It is easy to say that we make high-quality products but it is considerably harder to verify this without official certificates. There are three tough foreign words behind the quality of Koskisen’s plywood products: Lean and Six Sigma.
Koskisen is known for its high-qualityproducts. Producing them requires not only extensive expertise and skill but also a knowledge of the customer’s production processes and the ways in which a product will react under different end uses.
Anna-Maaret Roppola, who has worked as Quality Manager of the Plywood Industry since 1996, says that the quality expectations of the customer have to be fulfilled every day. That means disciplined production, continuous internal and external quality control and certified measurements.
- Quality should be tested and argumented with the same tools that our customers have in use, says Roppola.
The quality control at Koskisen’s plywood factory is constant. It starts with the temperature measurements taken during log steaming and ends with storage of the finished product, taking in all aspects of plywood production along the way.
- Our production operators are true professionals and play the central role in quality control. A lot of production measurements are handled by them and our goal is to enhance quality in the long run. Our target is to eliminate mistakes and reduce variations and rejects , says Roppola.
In addition to the external quality control audits undertaken by VTT, we also undertake numerous customer-specific tests and quality controls. There have very rarely been any deviations or causes for complaint during inspections made by third parties.
- The product is easier for us to sell when it’s reliable, of uniform quality and certified. For example some of our customers require CARB-environmental certificate as a prerequisite for co-operation.
- Quality starts with the choice of the raw material; the right size log is chosen to fit the needs of the customer and product. The product is analysed and observed throughout production and this has helped us achieve better properties, for example in the case of the glue line shear strength. For us quality means first of all the reliability of the product in use and the good reputation that brings, says Roppola.
In addition to product quality, Koskisen has during recent years invested in the efficiency of it’s production processes with the aim of minimising loss. Six Sigma and Lean programmes have been helpful in polishing our production process even further.
- The first Six Sigma project concerning the thickness of the wet veneer was completed in 2005. The results were encouraging with the standard deviation of the wet veneer thickness being considerably reduced.
Roppola says that the Six Sigma tools are well suited for Koskisen, because there is a positive vibe in the method from the start. Mistakes are eliminated and deviation reduced by improving the capability of the process. The starting points for everything are costs and the potential for savings. We will seize on the matter that most needs developing.
At the moment there is a reliability project going on at the plywood factory concerning scaffolding board products, data is being collected from the product then analysed with test runs and multiple factor tests being made.
According to Anna-Maaret Roppola, the Six Sigma and Lean programmes go hand in hand even though they were developed on different sides of the world.
- Six Sigma is based on analysing processes whereas Lean starts from the basis of minimising loss and maintaining order. The one is based on products and the manufacturing process whereas the other is base upon doing the work and how the work is done. Taken together they go through the whole factory from floor to ceiling, summarises Roppola.
Anna-Maaret Roppola says that today the customers who operate as trend-setters in their fields, need to be shown substantiated results and facts regarding the quality of the products and production processes. These results can also help in proving that we at Koskisen we are able to achieve stricter tolerances than the limits require. With the help of continuous testing good products are processed to be even better. More and more customers are also requesting a guarantee for their products.
- We have lately been working hard on the traceability of products. It has been a fruitful excercise, because we can now trace the whole production process when needed - from the customer back to a single batch of gluing..
Roppola believes that the quality and traceability services sold along with the product will increase in the future and give the products added value, but without forgetting the basics.
- When the basic board is in order, it is easy to start developing new and innovative products to fit customer demands.
At Koskisen a continuous enhancement culture has been established according to Lean Management theory. It is a systematic way of working, whose target is the enhancement of production efficiency by developing production, personnel and the whole business. This Lean culture has been in place since last year.
Six Sigma is an enhancement and development method of management. The company management defines which issues are critical to the customer and what company need improvement and development. The management starts the Six Sigma process by giving a commission. The project is run by the Black Belt (BB). They are the person who has been trained in enhancement of performance and problem solving. The Black Belt has the know-how needed, manages the statistical methods, knows hot to run a project and achieve the desired result.