Cutting delivery timeframes

From the January 2019 issue.

Dutch heavy equipment specialist, Broshuis, has invested in advanced production technologies to remain competitve. Global Trailer takes a closer look at the OEM’s latest in-house development, Broshuis Production Parts.

Being successful with new, innovative, products that have attracted the attention of customers from all over the world actually has a downside: Delivery timeframes start to grow. Broshuis, the Dutch manufacturer of heavy duty transport equipment, developed a new production hall with state-of-the--art machinery and named it Broshuis Production Parts, in order to speed up trailer production. 

Broshuis offers a wide range of low loaders and semi low loaders as well as container chassis. Customers can choose from regular axles, pendulum axles as well as independent wheel suspension.
The economic recovery over the past few years, and a range of new innovations – leading to a wider choice  of trailers – has resulted in some cases to a longer delivery timeframe. This is not only the case at Broshuis, it’s being seen everywhere in Europe at the moment. Looking for a solution, it became clear that there were possibilities in reducing delivery times of trailer parts that up until recently, were purchased from suppliers. 

“In order to avoid long waiting times, you’d better in-source as many activities as you can, as in that case, you can adapt to customers’ wishes much more easily and quickly,” according to Broshuis. “Getting many parts from suppliers is only successfull when you build trailers in larger series.”

The new way of producing doesn’t mean that Broshuis is leaving its relations with its suppliers.

“We still expect to be needing our suppliers for other purposes and other reasons in the near future”, the OEM clarified.

There were only 16 months between the decision to go for a new production hall and a separate company that handles the steel parts that need a treatment to fit exactly in the manufacturing process of the trailers, according to Broshuis. “The aim from the beginning was to let the best software play a key role and not the production and the machines, no matter how important they still are of course.”

Steel plates
Broshuis now receives a trailer full of steel plates every day. They are three metres by 1.5 metres and have a thickness of up to 25mm. From these plates, Broshuis cuts the various parts. This is done by a number of brand new machines, the latest available in the business. Broshuis’ objective was to design the new production hall from scratch, where the machines work all day and where machines get their order from just one digital 3D file. So no paperwork, no stock somewhere halfway the process and no disruptions. The software programs required are ready before the process takes place, eliminating the need for work preparation and bookkeeping.

From three weeks to four hours
A process that normally took three weeks at Broshuis, will be shortened to a matter of hours. “At the moment, we have not reached that yet, we’re hovering around one day now,” Broshuis admits. “However we are still working to gear up to the maximum capacity we can reach with this new facility. We would never plan our new facility for a hundred per cent. Just 80 per cent will do. In doing so, there’s always room to execute a special project. We can do this so much more quickly than in the past, that customers won’t even notice.”

Broshuis explained that like any production process, there is always a risk that something may not go as planned. With this kind of planning, the equipment specialist leaves some room for possible disruptions anywhere.

This all follows the philosophy of Quick Response Manufacturing: Instead of focusing on the lowest cost, management should focus on fast, flawless production without disturbences. The benefits are higher than higher cost, especially when in the business of producing special, bespoke trailers.
Drawings 

At present, Broshuis is finalising the process of transferring 3D drawings of its products to its computer network.

“There are around 12,000 drawings that need to be brought into the system,” Broshuis said. “They must be 3D drawings, but we still have some 2D drawings as well. We have to rework them all to assure our salesforce that any trailer will be sold quicker than in the past. We are not entirely there yet.”

Broshuis says it expects to finish this part of the project by March 2019.

Investments
Broshuis invested €8 million into its new production facility. The company was looking for state-of-the-art machinery in order to guarantee its customers a more constant delivery quality. The main operations comprise cutting steel in all dimensions with the highest possible, highest available accuracy. The company also invested in press brakes and a long tube laser. Broshuis is said to be one of the companies using the new technology of direct diode laser. This technology reportedly ensures quicker and better cutting performances.

Broshuis invested in a new ERP-system as well, as being the basis for paperless production and for keeping an eye on all supplies. A method was developed to deal with the steel left over after the cutting manoeuvres. Steel is picked up immediately and dealt with. The production process requires only a modest place for storing 53 pallets of parts ad six pallets to deal with materials left over from the production process.

Further growth
Broshuis intends to grow after having experienced success with its new generations of low loader and semi low loader trailers. The company says it is now generating a turnover of  65 million, which should grow to 100 million within a few years. The company employs 375 workers now, at the new hall there’s only twelve personnel onsite. Still at their annual event, Broshuis will invite local schools to visit the premises, just to try and recruit more people to join the industry. Broshuis produces around a thousand trailers annually, among the low loader variants, including a number of container chassis. With its new production facility, Broshuis intends to improve it’s profit margin, overall quality and customer satisfaction. A shorter time between ordering and delivering will be key to reach these goals.

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