively expensive, as they are for Siemens CT. It's a simple matter of understanding according to Grasser. "If you tell them that you can't accept it, they will never understand. But if you show them that you have no systems in stock, if they can see with their own eyes exactly how you are planning and running your assembly lines, they will understand the need to increase their delivery reliability," says Grasser. "We invited our major suppliers in to visit our manufacturing process and went through the process to make absolutely sure that our suppliers understand why they have to react, why they have to deliver exactly as [required], and why it is not allowed to have a first-pass yield lower than 95%. . . . How can they understand it if they don't have a chance to see it? Give them a chance. Open your own doors. Show them your process." Simplifying Material Handling Material handlers used to move the x-ray systems through the Siemens Computed Tomography factory by forklift. Today floor space is extremely tight, and the two-ton machines are rolled manually on red trolleys. The trolleys arrive in the factory supporting the primary subassembly, and carry the units all the way down the line and into the final test chambers. The machines then are rolled through shipping, rigging, and all the way to the installation site, where the trolley is removed and returned to the supplier. One added benefit of the trolleys is that the machines now fit into a standard air-freight container, which the company uses to ship all of its products outside of Europe. These containers are supplied free of charge by the shipping company, saving Siemens CT the added expense and time of packaging.
- 1998 Die Fabrik des Jahres "Factory of the Year," Produktion/A.T.Kearney
- 1998 Award for Logistics Excellence, European Logistics Association
- 2001 Global Supply Chain Excellence Award, Supply Chain Council
- Delivery time cut from 22 weeks to 2 weeks