With more than 2000 employees in four countries, Hessing BV focuses on ultra-fresh vegetable handling. Specializing in vegetables and fruits, it is a supplier to supermarkets, wholesalers, caterers, and restaurants. Mark Koeman is a Continuous Improvement Coordinator and has a broad and varied work field at the Zwaagdijk branch.
What kinds of products does Hessing deliver?
“It varies greatly; we produce ready-made vegetables, salads, and processed fruits. Our range is tuned to the season and to customer demand. We also love to develop innovative products, such as cauliflower rice and carrot noodles. It’s important in our field to respond to market demands, so that’s definitely our focus.”
What does the production process from received vegetable to packaged product look like?
“We buy the vegetables from a worldwide network of growers and suppliers, dependent upon the product and the season. Once received, the vegetables are screened and stored until they are needed for production. Then the production process continues with cutting, mixing, washing, drying, and packaging.”
Does the production process run separately for each vegetable or per composite end product, like a vegetable mix?
“Both. Standard combinations like iceberg lettuce are already mixed within the production line. But most of our production lines are designed to handle separate vegetables. The vegetables are mixed at a later stage in a mixing line. That’s because a lot of mixes change regularly.”
“Our production process has quite a broad scope with 28 packaging lines and 1300 foil changes per week.”
That does sound like a comprehensive and variable changing process. What does the entire production of such a varied range look like?
“It really is a comprehensive process. Not only because of the different products but also because of the different bags and trays we use to deliver, with different sizes and prints. We use 28 packaging lines and have no less than 1300 foils changes each week. And the number of orders keeps on growing.”
That must have a significant impact on the process. And offer improvement opportunities too.
“We use OEE on the line to chart waste. Two years ago, the foil changes were one of the most significant instances of waste. We made it a priority to improve there. We put together improvement teams and started the SMED project Foil Change.”
“The average foil change dropped from eight to four minutes – a huge improvement!”
“The SMED method focuses on finding quick and efficient ways of calibrating a production process. With the help of Cierpa Kaizen, we could reduce the average foil change from eight to four minutes – that’s a 50% time gain! Those are huge improvements when producing with about 1300 foil changes per week. Of course, it’s important for us to secure that result. By turning it into a workplace KPI, we know the result is monitored.”
You use OEE to chart waste and opportunities. What kinds of waste are significant for you?
“Spilling and leaking: the places at the line where vegetables actually fall on the floor. For this, we installed a 5S program three years ago. Each line was assessed for spillages and leaks by an improvement team. That added up to hundreds of issues. We turned them into improvement activities in the Kaizen cockpit and started addressing them, one by one. And now, after three years, we have eliminated about 65-70% of the waste.”
Did you discover trends inside those failures?
“The percentage of malfunctions on the line turned out to be relatively high. So we started looking for the cause of those malfunctions. As it turned out an important factor was a lack of planned maintenance on the packaging lines. That lead to two solutions: preventive maintenance by our technical service employees and autonomous maintenance on the line. We started doing both.”
“With preventive maintenance and autonomous maintenance on the line, we can significantly reduce the number of malfunctions.”
“Our technical service team created a preventive maintenance plan that went live this year. Also, we use autonomous maintenance at half of our production lines. Together with our technical service staff and our operators, we ran a course of researching, allocating, and briefing.
It’s a comprehensive process that was very successful because of the knowledge and involvement of our head technician and our operators. We already have a 10% reduction in malfunctions with the first lines.”
What’s your tip for other improvers?
“Be realistic in what you can achieve within a given period. You start enthusiastic and see improvement opportunities everywhere. You might risk the danger of initiating too many projects – and in the end, nothing comes to fruition. Do less, and do it properly. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you boost morale. You’ll achieve so much more in the long run.”
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