Performance-based transformation usually requires a restructuring of existing processes. This is actually quite possible in digital mapping. At least if there is sufficient data on the production process.

Certainly, in a few years it will be quite common to document production processes well and comprehensibly digitally. At the moment, however, this is not yet the case. In most factories, a functioning production process is based on the experience of seasoned, practice-oriented employees. But these are often not the people who work on new strategies. In order to successfully initiate restructuring on this basis, practitioners and managers must therefore be brought to the same table. Both vision and practical orientation are indispensable for results that work.

An excellent framework for clear communication among and with each other is provided by the realistic, analogue simulation of the desired problem solution with the help of Legos®. We have already been able to simulate a variety of very complex scenarios in this way. Some of them we would like to present here.

Comparing different production concepts

How can different assembly/logistics concepts be compared in terms of personnel deployment and costs? Not so easily, anyway. Because a multidimensional approach is required.

On the one hand, the spatial conditions and the machinery have to be taken into account. But also the employees in their entire range must be presented in order to be able to make a well-founded decision. After all, at the end of the process, the entire management team must without a doubt stand behind the result and be committed to implementing it. The impact of the concept can be a cost factor not to be underestimated in a globally operating company.

In this case, pure data lacks the clarity to depict all parameters. But in an analogue simulation of the desired transformation, the entire management team can literally “grasp” what would otherwise simply become too confusing. It is also important here that employees from different areas stand at the same table and model the ideas at the same time. It is unbelievable what kind of dynamics are created by this alone. Especially the otherwise rather neglected interfaces often benefit greatly from the joint work.

First, the production is set up to scale. All employees are divided into qualification and pay groups and assigned to their positions. Now it can be clearly seen in each model how many employees are needed for production or for logistics. A personnel cost forecast can be made on this basis.

Sounds simple? 😀 Actually, it is. – If you know how.

Do you benefit from synergy effects?

Everyone would like to make use of synergy effects. It is just not necessarily easy for a company with different locations to find out where exactly these could be. We investigated this question for a renowned large corporation with similar functions at several locations. The task was to save jobs in the administrative area in the long term and thereby reduce product costs in the long term.

We started with an unusual method: the three department heads realistically recreated the situation at the three locations in terms of premises, staff and qualifications using Legos®. These models helped the management team to understand the exact role design and utilisation of the locations as well as to identify optimisation potential.

First, each site was able to find 5-10% savings potential for itself. In the next round, the activities of the employees were compared across locations and real synergy potentials were identified. This enabled a further 10-15% to be saved in the long term. By eliminating internal services, further savings potential could be identified.

Through the workshop, the three department heads were able to identify a common picture of possible synergy potentials in just one day and also explore the limits of what is feasible. A total of 30% savings potential was uncovered – a quick success for such a large company.

25% increase in the number of units with the same team in just a few months

Shorter delivery times, even with high variance, are always desirable. In our case, we are dealing with variant flow production with clocked assembly lines. Digital process modelling is difficult here because the lead times are often not precise enough for many variants in the mix.

We therefore facilitated an analogue transformation workshop in a clear and precise way using LEGO® bricks. We were able to anchor the idea of shifting certain production steps to pre-assemblies in order to reduce the variance in the main line, which in turn resulted in shorter production times. A new line layout was thus simulated in an analogue way. The LEGO® figures were particularly helpful because the practitioners could present their knowledge transparently. With the help of the little men, even the 1.5 employee problem could be thought through vividly.

The new line layout was implemented piece by piece. The work processes could be translated into the future work plans with the help of the simulation. Shift by shift, the staffing levels were planned in the series restart.

In this way, an extremely complex issue became transparent and comprehensible for everyone through the playful approach and ultimately an efficient production system was designed. And the best thing about it: the entire management team accepted their goal right from the start and implemented it in the short term. Everyone had the same level of knowledge and maintained an overview.

Doubling the number of units with a simultaneous increase in productivity

What does a practitioner in the company say when you announce that you are aiming to double the number of units in the short term with a faster-paced line without doubling the team?

I would say he is thrilled. At least if he had a hand in the upcoming productivity increase and knows exactly how it can work.

We had a similar case. Customer demand for a product was so high that the only alternatives were either crazy long delivery times or a much faster cycle time on the production line. It’s obvious what you then decide in the interest of the customer.

However, it was not possible to increase the number of employees proportionally. And as an additional difficulty, there were no precise target times for the production process, so digital simulation was out of the question.

But thanks to our analogue transformation workshops, the team was able to win this challenge anyway. And quite incidentally, there were many positive changes in ongoing operations: for material provision, internal logistics, personnel planning, qualification planning. Even the use of jumpers could be simulated.

Everything was possible because the practitioners in the company could be included in the planning. A great team result, isn’t it?

Extremely rapid growth

A small agency abroad has become a profitable factory that is growing extremely fast. In the course of an assessment by the new owner, however, it turns out that rapid growth does not only have its sunny side, because in the rush hardly any structures could be established so far. Normally accepted standards in production could not be established or were ignored. There has been no time to collect or evaluate data. Digital mapping of the workflow is therefore impossible. But SCM, internal logistics and production urgently need attention. Employee knowledge is now in demand. The language barrier, however, does not necessarily make things easy. In a foreign culture, everything is easier said than done.

In a similar situation, we were able to map the initial situation perfectly, realistically and clearly for everyone with an analogue transformation simulation. After an initial joint workshop, we divided the problem into the three subject areas of SCM, internal logistics and production optimisation. The possibility to visually understand necessary changes using Lego® is incredibly helpful for all three topics. The entire management team can share their experiences in this way. Language is no longer an obstacle, because everyone can understand what was actually meant or should happen based on the figures. By the way,

By the way, this is also incredibly helpful with purely native-speaking groups to describe a common goal.Purchasing, production planning, production, logistics with incoming goods and shipping as well as their interfaces have benefited greatly from our workshops.

😀 As a task, this topic was certainly complex. But it was worth it to take the Lego® bricks on the plane. Because the result makes life so much easier for everyone.

Implement product line organisation

Wie muss eine Organisation aufgebaut sein, um die Spezifikationen der Kunden möglichst genau abzubilden? Zum Beispiel: eine Firma hat Kunden, die hohe Produktstückzahlen mit geringer Varianz anfordern, welche auf wenigen Maschinen produziert werden. Hinzu kommt ein anderer Kundenkreis, der geringe Stückzahlen des Produktes mit hoher Varianz abruft, wofür viele verschiedene Maschinen benötigt werden. Die Firma ist über die Jahre gewachsen. Die Maschinen wurden nach dem Werkstattprinzip aufgestellt. Transparenz und Steuerbarkeit der Organisation sind dadurch verloren gegangen. Alle Arbeitsabläufe sollen natürlich eigentlich so reibungslos und effizient wie möglich funktionieren, was schon lange nicht mehr der Fall ist. Bei ungenauer Plandatenlage ist eine digitale Abbildung oder eine Simulation möglicher Szenarien nicht möglich. Aber trotzdem muss die Führungsstruktur und die Mannschaft im Rahmen einer notwendigen Restrukturierung so aufgebaut und angepasst werden, dass die Produktlinie leben kann. Ein ziemliches Dilemma? Eigentlich gar nicht.

Eine ähnliche Thematik kam vor einiger Zeit auf uns zu. 150 LEGO® -Männchen haben dabei geholfen, die Aufgabe zu bewältigen. In einem mehrtägigen Workshop wurden die Beteiligten in den Planungsprozess mit einbezogen. Anfangs wurden die notwendigen Veränderungen eher misstrauisch beäugt und ablehnend beurteilt. Aber durch die Simulation konnte die betriebliche Situation ganz deutlich und transparent gemacht werden. Die Führungskräfte können nun sehen, was notwendig ist und was auf sie zukommt. Damit stieg die Akzeptanz ganz erheblich und die Mannschaft trägt den angestrebten Veränderungsprozess jetzt mit. Und darauf kommt es ja an.

Restructure the machine park

Restructuring an existing production facility is no simple matter. After all, we are talking about a machine park that you don’t just hang on a hook and move around. Large foundations or media supplies have to be rebuilt, sometimes even roofs have to be opened to reposition machines.

In many companies, planning data such as machine utilisation, number of employees, throughput times are extremely inaccurate. If digital simulation of the work plan is not possible due to the data situation, then individual employee knowledge is all the more in demand. But it is still difficult to get all the information in the required scope and ultimately to keep track of it.

That’s why it’s important to get all the employees affected by a change around the table together with the managers and to focus communication in such a way that everyone is actually talking about the same thing and the interfaces also receive due attention. For this purpose, we have developed analogue simulation workshops in which all those present jointly shape the change process with their individual knowledge.

With the help of Lego® figures, we succeed in focusing on the desired topic and concentration on it. Everyone is visibly talking about the same process, nothing is forgotten. Everyone can actually see and imagine what is being talked about and how proposed changes affect adjacent areas.

A new workflow, internal logistics, staff deployment, for example, became transparent for all employees in a project. And at the same time, we create a wonderful side effect with our simulation every time, because: With the understanding of the initiated processes, acceptance also increases as a matter of course.