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Kone Cuts Their Production Time by up to 75%

March 1, 2022

Kone Cuts Their Production Time by up to 75%

Elevators, escalators, and autowalks bring to mind thoughts of waiting to reach the next destination. But KONE, a company that is dedicated to the advancement of urban flow, is not waiting for anything.

As a world-leading manufacturer of elevators and escalators, KONE is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for highly populated areas. Having won the Elevator World Project of the Year Award and a $179-Million escalator contract in Washington D.C., KONE is a force to be reckoned within the urban development sphere. By enhancing their operations with smart manufacturing tools like VKS, KONE Coal Valley is achieving new levels of people flow, both outside and inside the business.

We had the pleasure of talking with Adrian Riojas, Manufacturing Engineer at KONE in Coal Valley, Illinois who started around the same time as VKS was being implemented. With four years of using VKS within their facility, Adrian outlined the key goals that KONE Coal Valley has been able to accomplish in this short time.

Whether tracking key data, finding creative ways to capture tribal knowledge, training the next generation of employees, or boosting productivity, KONE Coal Valley is ready to tackle modern-day challenges with modern-day solutions.

What Were Kone’s Challenges Before VKS?

Before their digital transformation, KONE Coal Valley faced two key challenges. And unsurprisingly, these challenges were not unique to them alone. They are challenges that many modern manufacturers face daily. These 2 challenges were:

1. Paper Work Instructions

Before implementing VKS, their work instructions were distributed on paper within multiple binders. This made updating and keeping track of the best and most current practices painful, to say the least, as Adrian recounted for us:

“Whenever we had to update something, we had to hunt down every copy and make sure that the update was in each one. As soon as I was hired and VKS was scheduled to be implemented, I tried to get rid of the paper system as quickly as possible.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

2. Retiring Workforce

With a significant portion of their workforce set to retire in the coming years, KONE Coal Valley began hiring the next generation of workers. But there was a problem: these new hires lacked the needed levels of experience.

With pressing work and ongoing plans for growth, they needed a solution — one that would enable them to transfer the experience of their senior employees to their new hires before their knowledge and experience walked out the door.

“Our paper work instructions were not very detailed. Because of this, training was done by sticking new hires with the most experienced person and just watching them. It was difficult to follow and particularly unmanageable for our team.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

Utilizing work instruction software helped to mitigate these two challenges. By giving workers digital resources that are updated with the click of a button, KONE Coal Valley employees are empowered to perform the right work, at the right time, with the right knowledge.

Ever the innovator, KONE Coal Valley’s use of VKS didn't stop there.

9 Solutions with VKS That Increased Operational Flow

KONE Coal Valley was able to leverage our work instruction software and integrate smart manufacturing practices that resulted in 9 incredible achievements of operational efficiency and flow. One such achievement is a 10-15% decrease in cycle times for many of their processes. But some units have observed even greater results.

75% decrease in production time

1. Boost In Productivity by 75%

KONE Coal Valley has experienced incredible boosts in productivity in the past couple of years using VKS. Specifically, their heavy-duty unit has seen the greatest change to date. By utilizing clear and well-defined instructions, restructuring their processes, and enabling their material to flow at an optimal rate, KONE Coal Valley has been able to cut the production time of this particular unit to a quarter of the time. This empowers them to build more with every working hour.

“With VKS, we have a clear set of 20 processes for our heavy-duty unit. This cut down our production time for that particular unit by approximately 75%.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

2. Increased Mobility

Since KONE in Coal Valley manufactures and assembles escalators and auto walks, some of their pieces are fairly large, ranging from 30 to 50 feet in length. This can create some difficulty when also reviewing work instructions. And if the work instructions are on paper, then add the challenge of keeping the paper clean and in a legible condition.

To counter this, Adrian and his team developed an ingenious solution using a special hardware setup that enables their operators to see the work instructions from anywhere in the workstation. They use a combination of tablets and large stationary screens. The tablets are connected through Bluetooth to the screens, giving operators multiple lines of sight to review their work instructions.

KONE workstation

This allows the operator to freely walk around the unit while always having their instructions available for reference. Whether moving about the unit, doing inspections, or using two hands to assemble key pieces, the operator is never without the valuable knowledge and interaction they need. [Picture of their computer setup]

3. Efficient Material Flow

Material shortages are a key challenge that the entire manufacturing industry is feeling at the moment. Even as the world slowly overcomes the external challenges of the shortages, companies can still enhance how material flows internally.

With enhanced material flow in mind, KONE Coal Valley is using VKS Smart Forms to reduce material bottlenecks within their operation.

“We started using VKS Smart Forms to trigger at certain points in the guidebooks. This informs our materials supervisor to send materials ahead of time.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

Adrian explained that as soon as operators are finished with one particular job, all the electrical and mechanical parts need to be pulled to the workstation. Once the operator fills out the Smart Form in their work instructions, a message is automatically sent to the supervisor. This enables them to get the required materials ready in time for the next stage of production.

It is a proactive and responsive system that eliminates internal wait times for materials.

4. Faster Training

KONE worker

With the approaching retirement of their aging workforce, KONE Coal Valley needed to hire a significant number of new workers, not to mention, get them up to speed quickly. By using VKS to supplement their new training curriculum, they were able to cut down their orientation process significantly.

“Our orientation process has been cut down to a quarter of the time it used to take. VKS helps us give new operators a point of reference first so they know and get familiarized with the terminology on the floor. It’s been a godsend to get a uniform language going.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

5. Passing Knowledge to the Next Generation

Experienced employees are the backbone of any operation. But what happens when these employees need to leave? As much as we’d like to, we can’t hold onto these employees forever. Instead, it’s important to focus on recording and sharing the years of experience that they have developed. This knowledge is one of the most powerful tools at any company’s disposal.

A couple of years ago, KONE Coal Valley was faced with losing this knowledge or finding an innovative solution. Of course, they did the latter.

They began using VKS to document their best practices and capture the tribal knowledge they had developed over the years. Adrian recounted for us that the older generation of workers immediately saw the benefit of this technology and practice.

“The older generation has taken to VKS a lot. They see the benefit of it. They see it as a way to pass on their knowledge a lot quicker than showing someone all the tips and tricks individually.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

KONE Coal Valley’s senior employees are proud to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of workers. Their hard work and experience now have a timeless quality that compounds with every generation.

6. Beyond Paperless with a High-Variation Production

Going paperless for KONE Coal Valley means more than simply recording processes into a digital format. And here at VKS, we absolutely agree.

“My favorite feature was just the convenience of being able to update one draft and then send that out and everything is done automatically.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

With our work instruction software, KONE Coal Valley updates their processes and documents with one click. Now, their paperless format is easy to track, update, and improve. This comes in handy for a high-mix low-volume (HMLV) manufacturer.

KONE Coal Valley produces escalators and auto walks that are custom-built for the intended purpose and setting. Conditions such as rise, track length, step count, and more all determine how the unit will need to be built.

So how does KONE Coal Valley standardize their processes if every product is different?

Although each product varies to some degree, there is still a great deal of commonality between them. And this forms the structure for their work instructions. Their guidebooks outline best practices, safety protocols, and the required steps for every action. The only things that are different are material lengths and some specifications.

In light of this, KONE Coal Valley links drawings, engineering plans, and supplemental materials within the work instructions. This allows operators to see the proper steps and quickly review specifications within one purpose-built system.

7. Dynamic and Direct Andon

KONE Coal Valley has leveraged VKS to enact dynamic and direct Andon measures on their shop floor.

“Our teams enjoy the forms and email generations that can be sent out to different groups. I set up VKS to have a form pop up when the operator pauses their work. If they select the Andon option, another form pops up for them to fill out. The information is automatically sent to us and we go to the workstation and start the problem-solving from there.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

Traditionally, Andon measures are communicated through a light on a large signboard. By using VKS Smart Forms and the Rule Engine, KONE Coal Valley is making their Andon practices dynamic and direct:

  • Dynamic: Instead of a light signaling some unknown emergency, users can specify why they have activated the Andon form. This enables management to understand the issue before they even get there.
  • Direct: VKS Andon forms automatically send a message to the appropriate supervisors and managers. For complex operations like KONE’s, the proverbial “Andon light” does not necessarily need to signal everyone. Depending on issues and ideas for improvement, the right people are notified directly. This opens the door for faster and more effective problem-solving actions.

8. Tracking and Sharing Quality Data

KONE Coal Valley utilizes VKS for their entire operation. Departments like welding, assembly, pack-out, and quality all utilize VKS work instructions. As Adrian explained to us, this allows them to track massive amounts of accurate production data for themselves and their customers.

“We use VKS for both audits and checklists. At the end of the guidebook when the operator is about to close the operation, a form automatically pops up for them to fill out and sign off. We record this data and share it with our customers.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

This enables KONE Coal Valley to share a new level of quality assurance. Once the unit is complete and all the information is gathered, Adrian and his team compile the data and share it for quality assurance purposes.

With readily available and pertinent data, customers have unwavering confidence in the product they purchase, knowing KONE Coal Valley is the right choice for their needs.


9. Giving Operators a Voice

Here at VKS, we like to hear that employees are taking part in creating and documenting their best practices since guidebooks are an integral part of reflecting the day-to-day operations of the shop floor.

Adrian shared that the team at KONE Coal Valley specifically engages their workers and asks for their input when creating instructions and documenting processes. It requires a lot of communication but the results are worth it.

“With VKS, the ability for our employees to share their input with us has been extremely beneficial.”

Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

If the guidebooks reflect the actual processes being performed, then workers are more likely to follow the instructions. Otherwise, workers may come to disregard or distrust the material, which shuts down opportunities for improvement, growth, and optimization.

Continuing Innovation for KONE

As a global leader in the industry, KONE Coal Valley is always pushing for innovation. With these 9 solutions making positive strides in their operation, they have plans for continued growth and utilization of VKS.

“Whenever our higher-ups come to our facility, VKS is one of the things we show off the most. It has helped us improve our facility flow.” - Adrian Riojas, KONE Coal Valley Manufacturing Engineer

Having just upgraded to VKS Enterprise, KONE Coal Valley plans to use their ERP system to drive work orders into VKS. This will enable their operators to receive information from multiple systems but only interact with VKS. VKS is proud to work with dedicated companies that push forward the benefits of Industry 4.0. With their strong commitment to enhancing people flow in urban centers, KONE is leading the way for industries to do the same within their operations.