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Wagner International AG

Ingenics supports kaizen initiative at the Wagner Group in Altstätten

Continuous improvement process launched – with overwhelming results

In order to optimize processes, increase productivity, and secure international competitiveness, the management of Wagner International AG, the Swiss location of the Wagner Group, called on Ingenics. The most important goals were to increase efficiency in production by introducing lean production structures and qualifying employees in kaizen workshops. A short time later, a productivity increase of 20 percent could be seen.

The most important project results and Ingenics services:
Wagner International AG
  • Delivery of kaizen workshops
    • Identification and realization of 18.5 percent potential
      savings for paint spray guns
    • Determination and realization of another 20 percent
      optimization potential of the current top line in the
      production area color pumps
  • Qualification of internal trainers

The Wagner Group is mainly known as a manufacturer of paint spraying guns and pumps, operating production sites in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, China and the US. 170 people are employed in development and production in Altstätten, Canton of St. Gallen.

Ingenics consultants had already worked at Wagner as part of a cardboard engineering project to design economic assembly workplaces and in multi-moment studies to measure efficiency. Based on kaizen workshops (inspired by Toyota’s production philosophy), current projects focus on establishing processes that can be continuously improved and organizing optimal working environments.

The new COO, Roland Bucher, understood the potential of kaizen workshops from other experiences and knew what they could bring to Wagner. However, he was also aware that such potential could not be exploited using internal resources alone. To gain external input, Wagner once again turned to Ingenics.

First steps alone delivered outstanding results: potential savings of 18.5 percent were identified in the paint spray guns production area – two percent based on the status quo and 16.5 percent after implementation of the developed measures. The second workshop was carried out for a very mature paint pump production line that was already considered the top-performing line internally. Nevertheless, here it was possible to determine and achieve optimization potential of no less than 20 percent.

For Roland Bucher, the role of COO includes responsibility for production in all sites while constantly driving “continuous improvement” as part of the corporate culture so as to remain competitive long term. Consequently, action was first taken where the greatest effect was expected: the company’s largest site. In paint spray gun and pump production, where the need was most obvious, the goal of increasing productivity by 15–20 percent within a year had already been achieved. Even more important than short-term cost savings were sustainable process changes and a culture of constant learning and improvement. In order to motivate employees long term, decision-makers from every department were brought around the same table and confronted with a value flow analysis before additional potential improvements were developed. One result was planning of additional kaizen workshops on topics such as purchasing, logistics, and quality assurance.

Implementation began through exemplary 5S measures, which were quickly driven by the team in order to reduce working distances, to optimize assembly processes, and to improve procedures. Out of more than 60 recorded and prioritized measures, many were implemented the second day of the workshop.

„By implementing measures on the second kaizen day alone, assembly times were reduced by ten percent, and subsequent measures increased the number of production units by more than 20 percent.“
Roland Bucher, Wagner International AG
former COO

According to Roland Bucher, Ingenics’ project manager effectively engaged participants with his systematic, structured approach and outstanding visualization skills as well as an approach that was clearly practical in nature. He mastered the art of moderation, keeping a close focus on the goal while allowing people to offer individual ideas. In this way, he ensured that the team retained ownership. The fact that 80 improvement measures were developed for a long-established kanban system in a single day had an impactful “wow” effect.

The COO expects kaizen workshops to show how resulting measures (e.g. optimized paths, parallel operations, more reliable processes, or strategic shop floor management) contribute to the overall result – here a reduction of assembly times by up to 20 percent. Despite a large number of individual measures, such a project does not normally require any major investments, which makes the method even more attractive.