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Go and See in the Form of a Study Tour
, 22. 08. 2016

We want to improve; however, we do not know how to do it. We suffer from the company blindness and we would like to be inspired by the „better plants". Our people say the methods we want to implement work nowhere and we would like to show them positive examples. During meetings in these companies these sentences can be heard from the managers who want to find some help with solving these problems. One of the forms of this „aid" can be an excursion during which we can „touch" things from the practical point of view. Not in vain we say: „It is better to see once than to hear hundred times.”

Also this year IPA Slovakia has organised the European Study Tour 2016 for fifteen employees of the partner companies. During one week we visited enterprises in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.

The main slogans of this action were:

  • Inspiration for the future
  • Information and experience directly from the investigators and owners of the process
  • Learning from the best and an opportunity to compare with them
  • Making contacts
  • Lat but not least to know the culture, to taste traditional meals and to see beautiful towns

We did our best to choose the best companies. The Japanese and German approach, series but also custom production, the automotive but also traditional operations. But also this Tour brought something special. We succeeded in mixing an interesting cocktail for each participant and during the excursions in the companies Koyo, Kiekert, Lean Centrum and theplant Škoda, Linet, VölklStraubing, the brewery Erdinger and finally the company KTM everybody found inspiration for himself/herself.

We started in Žilina on Monday. The first stop was the top company Koyo Bearings Česká republika s. r. o. in Bystovahy near Olomouc. The Company Director himself showed us round the enterprise which is the leader in manufacturing rolling bearings. He presented us the Japanese approach and principles based on visualisation, simplicity and everyday work with people. If people during the pilot project „understand and acquire" the knowledge, then the subsequent effect of the implemented methods is excellent. The appreciation is expressed by the confidence of the Japanese owners for the local management.

Figure 1: Aphotograph on the entrance hall of the Koyo Company

We moved to the town Přelouč where the company Kiekert-CS, s. r. o. has its plant. It is the largest producer of the car locks in the world. The key term in the company is the word innovation and this is proved by abig number of patents. We could see ahigh automation level of assembly and especially of logistics which is able to realise alot of activities autonomously – e.g. optimising the arrangement of the material, stocktaking, preparing parts according to the needs of production and alot of others things. An interesting phenomenon is that the company (due to maintaining flexibility and frequent changes of the product design of their products) designs the lines for making the locks by itself.

Figure 2: Aphotograph in front of the company Kiekert

We move to Mladá Boleslav for us to see how the company Škoda Auto trains its employees. We visited the largest Lean Centre Škoda. In this training centre (its area is almost 6,000 m2) they provide courses covering the basic skills, e.g. agood reach to the tools or following activities, up to the most complicated assembly activities – e.g. the assembly of the wiring knots.

Škoda trains here six to seven thousand employees ayear – people who want to work in the company or who have to be re-trained for other specialisations. We could see here perfect trainings in the area of productivity, balancing the lines, standardisation, ergonomics, TPM and logistics.

Figure 3: The building of the Lean Centre Škoda

Our next stopover was in asmall village Želievčice near the town Slaný. The company Linet producing the hospital beds is very attractive especially by alarge number of innovations and it belongs to the world leaders in this area. The story of the company, whose owner built amodern company from the premises of aformer cooperative farm and which has already taken over some competitors in Europe, is unique. In the production with alarge number of technologies and on the assembly lines we could see alot of interesting solutions increasing especially the productivity of work.

Figure 4: Aphotograph in front of the company LINET

As we say - it’s too much of agood thing. Therefore the third day was of a „less technical" character. After four excursions it was necessary to create aspace for absorbing the ideas and the city of Munich suits this purpose perfectly. It offers alot of interesting places and we chose the BMW museum and the football stadium Allianz Arena of Bayern Munich for the participants. It was interesting to find out that also at the stadium we could see inspirations in the area of manufacturing. The terms – throughput from the stadium, e.g. during leaving the stadium, the simple visualisation, capacity, re-setting the seats to places for standing and innovations – are not common only for production but also for a „company" like afootball stadium.

Figue 5: Agroup of participants in front of the stadium

After the „free" day the next stopover was a small town Strauging where the company Völkl International has its seat. In the company producing especially the down hill skis we could go through he manufacturing process from designing new models up to the dispatch. We could see the workplace layout had not been that strict and the employees also wore non-standardised clothes. On the other hand, the working pace and quality were very good.

The last but one stopover was of adifferent character than the previous ones. We visited the brewery Erdinger Weissbier, aproducer of the globally most popular wheat beer. During athree-hour programme we could follow the complex brewery process including bottling and we enjoyed also degustation.

The last stop of the journey back across Austria was in the company KTM. The fans of the motor sport came into their own and the excursion across the assembly and production of motors was enriched also by the guide who has been working in the company for twenty years and has rich experience not only from the present but also from the history of the enterprise. The slogan „KTM Must Go" makes this brand exceptional and the customers have awaiting list for anew motorbike. It is interesting that KTM has its own apprentice school whose graduates remain to work in KTM. The Trade Unions constructively collaborates with the company top management and we could also recognise an emphasis on the movement economy and ergonomics.

On Friday evening, after 2,200 kilometres of demanding transfers we returned back home. However, we were full of inspirations, experiences and we took alot of photographs. The participants´ feedback says it was an instructive week and they would not hesitate to take part in such an action also in the future.

IPA Slovakia is preparing a similar Study Tour in autumn 2016 during which we will also visit several interesting companies in Central Europe.

If you have been attracted by our programme, we will be happy if you join us. The final programme, terms and details of this action will be published on our web site We are looking forward to meeting you at our next Tour.

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