Safer and cleaner assembly work thanks to Erica

Replace oil with vaseline. Erica Lundell’s straightforward idea has made assembly work at Powertrain Production in Köping, Sweden, both safer and cleaner.
Erica Lundell won the 2015 award at Powertrain in Köping for her suggestion to replace oil with vaseline during the assembly of the bearing rings.

Erica Lundell won the 2015 award at Powertrain in Köping for her suggestion to replace oil with vaseline during the assembly of the bearing rings.

At Gearbox Asssembly at Volvo Group Powertrain Production in Köping, Sweden, the employees are expected to live up to ambitious expectations. The target is for each and every one of them to contribute at least 11 improvements a year.

For Erica Lundell and her colleagues at pre-assembly, this represents an average of six suggestions a week.

“Work on improvements is important. It helps me to feel involved and also makes me feel I can influence my workplace,” says Erica Lundell, an assembly worker.

At the end of last year, she had grown tired of all the sticky oil that was used in assembling bearing races. She filled in a simple questionnaire – Quick Kaizen – with a suggestion to replace this oil with vaseline.

“Erica’s suggestion is as simple as it is brilliant. It impacts so many aspects: safety, quality and the environment. The overall effect is the greatest advantage,” says manager Pontus Brolin, who is responsible for one of the teams working at assembly.

Each working day begins with a joint morning meeting where the agenda includes a discussion of suggested improvements. It is then up to the team to decide whether to take the suggestions further.

“We see improvements as a natural part of our work. Everyone is familiar with the targets, so we don’t need to talk about them every day,” says Pontus Brolin.

Last year, the co-workers at Powertrain Production in Köping submitted lots of suggestions for improvements. Taken as a whole, they are resulting in major benefits.

“The suggestions for improvements from my team here at assembly alone resulted in savings of SEK 1.2 million (about USD150.000). The year before, the figure was SEK 1.3 million – fantastic figures,” says Pontus Brolin.

One way of showing appreciation and creating engagement in the work on continuous improvement is the Operations Excellence Award (OEA). It was introduced in 2011 at all the Powertrain Production plants worldwide.

Every month in Köping, the best ten suggestions are spotlighted and the winner is presented with flowers, a diploma and a gift voucher. An annual champion is chosen from the monthly winners who then meets the champions from the other plants at a global ceremony.

The reward for Erica Lundell’s suggestion to replace the oil with Vaseline was a trip to Lyon in France.

“The prizes are a way of confirming that what we do is seen. Everyone wants to come up with good ideas and I am constantly thinking of new things,” she says.