Operational Excellence: A Milestone in the Automotive Industry

Case Study

Operational Excellence: A Milestone in the Automotive Industry


The Company

A leading company in the automotive interior supply sector, part of a renowned business group, specializes in the production of flexible polymeric components for the high-end automotive market. With over five decades of experience, it has become an essential supplier to major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) since 1971. Currently, it is one of the largest suppliers in its segment in the European market, a result of a resilient business strategy and long-term vision, translating into a continuous increase in its market share in premium segments.

The Challenge

Faced with a dynamic and challenging automotive sector, the company encountered various challenges, including:

  • Adherence to rigorous quality requirements and compliance with certification standards;
  • The need to offer innovative, sustainable, and customized solutions;
  • Pressure to shorten development deadlines;
  • Expectations of significant growth and increased demand.

More specifically, the company faced a 30% increase in quality tests for the same volume of production, reflecting not only higher quality standards but also a considerable increase in the costs associated with these tests. Additionally, the number of production prototypes had significantly increased, reflecting the need to innovate and offer customized solutions to customers.

The need to reduce the average size of production batches and, consequently, increase the frequency of setups, complicated production logistics, increasing downtime and reducing equipment availability. This scenario was aggravated by the growing cost associated with non-conformities and waste in the process, highlighting a clear need for optimization and implementation of continuous improvement practices to mitigate these challenges.

The Approach

In the face of these challenges, the company implemented an improvement project to revitalize its production processes and ensure continuous improvement. This strategy focused on optimizing operations, reducing waste, improving quality, and fostering a culture of innovation and efficiency throughout the organization. The adopted approach included:

  • Kobetsu Kaizen: focusing on reducing defects and waste through the creation of a statistical analysis framework to identify causes of non-quality, standardization of semi-finished product references, redesigning the process of utilizing scrap and standardizing operations for changing bobbins and creating splices.
  • Increased productivity in semi-finished product facilities: where demand analysis and team sizing according to takt time allowed for process redesign and workspace reorganization, aiming for a more efficient workflow.
  • Autonomous maintenance: with the analysis of downtime history and the definition of specific maintenance tasks, aimed at increasing equipment availability.
  • SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Die): to improve setup times through identification of the critical path, creation of setup kits and implementation of visual management.
  • Production planning model: which included dedicating products by factory to level capacities, analyzing production constraints, and developing tools for planning optimization.
  • Increased laboratory productivity: through demand analysis, team sizing and process automation, aiming for greater operational efficiency.
  • Laboratory planning model: with the definition of maximum deadlines for tests, grouping tests by methods and developing tools for automating planning.
  • Optimization of quality control tests: applying advanced statistical analyses and developing algorithms for defining test frequencies and sample sizes.
  • Daily Kaizen: implementing management indicators and dashboards for monitoring KPIs and promoting regular management, supervision, and Gemba meetings.
  • Value Stream Kaizen: through the implementation of an annual process of opportunity analysis and creating a schedule of Kaizen events, along with the adoption of the Kobetsu Kaizen methodology for structured problem resolution.

This integrated approach made it possible not only to tackle the challenges identified, but also to establish a culture of continuous improvement, which is essential for the company’s long-term sustainability and growth.


The implementation of the Kaizen project in the company produced significant and transformative results over its execution period. The adopted strategy resulted in a significant 23% reduction in costs associated with non-quality and waste relative to billing, demonstrating a direct impact on cost efficiency and the company’s financial sustainability. This process was complemented by a substantial 5 percentage point increase in the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of the company.

One of the most impressive aspects of the results was the 45% increase in the productivity of the quality laboratory, an improvement that not only allowed the company to accelerate its quality control processes but also to improve the accuracy and reliability of test results. This optimization contributed to a 90% reduction in the backlog of laboratory tests, facilitating a quicker response to production needs and quality demands.

Additionally, there was a 20% reduction in the average number of tests per product, indicating greater effectiveness in the development phase and material selection, thus reducing the time and resources spent on repetitive tests. The implementation of the Team Development program in 35 teams catalyzed a culture of continuous improvement within the company, leading to 32 Kaizen Events.

Financially, the project translated into an impressive annual saving of approximately 43% over three years.

In summary, the results achieved by the project in the company prove the effectiveness of continuous improvement methodologies. Through the optimization of processes, reduction of waste and implementation of sustainable production practices, the company effectively addressed its challenges, establishing a solid foundation for future growth and innovation.

This case study demonstrates the transformative impact that the Kaizen methodology can have on a company, by promoting continuous improvements in processes, quality, and operational efficiency.

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