Ms Neuß, what was the biggest challenge with this project?
We built this plant from scratch on a greenfield site and made new investments in almost all production and assembly processes. We critically examined all existing processes and, where it made sense to do so, completely redesigned them. For example, we introduced painting processes that have never been used before at Linde. That presents its own challenges, of course. But because we had a good team we were able to overcome these.
What makes the plant unique?
What makes this plant unique is that we are relying much more on IT solutions. We are looking to shape the processes a lot more, we want to manage them, and we no longer want to allow a situation in which everyone does what they want to a certain extent. Everything that we are striving for with Logistics 4.0 or Industry 4.0, i.e. complete networking of processes – we think we've achieved that here for the first time in KION's history.
So the plant is a smart factory. What does that mean in practice?
Let's take MES, the manufacturing execution system, as an example, a system that we've introduced for the first time here. It means that employees working on both mast and cab assembly are guided through their work online. They have to give appropriate feedback with regard to the quality aspects. Quite simply these are things that are very new for us. We know from the feedback where the product is in the manufacturing process. Quality criteria can be accessed online. That's what we are looking to achieve today as a smart factory.
Profile of the plant
Director CZ: Johann Brunner
Plant manager: Radek Cermak
Ground-breaking/start of construction: 11/11/2014
Start of production: 04/01/2016
KION brands: Linde Material Handling
Size/area: Building: 200m x 120m (24,000 qm production area)
10,000 – 12,000 trucks/year
Vehicle type: Family 1120 Linde Material Handling
Features: Smart factory equipped with Manufacturing Execution System, most modern plant of the KION Group
To what extent is the plant a blueprint for other new KION Group plants?
In this plant we have tried to go in entirely new directions, and that is of course only possible if you have a little bit of freedom. You can't do experiments while production is fully up and running. Here it's possible to do a slightly smaller pilot run every now and then. You can then fine tune this as necessary. And when you reach the stage where you can say "That's it!" then you can transfer the results to the other factories.
The Czech Republic is considered an attractive location for international companies. Has that proved to be the case for you and if so, in what respects?
The Czech Republic is almost perfect as a location for two main reasons: it has a long tradition in the engineering and automotive industries, and it has lots of experienced and highly skilled workers. The infrastructure is also pretty much ideal. We are right next to the main highway between Nuremberg and Prague. The location is easy to reach with great road links and the airport in Prague. This infrastructure makes it easy to have materials brought here and to ship the finished products out. It's just brilliant. What's more, we're only around three hours from Aschaffenburg by car. That's why this location is so attractive.
What was your personal highlight in this project? What worked particularly well?
It was important to get everyone on board, to explain that we were looking to go in new directions and to put the tried and the tested under scrutiny. But always with the new concept in mind. And I can't stress enough how important it was to get people on board! You can't do anything just by yourself. You need your colleagues and their ideas. Otherwise you can just forget about this kind of project.