Your Source for Designing Critical Parts in Core Systems:
In our last blog post dedicated to manufacturing, we shared exciting news that Saint-Gobain Seals is further expanding capabilities at our Kontich, Belgium site to specifically address advanced polymer needs in two emerging industries - aerospace and life sciences, in addition to supporting the oil and gas industry. Growth in global aerospace and defense is due to increased passenger travel and the race to space while potential has grown in healthcare as a result of increasing aging populations, greater focus on wellness and a digital mindset, overall, in life sciences.
Although the site has been working in aerospace and life sciences for years, due to these increased opportunities, it will now concentrate to specifically meet growing customer needs through several initiatives such as new construction, structural team changes, increased digitization and a greater focus on employee centricity. These initiatives will ensure that Saint-Gobain Seals is well-poised to consistently produce quality seals and other polymer critical parts for extreme environments as well as continue to support major oil and gas customers who rely on our custom, unique designs (such as large diameter seals) for energy production, nuclear fusion, renewables, floating production, and other applications.
This strategic direction not only prioritizes our customer needs but also increases our global focus, customization and speed. It is based on The Kontich management team’s five-year road map for the site, which is regularly reviewed based on its contribution to the overall Saint-Gobain High Performance Solutions’ and Saint-Gobain Seals’ strategies, as well as successful operational practices at other Saint-Gobain sites. By leveraging extensive global experience in life sciences, aerospace, and oil and gas from the entire Saint-Gobain Seals organization, the Kontich site can further bring this expertise to their local region.
Strategic drivers include:
- Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) – with safety as a first priority at our Kontich site and all of Saint-Gobain. We subscribe to the American Petroleum Institute Guide to Reporting Process Safety Events in Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Additionally, “60 Seconds to Think” and “Safety Golden Rules” are just a few of the programs designed to put safety first in each employee’s mind.
- World Class Manufacturing (WCM) – through digital automation, internal quality assessments, loss deployment design and more. We have set high goals, for instance, in our NCPG/WO measure of quality rejections to improve processes for on-time deliveries and customer satisfaction. Additionally, we are currently at 85-90% OTIF (or “on time in full,” as the measure that needs to be delivered is done so on time). We strive to be 95% in line with customer demand in time and number of parts by 2023.
- Transformation of people – with the establishment of cross functional teams with authority to act, increased engagement and a desire to understand customer needs. We believe each of our employees needs to be involved in improving safety, quality, delivery and cost, as well as contributing to advancements of our company. We seek to have 100% people involvement by 2023.
- Customer centricity – with our new technical center, talent and teams and onboarding, described above.
We aim to translate these business goals through clear-set initiatives, as well as visually (a picture says a thousand words). Hence, we have also developed a roadmap for teams to follow.
People Making THE Difference: How We Make Things Happen
In addition to expanding the site’s R&D, testing and customer onboarding areas (along with numerous other advancements throughout the years, with the R&D laboratory expanded in 2017 and a number of other manufacturing upgrades made in 2016), the Kontich initiative also establishes sales and engineering around customer markets with a focus on customer needs in design, We refer to this initial stage as “Capture.” These sales and engineering roles will be organized by the types of markets—aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas.
In a second step, the site has launched a pilot in operations, focusing on addressing customers’ specific needs (for quality, cost, etc.) in delivery. We refer to these roles as “Delight.” These “white room” operation teams consist of everything a small producer would need, with a team leader-coach and finance, purchasing, maintenanc and customer service supporting each other operationally. Teams will be focused on addressing customer needs, making sure each team throughout the organization is accountable to expand customer centricity. This structure will enable teams to leverage important experience across industries, work together and share resources, as well as manage goals and objectives to expand our focus on customers.
In a third step, teams will be organized that support both Capture and Delight, such as with quoting and prototyping and manufacturing engineering (PE, drafters, programmers), to best leverage resources and expertise across these teams.
Digitization Making THE Difference: How We Increase Efficiency & Productivity
In addition to focusing teams on customer needs, Saint-Gobain Seals’ Kontich office is also moving toward greater digitization for increased efficiencies and to maximize employee productivity.
Specific examples of recent advancements in this area include:
- Set up of a new QAD (ERP) system
- Implementation of Factivity software to move planning of costs online from paper processes
- Implementation of Ignition software to further expand on automation
- Automating packaging of seals in life sciences through machinery that can run continuously, freeing operators to focus on other, higher-value tasks
- Development of artificial intelligence (AI) for design work
Agility Making THE Difference: How We Empower Employees
Another important initiative is setting up policies to empower employees and escalate problem resolution, where necessary. Saint-Gobain Seals’ Kontich office has set up a number of practices to entrust employees to be more agile and reduce reaction time to problems as well as elevate larger issues where necessary, including in:
- Delivery – with shift leads working with planning versus management completely handling this task
- Quality – with implementation of Quick Kaizen for root cause analysis and actions
- Safety – promoting peer-to-peer safety talks, SMAT (Safety Management Audit) and red risk reduction among operators and others in order to encourage involvement and increase “brain power,” versus making them management-only tasks
A world class lean manufacturing tool (WCM) is used at Saint-Gobain Seals’ Kontich office to accurately track each aspect of the manufacturing process. This enables managers to review performance indicators and ensure quality and traceability, and operators to be involved with goals to attack potential pain points. For instance, what does it mean for each operator to hit OTIF? What does each team member need to do to achieve company targets and contribute?
Manufacturing Making THE Difference: Aspects Essential to Critical Seal Development
Why should OEMs and developers in life sciences, aerospace, oil and gas, and other industries in Belgium, and abroad, consider Saint-Gobain Seals for critical parts? And what should they look for in a manufacturer of critical seals in general?
Our focus on customers throughout the years and these latest initiatives are testimony to the fact that at Saint-Gobain Seals, we make manufacturing and customer needs our priority. Following are eight factors that we have focused on that we believe are essential in manufacturing for critical applications.
- Proven expertise – with an extended track record in developing seals to exact specifications.
- A focus on quality & testing – with the ability to ensure quality and consistency and improve where needed. With quality assurance used as a multi-step process to demonstrate reliability in real-world conditions, customers should look for established internal testing procedures using the latest technology such as coordinated measuring machines and vision systems, RPM cycle tests (for performance in real service environments), pre-validation on test rigs, finite element analysis (FEA), 3D modeling and flow tests (for pump components) to confirm real-world functionality.
- Compliance with the latest industry standards – such as purity and cleanliness through Class 100 and 10K clean room manufacturing in life sciences and WCM, 5S, Kaizen, Six Sigma and ISO 9001 certifications.
- Global presence – to address the global needs of industries and companies, with many businesses such as life sciences today being global, and having offices in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. A manufacturer with a global presence often has several offices and sites that can back each other up when it comes to expertise and development.
- A true partner – critical parts need to be custom-designed to ensure precise fit and lifetime confidence. Ideally, the design process should be a true collaboration between the company and a supplier’s technical design team to assess the component, how it will be used, specific operating parameters and requirements to determine the best material and design.
- Industry expertise – with the manufacturer having experience in your specific vertical, as well as proven experience with specific material and product testing when it comes to industry-related ASTM standards such as when Rulon® J fluoropolymer material was ASTM certified for Flammability, Smoke and Toxicity (FST) in mass transit applications (trains and aircraft).
- Safety as a priority – with a clear link between having a safe working environment and quality, delivery and cost.
- Investment in technology and the future – with commitment to adapt manufacturing capabilities to address customer needs, including daring to try the unproven with a manufacturer who is committed to investing in equipment infrastructure as well as employee training, given the constantly-evolving manufacturing landscape.
At Saint-Gobain Seals, R&D, manufacturing and our partnerships with our customers are our priorities. Our passion is to be the first choice manufacturer customers turn to for critical parts in challenging applications. We welcome the opportunity to respond to customer needs and to continually improve - to truly make THE difference as promised. We are excited about this most recent step for our Kontich office and are committed to engaging with others to expand and utilize our knowledge to provide the best quality solutions to solve complex problems.
By pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved, we have the possibility to advance not only our company and our customers’ designs, but potentially the industries in which we work and contributing to the wellbeing of human life.
If you are interested in knowing more about how we produce our seals and polymer solutions, please contact our manufacturing experts!