We all know Aviko: it is one of the largest potato processing companies in the world and a supplier of a complete range of fresh and frozen potato products. Worldwide they are the market leader in refrigerated fries. Sipke Brandsma is a product leader at Aviko Steenderen and an avid improver.
What levels of improvement are you involved with?
“I have final responsibility for the production of frozen fries, potato sections, potato slices, and crinkle-cut fries at one of the three plants in Steenderen. So I’m always busy improving my production process. We also work together with management in improving prerequisites for the entire factory and the organization. We share our improvement successes with our international colleagues, so we can learn from each other’s process.”
Which improvement method do you use?
“We use Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), a method originating from Japan, which focuses on improving the machines, eliminating waste and empowering people. We strive to eliminate future waste using targeted maintenance. We also take into account what operators can do at their machines, so they can, with primary cleaning and lubricating, often reduce the number of malfunctions.”
What does working with a natural product like potatoes mean for the production process?
“We have to deal with quality variations in the potatoes due to seasonal fluctuations, potato varieties, etc. And also when a harvest comes early, when it’s late in the season, or when the potatoes come from the farmers’ barns. Every season gives the potatoes different properties that we adapt to.
The weather also plays a part. Our plant is located among the potato fields, so we are in direct contact with the land and with nature. If we experience very dry or rainy periods, we already know we will get potatoes with less moisture inside or a greater chance of excess foliage. We confer with our process technologists and our potato suppliers: what can we expect? How can we set up the line to get the highest efficiency and the best quality fries?
Efficiency is always important to us: how many fries can we get from one potato? The percentage has to be as high as possible. And if we lose time because of low machine availability, or loss of quality because of a challenging harvest, we focus our improvement on that.”
“For us the question is always: how can we set up the line to get maximum efficiency and the best quality fries?”
What are real improvement successes to you?
“The production of rösti is a great example. It’s a half-product that everybody wanted to get rid of: the manufacturing process was too slow, with too much cleanup. At the same time, it was an interesting product to manufacture, one we didn’t want to lose.
We chose to be very clear about it: it’s a product that has great revenue for our factory, and therefore it’s valuable for all of us. Let’s reevaluate how we can improve to reach optimal performance in production.
And it worked. One group of operators really rose to the occasion. They literally sat down on a stool on the work floor for hours and hours, observing the process: what’s happening here, where does production start to pile up? The process turned out really different from what we expected, and so we could make targeted improvements. Now, rösti is one of our best-selling half-products.”
“The fun thing about improving: when you’ve solved something, you instantly think of new challenges to sink your teeth into.”
“Another great example was our objective to bring the cleanup time down from 14 to 11 hours. That saves us 3 hours of production time, so it’s quite worthwhile. And even food safety could be further enhanced. It was a big step, but we did it! The moment we actually achieved our goal, one of the operators said: “We could do this in ten hours!” That’s the great thing about improving: it’s the idea that if you can improve one thing, you might be able to achieve even more. It is the ideal improvement climate.”
How does Cierpa contribute to Aviko’s improvement process?
“Collaboration with Cierpa keeps on growing deeper. Where we used to focus on easy and consistent data retrieval from different departments, we are now looking for trends. We’re looking for the same malfunctions, the same breaks in production, and ways to prevent quality loss. Can we detect and prevent waste? That’s where we improved. Our operators, shift leaders, and quality managers can now document the process in Cierpa OEE, and as a result, find out where to find solutions and trends.”
“You can’t just expect people to get involved when you want to reach a goal; the involvement lies in the attitude towards each other.”
Cooperation within the organization plays a big part at Aviko. As a manager, how can you stimulate people to feel involved with the improvement process?
“You can’t just get people involved when you want to reach a goal, that’s not how it works. Also, not every improvement should be initiated by management. As a manager, you have to listen to the signals coming from the work floor. Find out how you can improve there. Be open to different ways of thinking.
The involvement is actually embedded in the attitude towards each other. Make people see and understand the context of an improvement process and it provides a stimulus other than annoyance. One person will respond to a graph. Another will react to a joke. The next one warms up to a vision of the future. The operators at the rösti line didn’t feel annoyed but took their time and space to really improve together. The enthusiasm of people can make you attain the greatest things.”
So improving is alive at Aviko?
“The fun thing about improving is, when you’ve solved something, you instantly think of three other issues you want to sink your teeth into. It never ends. The enthusiasm, that climate is really there inside the factory. I really enjoy it!”
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