Batch size 1 from the serial production
By now, only every second kitchen from Koller is produced as a grid pattern kitchen. Customized productions make up 70 percent of the company's sales. Koller sells the more sophisticated custom-tailored kitchens in the company-internal exhibition at the production site. The modular grid kitchens are available without manufacturer label in numerous kitchen studios in the South Bavarian region. "The customized kitchen helped us to develop a unique selling proposition for the market. However this development presented enormous difficulties in the organizational and also in the technical company structure. Already the conceptual approach represented a major drawback. We defined each customized component as an alterable standard component. This led repeatedly to misunderstandings and problems, both within our company and also on the side of our customers. Therefore we opted for a direct approach. We owe this solution to a former employee who is now working in the USA. "He told us from a highly flexible production which was based on the nesting technique", embraced Josef Koller the development.
Up to now the company was producing standard components such as bottom and top unit ends, shelves or traverses in a serial make-to-stock production. For each individual kitchen, an employee was picking all required components from the stock and replaced the standard edge color white with another edge color and with a hole pattern adjusted to the respective unit arrangement. For customized manufacturing, he trimmed the components by using a sliding table panel saw. The core of the production constituted a thru boring line featuring a working width of only 60 cm. All wider components passed through a processing center taking a special routing in the production. This necessitated separate process engineering and a specific organization. All in all, Josef Koller and his brother Willibald were extremely unhappy with the situation, above all as the system was only working with enormously high and expensive inventories.
The brothers were anxious to learn more about the nesting-based production in the USA. This
operational method seemed to be a promising undertaking providing a magic solution to the
problems encountered with customized items. Instead of changing temporarily stored standard components, it was now possible to obtain virtually just in time carcase component cut-outs from formatted raw panels and to perform complete processing operations with the exception of the end edge drilling, dowel driving and edging operations.
The negative side: An adequate design program and the data and organizational structures
required for such a highly flexible batch size 1 production was still not in place.
Batch size 1 instead of serial production
The brothers set to work, were looking for advice and tried out all variants. Then it became obvious that a factory within a factory should be created with a stand-alone structure for the organization on the one hand and for the electronic data processing on the other hand. The former modular grid kitchen factory should continue its production without undergoing any change, however with an associated component stock reduced by one half.
For the production of the custom-tailored kitchens the brothers decided to use the software SCHULER MCS / woodProcess from the HOMAG affiliated company SCHULER Business Solutions.
The core module contains the commercial basic functions, such as order management or master data base as well as a 3D design program. All in all it lasted approximately three months until the core module had been filled with the highly flexible Koller production program. Now each unit of a kitchen may be planned down and designed to the last detail requiring only a minimum of data.
SCHULER MCS / woodProcess is a lean ERP system. Koller however requires only some of its components: These include the 3D graphics and, by degrees, the purchasing module and above all the production module. The inventory module, the electronic order import and the interface to the financial accounting are not yet used.
The production module explodes a specified order package, normally representing a daily
production with 20 to 25 carcases, to obtain the integral parts that must be processed and
generates production papers, routing slips, labels, bills of materials, CNC programs and production orders for the various machines.
For almost two years now, the factory within the factory is functioning smoothly with the processing center "Optimat BOF 611" from HOMAG which has been designed for the nesting technique.
Article, dds 7/2009, report and pictures dds editor Georg Molinski