This article first appeared in the Winter issue of The Record.
The variable speed drives produced by Siemens Drives every year in the town of Congleton, UK, travel across the world to be used by manufacturers looking to increase their productivity, reduce time-to-market and cut costs.
One major challenge for Siemens Drives is that the Congleton plant does not sell directly – it supplies a warehouse in Germany that fulfils orders from distributors and customers all over the world. With no pipeline of confirmed customer sales on which to base production, Siemens Drives must manage spikes in demand and sometimes need to replenish warehouse stock with just four or five days’ notice.
“Stock levels, open customer orders and sales forecasts for monthly planning had all become the responsibility of one person using separate spreadsheets with numerous formulae,” explains Simon Evans, head of operational supply chain at Siemens Drive. “Delivery performance was very high but any manual approach is prone to errors, and with responsibility all on one employee, we had a potential single point of failure.”
Siemens Drives decided to implement Siemens’ SIMATIC IT Preactor Advanced Planning and Scheduling tools – which run on a Microsoft SQL database. The factory now has a graphical planning tool that works on real data.
Sally Bright, planning team leader at Siemens Drives, says: “Instead of looking at the amount in stock, we can see how much we want to keep in stock and we get a clear answer about our capacity.”
“What is impressive is the speed with which the system takes raw data and puts it in a plan,” says Evans. “Information is instantly pulled through from forecasting and we get a visible alert to changes. If we need to make an adjustment, we can do it very quickly.”
Better planning has led to immediate improvements in Siemens Drives’ days to cover, and an instant rise in delivery capability has been achieved. The plant has also seen a 20% reduction on inventory of finished goods, from €11 million to €9 million.
Complete clarity on the nature and sequence of production tasks means that operators can now set machines up more effectively. This has resulted in a 14% improvement in operational efficiency, and work in progress costs went down from £45,000 to £15,000.
Evans says that the Preactor products have made a very clear strategic contribution for Siemens Drives. “Our new planning and scheduling tools are changing the way we think as a factory, enabling us to focus more on customers and taking us to the next stage of lean production,” he says.
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