CASE STUDY – With plans to double capacity year on year in its new precision machining business, a Turkish company found in lean a way to control growth by stabilizing old processes while new ones are introduced.
Words: Baran Burat, General Manager, Çimtaş Precision Machining
At Çimtaş, we are all very much aware of the power of sustained improvements in ensuring our competitiveness. We have been at it for a while, in fact – since the 1990s.
Our initial efforts – supported by the visionary leadership of our former CEO Vedat Mimaroğlu first and of Cem Geyik, Vice President of the Çimtas Group, today – included the deployment of improvement tools like quality circles, gemba kaizens, basic problem solving techniques, and six sigma. It wasn’t until 2009 that lean thinking and practice became part of our company’s strategy to create value for customers, engage and develop people, and improve our processes.
Today, we can proudly say that lean permeates the culture of Çimtas’ many businesses – Çimtaş Gemlik Works, Çimtaş Module and Shipyard (Planet Lean published a case study on them, here), Çimtaş Ningbo (in China), Çimtaş Spool/Pipe/Fitting Works, and Çimtaş Precision Machining – from the security personnel at the entrance gates all the way up to top management.
With its 44 years of experience, our group provides customers in the construction, power, oil & gas and chemical industries with engineering, procurement, welded fabrication, machining, modularization, erection and installation services. We engineer and manufacture a wide range of products, from steel bridges to heat recovery steam generators, from combustion casings to pipe fitting components. As of 2015, we had shipped a total of 1 million tons of products.
In 2012, in a bid to capitalize on our knowledge and experience in the field and create a major long-term differentiator for our business, we founded Cimtas Precision Machining Industries and Trading. Our ability to build close tolerance parts – we have gone from millimeters to micrometers – with repeatable accuracy for demanding construction projects (from wind towers to bridges) is one of our competitive advantages.
The big investment we made in precision machining, however, risked being thwarted by our physical constraints: we had very limited space available in our plant, in the face of an ambitious growth plan that aimed to double our capacity year on year, while continuously increasing the number of product lines. Making this happen quickly became a priority for us as a business.
And it only made sense that a Cimtas priority would be dealt with using lean thinking. Critically, the lean model we put in place has given us the opportunity to control our growth, by allowing us to keep the production going – to meet customer demand and requirements – while new products (and production lines), technology and processes were being introduced. To grow our portfolio we invested in new buildings, machinery and technology, while increasing the size of our site. Indeed, thinking lean made us flexible, encouraged our people to work in teams, and boosted our quality performance – which in turn resulted in higher customer satisfaction.
Our ability to effectively align the work of the process engineering team, the construction team and the equipment supplier through lean project management has proved key to achieving sustainable growth. It meant that process parameters were defined at the equipment supplier’s site prior to shipment, so that our own site would be ready to install the equipment right after it arrived: this greatly minimized any wastes of time and allowed us to “fast-track” the introduction of new products – something our competitors could not do.