By sintesia
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  • 18 Apr

Ensto Logo

E-kanban used to increase internal efficiency while improving Supplier performance

Ensto factory in Keila, Estonia

Ensto is an international cleantech company specializing in the development, manufacture and marketing of electrical systems and supplies for the distribution of electrical power as well as electrical applications. They are committed to a sustainable approach and strive to be the world’s leading company in green energy efficiency and distribution. Their products are manufactured in seven different countries, and are environmentally friendly.

Founded by Ensio Miettinen in 1958, the company is now a family business with 1,600 employees mostly in Europe and Asia. Ensto designs and provides smart electrical solutions to improve the safety, functionality, reliability and efficiency of smart grids, buildings and transportation.

The Company implemented KanbanBOX in 2014 after a trial period. After creating a small scale manual kanban system, they were able to apply electronic kanban with successful results, both within the company and with their suppliers. Currently there are a total of 3833 Kanban loops within the company and 23 Suppliers linked to the system.

We interviewed Lasse Lehtinen, who is responsible for Lean production and supply chain development in Ensto, to find out about the company’s experience with KanbanBOX.

After implementing pull steering in 2013, the Company first began to consider switching to electronic kanban. The change to pull-steering made the need for an electronic system apparent. After implementing a basic manual kanban system using some laminated A4 kanban cards the team "realized that to have pull steering and Kanban in wider use, we needed to have electronic Kanban to ensure efficiency and transparency of the transactions".

Lasse Lehtinen, Initiative Owner of Pull in Ensto

Soon Ensto received a competitive offer from KanbanBOX and decided they were ready to develop an electronic system in cooperation with Sintesia. This way the company was able to set up a software that met all their needs, and helped run large scale Kanban operations both within Ensto factories as well as with external suppliers.

Nearly three years later, as registered in December 2016, the company now has 3833 kanban loops in total, 793 kanban steered components delivered from their Suppliers, and an average of 2500 daily kanban releases. Overall between 20% and 70% of manufacturing hours are carried out under Kanban steering, depending on the factory. As far as further developments are concerned, the first pilot Customer linked to the software will be implemented in March 2017.

More stable and controlled inventory levels and out-of-stock reduced to a minimum

According to Lasse, beneficial effects of having pull steering and using a software to manage kanban were more stable and more controlled inventory levels as well as a reduction of planning and management times. "Basically pull steered flow steers itself. So in that way a lot less planning is needed to manage it". He adds that "the benefit here is that the normal steering of the flow can be done on a factory floor by production team people". As a result production and material flow planners can concentrate on planning the possible exceptions in a demand or production capacity.

As far as out-of-stock situations are concerned, they have been "reduced to a minimum". Internal material flow is managed with pull steering. Materials are managed in fixed quantities sorted in predefined bins which each have a kanban card. Production cells are regularly supplied with the material in bins thanks to a regular train service method. "In this way we have been able to minimize the changeover times and out of stock situations in our production."

With KanbanBOX and one way material flow we are also lot more capable of accurate tracing back of the material flow in case of quality issues. This saves a lot time and cost in cases of possible call- offs and investigations.

Assembly cells replenished by kanban

Pull material replenishment service uses logistic trains

A positive experience for Suppliers and a tool to develop a stronger and more efficient relationship

Implementing KanbanBOX with suppliers was simple and a generally positive experience. Lasse underlines the fact that suppliers were impressed with its visual qualities as well as the fact it made Ensto’s stock levels very easy to read. Currently only a few select Suppliers (23 in total) are linked to the system, as the Supplier needs to be performing well in quality and accuracy to be granted the ‘privilege’, in Lasse’s words, to be part of the electronic kanban system.

In summary it could be said that you have to perform on a high level to be Ensto’s Pull (KanbanBOX) supplier. And KanbanBOX is a great tool to make it possible to perform on an even higher level than before.

Positive effects of electronic kanban include an increase in delivery accuracy, decrease in maintenance, a reduction of reminders directed towards suppliers.

The increase in delivery accuracy can be described in numbers. According to Lasse Lehtinen, Ensto products delivered from Pull (electronic kanban) manufacturing processes have 3,3 % points better delivery accuracy than products delivered from non-pull processes. "And this is a huge difference especially when generally performing on a high level of delivery accuracy!"

The system needs little maintenance, and although the previous manual kanban system was so small-scale that it is not possible to describe the improvement through a decrease in maintenance time, Lasse confirms that the maintenance has been reduced.

As for reminders, there has been a general decrease for the need of email or phone call reminders in all the 23 Suppliers linked to KanbanBOX, in varying degrees according to the supplier.

Easy and fast set-up both within the company and with Suppliers

The set up of the software was simple and fast. According to Lasse ‘it’s so easy. You just sign in. It’s simple.’ When asked if there were any difficulties the company encountered he says the only one was linked to the fact the company started using KanbanBOX in 2014 when it was a brand new product. At that time some part had not been translated yet so they were in Italian, and they had to wait for the translations to be produced. However this also gave Ensto the advantage of being one of the first really big customers for the system, and it was able to improve the software including some of its specific needs.

On the upside the fact we started using KanbanBOX already at that time gave us a possibility to be an “early bird”. As a result we have been able to improve the system a lot together with Sintesia.

Both staff and suppliers found the set up easy. For Staff members who had no experience of using computers it is much easier to start using KanbanBOX than the company ERP, as "There is less to learn. It is also visual and user-friendly". According to Lasse "also for the suppliers the set up was generally quite easy".

The set up has been fast and has become faster as the company gets more experienced with the software. With Suppliers, if all the data that is needed is ready before set up, it can take as little as half a day. Internally set-up is much faster than setting up the company ERP. Thanks to the use of excel files that contain the data we need to upload "we can add say 500 items in a hour. Or even more. It’s very fast".

It is a visual and user-friendly software that can be developed and tailored to the company’s needs

Generally the Company is very satisfied with the software. The highlights are its highly visual and user-friendly qualities as well as its easy set-up. "In my experience it is a rare system that has such visuality, userfriendliness and easy setup. Bar code functionalities make the usage fast and eliminate the possibility for mispelling" says Lasse.

So the overall experience is a very positive one. To sum up:

It is definitely the best software I have used of this kind. It helps to manage the material flow. But mostly I like the development possibilities. We can get things done fast. That to me was a pleasant surprise.

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