Based in the Dutch Achterhoek region, Royal Lovink Industries B.V. has a very loyal and committed staff. So, naturally, emotions ran high when the company received a royal distinction from Queen Beatrix on its 100th anniversary in 2011. And they say that people from the Achterhoek are restrained and serious. People are proud of their Lovink and quite rightly felt honoured.
But the award ceremony was not the only occasion when emotions have been stirred among the workforce in recent times. This was also initially the case during Accezz International’s programme to improve the company’s effectiveness. “People are often positive about change. However, going away from the familiar is always difficult and initially caused some quite emotional responses here,” says Dirk Jan van den Hout, Lovink’s managing director and co-owner. He adds, “It was time for this family business to gain better results from our mutual co-operation, which is why we chose to call this project ‘Fit for the Future’.”
Century-old strength built on co-operation
When established in 1911, Lovink was one of over 30 iron foundries along the Oude IJssel river. The ground in the region had bog iron, an ore from which iron is cast. This ore is no longer used today, Lovink now works with residual materials it buys and is 100% sustainable.
Dirk Jan van den Hout continues, “Accezz has helped us work more effectively in our Lovink Technocast Department, where cast-iron pan supports for the high-end segment are made. Among other things, the department also manufactures custom-made solutions for hydraulics, compressors and the truck industry. This includes turbo engines for trucks, which Lovink has designed in a way that has proven to produce less emissions.”
How culture impacts a production process
Some employees have worked at the company for many years.
Dirk Jan says, “We are, of course, very happy with that, but you do notice – perhaps because Lovink is a family business with such a long history – that a certain way of working has developed or has even become habitual. Prior to Accezz’s programme to improve our effectiveness, people rarely called each other to account on work-related matters, which was a real shame. When that happens, you don’t bring out the best in each other.”
He adds, “When operating within an organisational culture that encourages people to call one another to account, you are able to address specific issues and develop greater awareness of which goals you are working for as a team.”
To improve things, Accezz has implemented a production management system, which helps the company gain an overview of various aspects of its work, including scheduled activities, outstanding orders and required man-hours. Lovink now uses the ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ method that allows work processes to be continuously improved.
Since Accezz was brought in, Lovink has also been using frozen planning as much as possible. Dirk Jan states, “The casting process has a particularly large number of parameters.
It is quite an art to keep all these parameters within bandwidths that enable the manufacture of flawless products. That’s what makes iron casting so challenging and much more than just a production process: casting has a major impact on the planning of the processes that follow after. Previously, a few people were working like crazy each day to constantly adjust the schedule. Now this is much tighter, which means people are more productive. They know what’s coming next and what they’ll be working on during the week.”
Always room for improvement
Walking around the Lovink shop floor has always been fascinating and stirs the imagination. Since Accezz arrived, a few changes are obvious.
“See these planning boards?” asks Dirk Jan, “Sometimes this sort of tool works even better than the digital version because it is easy to see what’s expected of everyone.”
Another noticeable change is that communication is more efficient. Work meetings, for example, have become much more effective.
“As an extension of the changes, we expect to move forward in the coming period,” says Dirk Jan, “You also see supervisors walking around now. These positions were created by Accezz and ensure that management runs smoothly and operating processes have more structure.”
Continuous innovation on the banks of the Oude IJssel
How important was the Accezz programme for Lovink?
Dirk Jan: “Lovink has been hit hard by the crisis in recent years. The ‘double dip’ occurred and we had to take a lot of measures. This places work cohesion and processes under pressure. In addition, last year we invested a lot in updating the machinery. There was more than enough reason to call in experts to get everything back into gear. And Accezz gives a financial guarantee in advance, which was the deciding factor for us. We’re now fit for the future again!”
Dirk Jan van den Hout continues to look ahead and is building on the success of the effectiveness programme with Accezz. As the initiator of a ‘Smart Industry & Business Modelling’ masterclass for regional industry, Dirk Jan will soon be travelling to Silicon Valley along with other industrialists from the region. One of the things they will be doing while there is investigating how industrial processes can be strengthened by using technological developments. The aim is to make these processes more efficient and flexible and to improve their quality. They will also look at issues such as management, control and culture. This will allow Lovink to initiate the next phase of ‘Fit for the Future’!