The specialist in measurement and drive technology needed ergonomic work benches for its new production, sales and administrative centre.
A global manufacturer of sensors and positioning systems for mechanical engineering and industrial applications, SIKO GmbH has five subsidiaries and around 230 employees. Based in Buchenbach since 1963, the company decided in 2018 to construct a new building in Bad Krozingen, around 30 kilometres away – and the ground‑breaking ceremony took place there just a few months later. In the future, SIKO will be manufacturing its electronic products on a footprint of approximately 5,000 m². SIKO was looking for a partner to supply ergonomic work benches for the new building. The main requirements were that staff should be able to easily lay their hands on all the parts needed to make the company’s measuring equipment, and that the entire workflow should be designed and optimised on an ergonomic basis. With its modular and flexible Work Bench System, item offers the perfect solution. The proximity of the item regional centre in Freiburg was another decisive factor for SIKO. “We were in close contact throughout the project phase – an absolute must with a project of this size,” explains Lorenzo Tosoni from the item systems engineering sales team. item has designed and built some 100 work benches for this project.
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New ergonomic work benches – for modular and flexible use
The measuring equipment and systems produced by SIKO are made up of numerous individual components that are joined together in several stages to create assemblies and, ultimately, finished products. The existing work benches at the old Buchenbach site were from various manufacturers and couldn’t be flexibly adapted to different requirements. Storing all the different profiles was also tricky. “To optimise our warehousing, we were keen to settle on a single manufacturer. With item, we can create standard work benches quickly and efficiently, make all kinds of modifications, integrate accessories and even configure custom systems,” says SIKO’s Head of Lean Management. In other words, ergonomic work benches can be created with the greatest of ease thanks to the item Work Bench System. The joint project started back in late 2016 with cardboard engineering. A cardboard model was used to reproduce the SIKO assembly line. Adhering closely to the principles of lean production, the aim was to develop workflow and material flow systems with minimal waste and to work as a team to put new ideas and proposed solutions directly to the test using the model.
With item, we can create standard work benches quickly and efficiently, make all kinds of modifications, integrate accessories and even configure custom systems.
Following the concept development phase, a prototype was produced with direct support from item. During this stage, the experts carefully scrutinised the workflows at each assembly station so that ergonomic work benches could be created in all areas. To prepare an assembly, employees take individual parts from the various containers and put them together at their work bench. The existing work benches used superstructures to bring the production material within reach of workers. Originally, this material was behind assembly staff, which was neither ergonomic nor efficient. SIKO was therefore looking for a solution to separate logistics from value creation. The entire production process was also to be optimised. There was, however, a problem to overcome here – when work benches two to three metres long were arranged in a row, staff had to cover quite a distance when carrying out the individual steps. When they had put together their assembly at the end of the row of benches, they then had to return to the start of the row to go back to the first step.
Optimised workflows thanks to ergonomic work benches laid out in a U-shaped arrangement
Having determined the number and size of containers for the individual parts, item defined the dimensions and structure of the ergonomic work benches, also configuring additional components such as roller conveyors. In addition to work benches based on standardised dimensions, SIKO also uses special, narrower benches for inspection and packaging processes, while standard benches are used for preliminary and main assembly operations. SIKO is utilising various special components from item for the standard benches. Material is supplied on roller conveyors, for example. Moreover, the U-shaped arrangement of the ergonomic work benches in the production areas also improves workflows, with staff only needing to cover a short distance for the entire operation – from assembly all the way through to product packaging. “The efficient bench arrangement offers significant benefits for staff. Reducing stocks of materials and organising everything based on the material flow also saved us a lot of space,” reports the lean expert from SIKO.
Reducing stocks of materials and organising everything based on the material flow saved us a lot of space.
SIKO is also using the item ergonomic work benches in production‑related areas such as the workshop and engineering offices. Their height-adjustable design means they can be adapted perfectly to the staff assigned to them. The ideal height is stored and can be called up again at any time. Thanks to integrated synchronous control, all work benches arranged in an U‑shape move to the pre-programmed height simultaneously. At the start of a new shift, the correct setting can be called up within a matter of seconds to create optimum ergonomic working conditions for employees at all times. item SystemMobiles L and U perfectly complement the work stations as a means of moving materials from A to B. Logistics staff can use them to transport components from incoming goods and the warehouse to the relevant work bench for assembly. Further, SystemMobiles supply small components that are required less often in an U‑shaped line but are still important for special variants, so staff can convert their workstation themselves in no time at all. This ensures SIKO can assemble even special variants quickly.
Flexible design and collaboration between partners
SIKO makes its products in a number of variants, which means a great many different components need to be available at the work bench. A flexible arrangement of ergonomic work benches with different dimensions is therefore an absolute must for producing the measuring equipment and systems efficiently. This is where SIKO really benefits from the wide variety of ways that item components can be used together. What’s more, these components are mutually compatible, flexible and suitable for customised use, which means standard benches can be modified with the minimum of effort, even for small batch sizes. SIKO keeps some profiles and accessories such as keyboard shelves, hooks and magnets in stock in the relevant workshops at the two sites. If additional components are required, item can supply these within 24 hours.
Thanks to the reliability of supplies from item, SIKO can convert its production at short notice and adapt it to different requirements whenever it wants.
“That means we can convert our production at short notice and adapt it to different requirements whenever we want,” explains the lean expert. “The catalogue item provides on its website with all its numerous products is another advantage.” Thanks to the trusting partnership and streamlined processes, the large-scale project was successfully completed on schedule. “Although so many people were involved in the project, the process ran smoothly,” underlines the Head of Lean Management.
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