The Next level of Production

Daniel Tilgner

Managing Director of Burgmann Packings Group

As a manufacturer of high-quality products, we would like to offer added-value to our partners serving these end-users by providing them a top-quality product with an uncompromised end-to-end traceability meeting and exceeding these standards.”

Mr. Tilgner, in the recent months Burgmann Packings in China has implemented large-scale changes in Production. Please tell us more about it.

Burgmann Sealing Materials Co., Ltd. in Cixi is the biggest manufacturing plant in the Group. Founded as a state-owned enterprise in 1978 Burgmann Packings acquired the company in 2004. The plant manufacturers a wide range of gaskets and packings for both, the domestic market in China and for our growing international customer base. The improvements we have realized in the last months focused predominantly on the manufacturing of Spiral Wound Gaskets. This is by far the most important product we produce in our facility in China. 

What triggered the improvement project? 

There is an ever-increasing risk that physical products are not what they claim they are. End-users, like large international refining companies, have therefore stricter demands in the area of supply chain traceability and product authenticity. We believe that this is a positive trend, as our products play a crucial role in plant safety and efficiency, but are mostly invisible. However, an unplanned shutdown can cost millions of dollars. As a manufacturer of high quality products, we would like to offer added-value to our partners serving these end-users by providing them a top-quality product with an uncompromised end-to-end traceability meeting and exceeding these standards. 

Please describe the implemented changes in more detail.

The project did involve almost every functional area in our company as it covers the whole value chain starting in the manufacturing plant of our raw material suppliers up to the final packaging and labelling of the finished product in our plant. Identifying the interfaces, defining improved processes and documentation standards and thoroughly look for high-risk areas to mitigate potential errors right from the beginning was crucial. We have been working in a cross-functional team and also visited state-of-the art manufacturing plants, including the Porsche plant in Leipzig, Germany to learn from the best. The impressions and ideas we obtained from these visits helped us to challenge what we took for granted so far. We then worked out a game plan to implement the necessary changes e.g. in infrastructure, documentation standards and work flows. 

What was the most difficult part? 

I sometimes refer to a heart surgery, because production went on during that time on record levels and all team members did work on the project besides their normal day-to-day tasks. All of them did go the extra mile and showed a great dedication and passion. Without the buy-in of Operations, Quality Management and the entire local Management team such a project would probably fail. In the end of the day the difference was made on the shop-floor, where the ap- propriate leadership and management skills were essential to lead such a change initiative to success. 

Another challenge was the existing building infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, the plant was constructed 40 years ago. This means, that we had to find work arounds in material flow and warehouse management, which would not be necessary in large and open space facility – but we made it work! 

If a customer orders spiral Wound gaskets from Burgmann Packings today. What is the difference compared to last year?

We now have a system in place that enables us to track back every single component of a Spiral Wound Gaskets to its origin. Let’s take an example: The inner ring of such a product might have been produced on our Laser cutter from an off-cut we had in stock. This off-cut is now carrying not only the information, which stainless steel type the off-cut is made of, e.g. SS304, but also the heat number. The operators are processing this information in our system, which enables us to provide the corresponding MTR’s and certificates in the end. The same is applicable for batch and heat numbers of the other components of the final product. From the different heat numbers and batch numbers we’re creating a serial number or barcode, e.g. for the product label. This documented recorded identification of each component helps our partners to meet strictest compliance requirements globally.

What are the next steps, then?

Besides the Track & Trace project we have initiated a Lean project in Operations last summer. We have focused on one production line so far and have defined best practices, KPI’s and we developed a special reward system for our operators. We also reached out to other companies to learn from their experiences. Böllhoff in Wuxi was extremely supportive and still serves as the benchmark for us when it comes to Lean and 5S practices. In the near future we would like to roll out the new standards step by step to the entire production in China.