Production Department Interview

Sep 12, 2019

Production Department Interview
  • Who are you?

First and foremost, the Solera Production Department is composed of an excellent group of more than 150 professionals that play an active role in the company, organised through an Advanced Lean Manufacturing Management System, using structured work methods that involve the entire workforce.

We have 20,000 m2 of production surface spread over two plants; one in Paterna (Valencia) and another in Cañete (Cuenca). Between the two factories, we have more than 150 automatic machines, resulting in a high production capacity.

  • What can you tell us about the people who work in the factory?

Solera is a modern and innovative company, proud of its origins, values and human capital, that is extremely committed to its employees, which is ever-present in our factories. Being a family business, one of our strengths is the management-driven transmission of family values and culture to the working environment.

We have an excellent working environment. In 2017, we were awarded a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) certificate following an audit carried out by TÜV Rheinland, with excellent results.

We have a high percentage of full-time and permanent staff and we also strive for equality between men and women. We are currently drawing up our new Equality Plan.

We have worked hard to ensure that there is excellent communication between all levels of the company. To do this, we have sought help from the Grupo Emotiva Liderea, interpersonal and management skills consultant that has helped us to draw up a Decalogue of Good Communication adapted to our characteristics, which is palpable throughout the company.

The experience was so positive that we will be drawing up a personal and professional development programme among our middle managers after the summer.

  • What are your functions?

The objective of Solera´s Production Department is to obtain low voltage electrical equipment products, using the most advanced production processes, with the most appropriate human and material resources and using the most effective methods to be carried out with maximum efficiency and competitiveness, thereby obtaining products of the highest quality.

We are specialists in enclosures (distribution boxes, waterproof and mechanism boxes, etc. ...) and small domestic equipment (mechanisms, bases and plugs, multiple power strips…)

The functions that are carried out in the department are as follows:

  • Establishment and standardisation of production processes.
  • Identification of the most appropriate resources of the production system to make available and distribution of the process in the factory.
  • Production planning and scheduling for all our products.
  • Analysis and optimisation of the most suitable working methods.
  • Optimisation of the movement of materials, tools and staff.
  • Analysis and optimisation of time in each phase of the process.
  • Division of labour and staff training.
  • Production control in both plants.
  • In-plant quality control and management.
  • Maintenance management of all our machines and infrastructure.
  • Raw material purchases.

We carry out all these tasks by prioritising, first and foremost, the safety of our team, as well as protecting the environment. The company complies with Law 31/1995 of 8 November on the Prevention of Occupational Risks as well as the rest of the Regulations that are applicable thereto. For this, an Occupational Risk Prevention Plan, a Job Risk Assessment, as well as a prevention plan have been drawn up.

Furthermore, both when a new member is onboarded, as well as on a periodic basis, company-wide training is delivered on occupational risks and on the measures or activities to prevent them, in particular in the face of an emergency and in case of a serious and imminent risk. Health surveillance of workers is carried out on an annual basis.

  • What stands out in the day-to-day running of Solera?

Our day-to-day work is exciting. In the morning, we kick things off with a review meeting of the status of the plant in which all the managers evaluate the situation and the current and previous day´s indicators, such as the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). In this meeting, we also set the priorities for the day.

Next, the following TOP 15 and TOP 30 meetings take place with the heads of each Autonomous Production Unit, supervisors and support area, where ideas and areas for improvement contributed by the staff in the TOP 5 shift startup meetings flow, as well as going over the Action Plans.

Through our MES (Manufacturing Execution System) we are able to monitor the established indicators and the reasons for possible incidents that prevent compliance in real time, thereby allowing us to improve our results.

The decision making and day-to-day relationship with colleagues in the production department and other departments in an extremely demanding environment is always a highly rewarding challenge.

  • What recent developments would you highlight in the factory and in the company?

In recent years, Solera has implemented significant projects such as the Lean Manufacturing philosophy (lean or waste-free production) with the help of Progressa Lean, in our two production plants. At the same time, Lean has been integrated with an MES system developed by the company MAPEX, increasing the company´s competitiveness by improving and digitalising all its processes.

With the implementation of these improvements, Solera has obtained recognition for projects to improve industrial competitiveness by the IVACE (Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness) within its innovation and SME digitalisation programmes.

In the process of implementing the Lean culture, we have worked with the excellent team, that the company has in all its centres, to guide all workers towards continuous improvement, making the most of their knowledge and experience.

To make the move to Industry 4.0. through digital transformation, the company has installed Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) in all its machines, as well as monitors and touch screens in its plants that are connected to the MES system, its quality module, the ERP and the tools for production sequencing and comprehensive maintenance management. The operators report their activity on the touch screens and the computer system obtains a data capture of the operators´ activity and the machines in real time.

Analysing the data from the information collected by all the connected elements has been a fundamental pillar that has enabled us to turn Solera's production centres into smart factories that are adapted to real needs.

In recent years, we have implemented highly advanced tools to automate the planning of our supply chain in production planning and purchasing, based on sales forecasts.

We also work with the Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS). The machinery and infrastructure maintenance area plays a key role in the department.

  • What have you achieved to date and how does it benefit our customers?

With our digital transformation and the implementation of the Lean culture throughout the company, we have managed to improve and standardise all our processes and make the move towards Industry 4.0. Furthermore, in our commitment to the environment, we have managed to reduce the amount of paper used in our facilities by by 80%.

Our supply chain planning automation tools have greatly helped us to provide a great service to our customers and optimise our stocks.

Solera's production and logistics centres are more flexible and committed to their environment, and are better prepared to effectively adapt to an increasingly demanding and globalised market.

  • Tell us a little about your current projects.

We are currently implementing a new production sequencing programme that will enable us to better organise our resources and manage changes more efficiently. This new tool will help us to become more flexible when it comes to production planning, thereby improving customer service.

Before the year is out, we will have digitalised all the information generated by our Lean Management System with the implementation of LES IMPROVEMENT by Progressa Lean.

Within the framework of rolling out Industry 4.0 in our factories, after promoting the digitalisation thereof, we are immersed in process automation. Technology is advancing rapidly and, currently, industrial automation is perhaps one of the fields we are looking into the most, in response to our customers´ demands.

This industrial automation will play an important role within our factories´ processes in the years to come, favouring the optimisation of controlling our manufacturing stages and continually improving product quality.

We have just received a new injection machine and, after summer, we will have three new machines delivered, two of them with cutting-edge robots.

  • What would you highlight about Solera´s manufacturing processes compared to other processes?

I would highlight that, as we are a family business, we are at the top of our game in all aspects; maintaining the values and flexibility that make us stand out, which is often emphasised by our auditors, consultants and visitors.

Furthermore, what is of the utmost importance and in my opinion, what sets us apart, is that our staff turnover is low, with workers that are highly committed to the company.

Processes and machines can be copied, but people cannot.

  • What do you hope to achieve in the future?

With the projects that we have recently implemented and those that we are in the process of rolling out, we believe that we are on the right path to thrive, efficiently and with reduced costs, in an environment that is complex, yet also full of opportunities for those of us who know how to adapt to market demands.

Our Lean management system is enabling us to continuously improve our internal processes and, as a result, a significant increase in productivity.

Our objective is to continue contributing to the improvement of the company´s performance and competitiveness.

  • What do you think is the key to the success of your department?

Our workers and our values are the heart and soul of our department, motivated by the upper management that always actively lends its support to new projects.

I would also highlight our flexibility when it comes to satisfying our customers´ needs as well as being guided by indicators that get rid of conflicts and doubts, bringing the entire team together to achieve clear and specific goals that involve eliminating waste and continuously improving.

Being customer-orientated when it comes to decision-making and with our ever-present commitment to the environment and the safety of our employees, we have managed to make our factories modern and efficient, capable of facing the challenges that lie ahead.


Francisco Ballesteros