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RUTHMANN optimizes production and supply management after enormous increase in new orders

RUTHMANN is continuing to report increasing sales and production figures amidst a job market that remains stubbornly sluggish. RUTHMANN has now revealed how it is responding to this challenge.

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RUTHMANN has adopted a variety of measures which allow the German truck-mounted work platform specialist to meet the needs of the general market and address the overall demand for greater efficiency. The fact that a STEIGER ® unit consists of approximately 1,500 individual parts must be taken into consideration whenever output is increased.

The first step for RUTHMANN was to significantly improve the level of professionalism in production management. Secondly, the company worked hand in hand with the entire production team to improve its structural and fabrication methods. In September 2012, another optimization project will be launched.

All improvements and agreements are based on advanced planning by means of a sophisticated IT system that RUTHMANN utilizes. Many measures and control systems are comparable to those used in the automotive industry. Unfortunately, the truck-mounted aerial platform sector is commission-based, and there is no large-scale production. This makes RUTHMANN’s job considerably more difficult.

Despite these challenges and increased production figures, RUTHMANN customers do not have to wait long to take delivery of their work platforms. Furthermore, the company is able to satisfy almost every conceivable customer need and quality is never compromised. Having sufficient buffer inventory available for spot transactions is an integral part of production planning. Management knows that without spot transactions, there is simply not enough medium to mid-term customer orientation to achieve the level of success that RUTHMANN enjoys today. A strategy was developed to facilitate spot contracts without interrupting the normal workflow. A certain (but not excessive) amount of extra inventory must therefore always be on hand. Production managers are always planning ahead, but recognize the importance of remaining flexible.

RUTHMANN also expects the same degree of flexibility from its suppliers. Even though the company has many different suppliers, it has strived to achieve a close working relationship with each and every one of them.

RUTHMANN’s slogan,”professionals at work”, also reflects its approach to supply management. The company is constantly in touch with its suppliers and works hand in hand with them on a personal level in order to get the job done to everyone’s satisfaction. RUTHMANN only works with suppliers whose quality standards are as high as its own. RUTHMANN makes framework and call order agreements, expects flexibility, and even imposes penalties in order to measure the success/failure of collaboration. The company depends on its suppliers 100%. Because RUTHMANN imposes penalties for non/improper performance, suppliers know just how serious the company is when it comes to professionalism at all levels.

RUTHMANN once had a high level of in-house production (vertical range of manufacture). Those days are over. Today RUTHMANN’s core competencies lie in other areas such as the development, production, sales, and service of STEIGER and CARGOLOADER ® models. Production does not mean that every screw and every cylinder has to be made on company premises. RUTHMANN is known for its manufacturing competence, but it is the company’s unrivalled know-how in assembly that sets it apart from the rest. Management believes that an above-average increase in production and maximum flexibility are not achievable if the vertical range of manufacture is too high.
 
RUTHMANN also relies on temporary employment agencies to help overcome production hurdles. Internally, the company refers to the use of temporary staff as a “strategic hiring”.

As soon as external workers arrive at RUTHMANN they are treated like one of the family. In a sense, they become RUTHMANN employees. If they are able to adapt, they have a very good chance of being hired on a full-time basis. The company pays temporary workers above-average wages. The temporary employment agencies that RUTHMANN relies upon are IQZ certified (Initiative Qualitätssiegel Zeitarbeit). This seal of approval is recognized throughout Germany. It assures that temporary workers are treated and compensated fairly and reflects what RUTHMANN has always believed in. For years, the company has been relying on apprenticeship programs and temporary employment agencies to cope with generational change and the shortage of skilled workers. RUTHMANN is well-known and has an excellent reputation. Job vacancies are filled by highly-qualified applicants almost immediately after they are posted.

Environmentally-friendly and sustainable production methods are important to RUTHMANN and not only because customers increasingly make their decisions based upon these concerns. RUTHMANN views these market changes as an opportunity and not as an additional task that increases effort and expenses. The company believes it is on the right track and a major step ahead of the competition.

As part of the ECOPROFIT project, RUTHMANN has drastically reduced electricity, waste, heating, and paper consumption. Waste paper no longer ends up in the garbage bin. The tightness of the compressed air network has improved immensely and the compressors are much more energy efficient. The 12 EDP servers have been virtualized. Photovoltaic panels produce electricity on the company’s own premises. Currently a 300,000 Euro investment in the machining centre will lead to a substantial reduction in both CO2 emissions and energy consumption. All employees are environmentally-conscious. Their combined effort allows RUTHMANN to think economically but act sustainably.

RUTHMANN does everything in its power to reduce accidents and business disruptions. This is even more important when manufacturing firms work at full capacity over an extended period of time. RUTHMANN has also been very successful in this area because accident rates have dropped significantly. The process has only just started. As part of the continual improvement process (CIP), RUTHMANN constantly finds new ways to make improvements. Accident prevention is always on the agenda whenever department heads hold meetings with their employees.
 
The real breakthrough however, has been achieved through mutual understanding amongst employees in all departments. This teamwork mentality is a direct result of the company’s qualification matrixes, which involves job enrichment and job rotation. This made it possible for professional welders, who had previously only been welding, to become qualified in other areas of expertise such as vehicle preparation and base-frame mounting. With the additional introduction of time accounts and shift systems, RUTHMANN has drastically improved operations and increased flexibility.
 
Economically speaking of course, the company’s ultimate goal is to maximize efficiency and workload capacity on a continuous basis.
 
RUTHMANN wishes to maintain and even expand its extraordinary welding, painting, and assembly know-how. The market economy and quality must always be monitored however, in order to remain competitive. The potential lies in productivity which should see continued improvements. There is an area of conflict between reproducibility and process stability when handcrafted machinery is manufactured in small lot sizes.

Source: Ruthmann GmbH & Co. KG