TenCate Grass streamlines production process
The TenCate Grass plant in Nijverdal has been rationalized. Steered by Erik Vogt (director TenCate Grass Europe), the operation involved the machinery layout, the logistics concept, stock management and manpower. The change means a clear improvement in more than one respect and, what’s more, the company has given substance to the two internal cornerstones of the TenCate business model: cost leadership and innovation. So process optimalization, to create a sound company with a future and make the difference for customers.
Because of a slight drop in market demand and in order to restore profitability, the Nijverdal plant of the Grass group has been rationalized. The TenCate Grass group has three production locations: Dubai, Dayton (USA) and Nijverdal. Dubai focuses chiefly on large volumes and commodity products, while Nijverdal and Dayton focus more on flexibility and specialties. The role of Nijverdal has changed and the company is now in the last phase of process optimalization. The production process has been accommodated in one hall and arranged more efficiently; the working capital has been reduced and the logistics process adjusted; and the number of jobs − from managers to operators − has been cut. All in all the production company has become smaller and more flexible, facilitating a much better response to customer demand. Seeing that Europe has the most customers, flexibility is a must from the geographical perspective.
‘We focus directly on customer demand, tailoring our production accordingly. Furthermore innovation is of paramount importance, and here you can also think of product renewal and process optimalization. It has become a different kind of company: smaller, more flexible and more innovative.’
‘Fixing the curl’
The entire production – compounding, extruding, twining and twisting (‘fixing the curl’) – is carried out in one hall, and here some millions of kilos of grass yarn are produced annually on five tape and five monofilament lines. Packing and internal transport have been fully automated by deploying AGVs (automatic guided vehicles), releasing the operators for broader tasking. In the new situation they have to become all-rounders and master a number of steps in the production process. Training is being provided for this purpose.
Personnel are also exchanged with TenCate Thiobac (backing for synthetic grass). The two companies have already been working two years together in such areas as sales, logistics, finance and production. Furthermore, since 2009 flexible teams for extrusion, twining and weaving have been used during peaks in the production process, and some employees can be deployed in both companies. This cooperation will be extended further.
The change process has been carried out in the low season, when ‘only’ half the production capacity needs to be used. Consequently production as such has suffered only limited disruption. Needless to say, the investment not only demonstrates but also inspires confidence. The workers recognize the necessity for the intervention, as well as its benefits. ‘We see the future in a positive light and really want to succeed.’
The storage space of 25,000 m² in Gildehaus (Germany), 65 km to the east, will be vacated, since fewer square metres will now suffice. In Almelo a new hall has been brought into service and divided into compartments − a compulsory procedure because of the high fire risk linked to synthetic turf. In addition the former production hall in Nijverdal will be used for storage purposes until and throughout the high season. Manufacturing used to be for stock but now there is a division between commodities and specialties: the former produced for stock, the latter produced to order. All the logistics, which used to be partly outsourced, are now in the company’s own hands.