Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lean Lessons at Autoliv

After arriving at the AM Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina today, I made a point to attend the afternoon presentation by Mark Newton, Plant Manager of the Autoliv Tremonton, Utah Facility. Mark certainly packed a lot of information in a short 2 hours all about their lean journey.

Autoliv is a global automotive supplier that designs and manufactures automotive safety systems like airbags and seat belts. The Autoliv Tremonton facility (known as the ITO plant within the Autoliv family) manufactures the automotive airbag initiators.

They have had some great success on their lean journey along with some top recognition by achieving the 2005 Shingo Prize and the 2007 Industry Week Top 10 Plant. Here are a few gems that I am taking back with me to Batesville Casket.

The first point clearly shown in Mark’s presentation was the emphasis on teams at Autoliv. They have a functional organization structure in the plant with a Plant Manager, Controller, Quality Manager, HR Manager, Production Control Manger, etc called the AMO (Autonomous Manufacturing Organization). Under the AMO are three AMC (Autonomous Manufacturing Centers) which are cross-functional product line teams with an AMC Leader, Supervisors, Engineers, Quality, Maintenance, Logistics. Under the AMC are several AMT (Autonomous Manufacturing Teams) which are line/work cells. Although a quality engineer reports to the quality manager, he/she is also part of the AMC. The AMC team all share one conference room as a group office. This is to promote open and rapid communication within the AMC team. All the kaizen activity is done through all these teams.

The philosophy of the APS (Autoliv Production System) can be described by the 5 hows:

How to exist continuously?
“Must make profit”
How to make a profit?
“Reduce cost”
How do we reduce cost?
“Eliminate waste”
How do we eliminate waste?
“Make waste visible”
How to make waste visible?
“Visibly Managed worksites”

Which is another strong message, make the workplace visible in that we can see at a glance abnormal from normal and focus your time on the abnormal issues. As part of Mark’s daily standard work, he walks the entire shopfloor and can see the status (abnormal from normal) all in 12 minutes. Can we walk our entire shopfloor and see the abnormal from normal in only 12 minutes?

Can we see how effective internal material deliveries are at the moment? Can we see the status of problem solving? Can we see the equipment failures and status of the countermeasures? Can we see the rate of production by hour?

Another interesting point was the lack of tradition 5 day kaizen events at Autoliv. They conduct something called kaizen workshops with big goals that run anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks. The kaizen workshop is still team focused but on a part time basis until completion much like a work project. The goals are typically double digit like lead time reduction 50%, reduce part handling 25%, or cut set ups by 85%. They had zero workshops in 2003 which has grown to 188 kaizen workshops in 2008. Many of their kaizen implemented come from these workshops.

Autoliv has an exceptional employee suggestions system that promotes getting ALL members of their team involved in improving their processes. Are you starting to see a common theme? Each cell has a suggestion board where you can see all the new suggestions, in process suggestions, completed suggestions and not accepted suggestions. In their first year (2002) of the employee suggestion program, they implemented 227 ideas. In 2007, it was 15,078 ideas implemented!

The Autoliv story is full of great lean lessons beyond just the few I highlighted. Check out the Autoliv Industry Week Top 10 Plant profile for additional information. Thanks to Mark Newton for sharing Autoliv’s lean success story.


Jon Miller said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for this. The 12 minute walk through the shop to check for abnormalities is a nice benchmark. About how large is the site in terms of square feet and employees per shift?

Mike Wroblewski said...

Great question Jon. It's about 117,00 sq ft with just under 300 employees (down from 382 with current downturn in automotive industry).

Mike Gardner said...

Mike, good report. I remember interacting with the Autoliv people a lot during my Honda Lean Network days--they almost always flew 3 ~ 4 people in from Utah for workshops and other events. They showed a real commitment.

Too bad about having to downsize, but that's happening across the board in automotive right now.