Lean manufacturing takes a cost-saving leap forward

A smart new approach to inventory management marks a major move into adding value for customers by providing the services they need and want.

The concepts of just-intime inventory management and lean manufacturing can be traced back to Japan in the 1940s, when the shipyards had very few financial resources and so sought ways to minimize their inventory costs. The practice later became popularized worldwide by automaker Toyota. While techniques have changed, the basic concept remains the same: have just enough inventory on hand to keep your assembly lines humming, but not so much that you are needlessly using funds that could be more efficiently put to work elsewhere. That requires efficient monitoring of inventory levels and fast ways to order more before a plant runs out of the parts it needs to operate.

One of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions latest moves into services is Trelleborg’s IntelliStok® Advanced Delivery System, which seeks to advance that quest for optimum inventory management. IntelliStok, scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2020, is a vendormanaged inventory solution and enhancement to the company’s ServicePLUS program.

It essentially eliminates the need for companies to have someone walking around a manufacturing facility scanning bar codes on parts bins to find out which parts are running low and need to be reordered.

Trelleborg already had developed SealScan, a scanning system that allowed facility employees to use their iphone or ipad to scan those bin barcodes. But, IntelliStok takes that a step further. 

For IntelliStok, Trelleborg developed a pressure-based sensor pad which sits in the bottom of a parts bin. Using its own microcontroller and Wi-Fi technology, it automatically creates an order when the bin needs to be replenished with more parts. The device turns on periodically throughout the day to essentially keep an eye on parts inventory.

Unlike other advanced delivery options, the IntelliStok solution is designed to fit existing rack and bin systems without modifications. It eliminates the need to manually check or scan inventory and so has the potential to save thousands of dollars in labor costs each year.

IntelliStok also fits nicely into Trelleborg’s new service model. With IntelliStok, “we’re doing something unique — becoming one of the leaders in managing customer inventory,” says Will Bacon, ServicePLUS Segment Manager at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions. “I think it’s pretty exciting and think it will contribute to our growth strategy over the coming years.

“We have to look at services because customers need more services,” Bacon explains. “They want you to take on things not in their core value stream. If Trelleborg, by providing more services, can find ways to help customers focus on their core competencies, the company can increase its value to them,” Bacon says.

Offering more services can mean doing some subassembly work, such as inserting a seal into a piece of metal that goes on to be combined into a larger part, or it can mean streamlining a customer’s internal operations to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, as IntelliStok does.

“We want to get into those opportunities with key customers where we can offer that level of service to them,” Bacon says. “Couple that with Trelleborg’s strength in engineering and now you’re getting more of the complete package. It makes us a partner and it makes us very attractive to people.”

Getting sales staff to emphasize the benefits to our customers is key to marketing new services. “It’s important that we educate our sales engineers so they offer the best service to our customers,” Bacon says.

Sales people have started going through what is known as sales excellence training in which they learn about building relationships with customers that can help them identify service opportunities. Because of what they learned in that training, sales now has “a way to build those relationships,” Bacon says. The sales staff can analyze a customer’s needs and wants and match them to services that Trelleborg develops.

Bacon started in the sealing business in 1998. He has made his career in it ever since, initially working for a firm called AFM Inc., which Trelleborg bought in 2007, and staying on with Trelleborg since then. Along the way, he has worked in sales engineering, parts design, finance, warehouse management, operations and human resources; a diverse experience spectrum that makes him well qualified to oversee Trelleborg’s move into services with its ServicePLUS program. 


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