I interviewed Fuat A. Kaplan who discussed Lean Manufacturing Insights.







It’s good to speak with you today, Fuat. Today I’d like to learn more about some of your insights regarding some experience and opinions about supply change management. Maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the things you’re doing in your part of the world. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?


Well, I’m a graduate of Technical University of Istanbul first. This was my undergraduate study. And then I got a scholarship from the Turkish Government to study in Germany, where I did my master’s degree, except for my thesis. For that reason I went to the United States to do rest as a so-called exchange student. I wrote my master’s thesis at New Jersey Institute of Technology, again in manufacturing technology. Back in Germany I got my diploma. Even though I started a company in the United States, it was not so successful as I wished to. In 1995 I returned back to Turkey.


I guess you are interested  with more professional side of my background. I’m going through, as I said, just into my professional life: I started with Coca-Cola, Central Asia Operations. I was the Site Manager there, for the installation and  commissioning of bottling machinery. I did two projects;  Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the project management of the site and the machinery,  i.e. installation and commissioning of the machinery  and erection of the facilities. This continued until 1997; I left the company in the same year.


Then I started, again, a Turkish company operating in Kazakhstan. This time agricultural machinery production. This was my first practical experience in terms of lean manufacturing  since many theoretical topics like factory organization, production planning, ergonomics were the courses during my master’s degree, I mean my specialization . This was a Soviet-Style organization, a very large unit, operating for whole Soviet Union during the Soviet Era. After the collapse of the Union, the company was bought  by a Turkish company in the frame work of Kazakh Government.


We tried to reorganize the factory into cost centers and small business units redesigning/regrouping assembly lines and production centers according to different product groups. Also, downsizing the personnel. Production planning included also localizing the  raw materials and semi-finished goods, i.e. creating alternative supply chains. This continued until 1999, since the Turkish Company and the Kazaks Government could not agree on some financial and risk issurance issues. The company dissolved. In 2000 I started with Robert Bosch Germany – Diesel Systems. At that time they started  this Common Rail project, first with magnetic actuation system afterwards piezo effect.


This was actually my real start with lean manufacturing experience, in terms of project management, line management, where I was responsible first for a group of machinery; like turning, washing, thermal deburring, 3-D measuring. There we started first choosing the machine concepts, this included also Simultaneous Engineering Team meetings with specialists from various departments within Bosch at manufacturer’s site. During machine build up phase, I executed the project management for whole machinery at various manufacturer’s locatiions. Following the build up we commissioned the machines with pre-and final acceptance studies. After product release by various customers, the serial production started. Parallely  the improvements studies, i.e. kaizen studies started as well. These studies were done until 2003 mostly according to rules of Toyota Production System.


By mid 2003 R. Bosch decided starting own production system, called BPS, based mostly on TPS. BPS can be considered in two categories; production system design and production system transformation. Major principles were choosing standard/multi-purpose machinery;  min. lead time; min. stock on RM, WIP, FG; layout design with min. space requirement, i.e. min. human & part movement; multi-machine operation, i.e. min. personnel. Mid 2003 I was project manager for the whole line and the principles implemented much more intensively, since we created the basic foundations of BPS and the real project management at the same time. The cycle was the same as mentioned before, difference was the scope of machinery, i.e. I had to take all the machinery in the line into consideration. Following the principles of BPS in terms of production system design, and product releases by customers (in this respect BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, even Toyota were our customers) serial production (SOP) started. After that the improvement/optimization phase began. Improvement (kaizen) processes had two aspects: one is the capital improvement processes, as cycle-time reduction and setup-time reduction.


The other is operational cost reduction, like measures for extending tool life, localizing dies & fixtures, reduction of general consumption materials. I did several projects for both aspects of improvement processes, and reduced investment and operational cost in six digit figures. To undermine maybe is that these improvement projects included also the production system transformation of BPS for the existing lines, according to the same principles. After that I left for an Italian company in 2008, manufacturing parts for appliance & automotive industry. At this position I dealt mostly improving man-hour efficiency, reduction of machine-downtimes and non-quality, i.e. failure cost. I introduced some measures to reduce the downtimes, and rate of failure cost; with the combination of optimized takt-times and initiated bonus system for blue collars, we had drastic changes: Sunday work and 3. shift were eliminated.  Ratio of failure cost to total manufacturing cost was down under 3,2%. We reached a total improvement of 25% in terms of operational cost. Following job with a Turkish company, manufacturing special cables for marine and off-shore applications.


They manufactured order based small quantities of specially designed cables mostly for export. It was a company operating basically as a machine shop, i.e. there was no organizational clear division as departments and their job scope. Sales people dominated the activities of whole plant. I started first creating the departments and definition of their job scope in a conventional sense –inserting production planning department as well. Basically the flow of order taking, scheduling, manufacturing and shipping was reorganized and taught to the personnel at every level. What we made there in terms of production system transformation was that a) created flow type lines based on cycle & setup times b) production & material planning c) visual management , 5S and Milk-run to secure the min. handling and  transportation of the WIP and FG d) reduced failure cost by introducing counter measures e) integrated ERP system to plan, analyze and follow all the parameters, including the KPI’s for purchasing, logistics, warehousing, production and production planning.


Finally we included also the process improvement projects on certain weak points to increase throughput and reduced machine down times by fundamental TPM applications and worker trainings. We reached again a combined 20% improvement in terms of human & machine efficiency. In 2011 we could not go any further as I wished to in terms of management style with the board, so I left. After that there was no interesting job, say, and I also wanted to listen the suggestions of friends and & associated that I should start consulting. We started with some associated as solution partners since then. Currently I am managing 2 projects, including the inbound & outbound logistics organization of 5 plants and warehouse management, what you see now. Should I go through like this, Dustin, or do you want to ask some special questions?


Yes, my final question is: Do you have any recommendations based on what you’ve learned about lean manufacturing?


I would say of course, check your product and industry spec’s first,  i.e. lean manufacturing refers mostly to the automotive industry, this fact has to be kept all ways in mind. Since the principles of production system design, as min. lead time; min. stock on RM, WIP, FP; multi-machine operation; min space usage; etc. cannot not be directly transferred to other industries. Special care  has to be taken in terms of very needs of the specific industry. Other than that if possible, from the project phase on, i.e. from the erection of the facilities and choose of the machine concepts, the  production system design rules have to be followed, what mentioned previously.


Of course based on the pull system and focus on each process step in the flow, i.e. no parts move further if it does not meet the quality standards. To mention also the visual management and 5S tools must be included to control production. To increase the up-times of the machinery, an effective maintenance has to be carried out, i.e. TPM methods. Milk-run, supermarket concepts, etc. has to be included to optimize the dock-to-dock operations. If some parts are outsourced, the same rules have to carried on to suppliers also in order to practice the JIT or ship-to-line concepts from the inbound supply chain perspective.


To speed up and carry out error free the warehouse management systems and transfer of the parts must be done by utilization of bar-code or even better RFID  systems. Outbound supply chain as FG warehouses, palleting, putting into containers and finally shipment must be done again in a proper way in order to realize the tracebility. Of course supplier development and logistics concern like clusters building, outside milk-runs, consolidation centers, cross-dock operations, returnable containers, etc. have to be studied separately in very detail to complete the lean manufacturing operation.


What I am trying to say in sum is that we have to plan every thing upfront according to the rules of production system design and execute, and revise until desired level reached.  In case of already existing lines, i.e. production system transformation, capture first the current status and afterwards define future status, i.e the desired status. Again with the guide of the production system design principles, set the priorities and mile stones, define the work packages with responsibles and time table and decisively execute.  Most importand of all these, of course, creating the CIP mindset and keeping it alive. For that reason the training of the personnel and the social & compensation sides of the HR policies have to be implemented very carefully and very detailed.


Thank you for sharing today.


Thank you, Dustin.





About Fuat A. Kaplan


Fuat A. Kaplan

Lean Manufacturing (Operations Excellence) Consultant


LinkedIn Profile