Mola B.V. specializes in the production of frozen baked goods. From its modern production facility in the North Brabant town of Beugen, the firm delivers hundreds of thousands of products to customers every single day. From puff pastry products and croissants to Danish pastries. A few years ago, with the ambition to drive rapid growth, Mola engaged ARV Group to work with management to develop a growth strategy and create the organization to pursue that strategy. Subsequently, it launched various continuous improvement processes, including the implementation of 5S on its production lines.
"We moved into this new production facility in 2012,” explains Mola production manager William Kums. “We began with a single production line, and in the course of just a few years, we added two more lines. Mola’s management had anticipated the growth. At the outset, with interim operations manager Ronald Visser of ARV Group leading the way, we determined our primary strategic, functional, and organizational ambitions. Then, we translated those determinations into concrete actions on the production floor."
Structure, order, and calm on the production line
Because of the enormous increase in production, Mola’s production lines were under constant pressure and as would be expected, the company added many new employees. “And beyond that, we work here in shifts,” says Kums. “In that sort of situation, it’s important to ensure structure, order, calm on the production lines and that the entire production process – which is comprised of various subsidiary processes – can run smoothly. And that is not easy in view of the hectic pace that prevails here."
Employee input and ownership
To organize that, Mola brought in Jaap Volger of ARV Group, and together with Kums and Mola quality officer Renske van de Lockant, the team developed and initiated a 5S program that included, per production line, a series of workshops for the employees. “After first getting an introduction on the theory – what is 5S, why is it important, and what does it deliver – employees immediately came up with quite a few ideas,” says Van de Lockant. “That was encouraging, because it is in fact vitally important that the people working on the production line take their own roles seriously and assume responsibility. It’s also important that there is coordination among the various team leaders. To achieve success on these sorts of efforts, it is essential to have an unambiguous approach and that the participants themselves provide input and assume ownership. 5S only works if it is a product of the people who are involved. After all, they know the processes and the actual situation on the production line better than anyone else. So you shouldn’t organize that from the top down."
Keeping your eye on the ball
5S has now been embraced and implemented by Mola. “You really do see it: order, peace of mind, and consistency prevails,” says Kums, “Now it’s important to maintain the focus in practice day after day. Weekly audits are necessary to ensure that we adhere to the structure we’ve put in place and that in practice we continue to live up to the commitments we’ve made.” Van Lockant adds, “The frequent leadership meetings with Jaap, William and myself are also important. To assess where it’s working well, and where we need to make course adjustments. Indeed, just because 5S is in place doesn’t mean you are finished. It is a continuous improvement process. It still requires direction and that you keep your eye on the ball."