ALMI Machine factory.
2015 – ALMI B.V. in Vriezenveen (the Netherlands) is a manufacturer of both own products and parts for agricultural machinery. The own products that ALMI manufactures are stone cutters, pipe cutters and pipe clippers.
ALMI was one of the 9 cases in the TNO study: ‘Smart skills for Smart Industry. How work will change in the factory of the future’.
ALMI wants to remain competitive through a ‘series of one strategy’, that is to say, combining a high variety with a high volume of production. Therefore, ALMI focuses on robotization of the production processes welding and milling, process standardization, digitalization and automation of the shop floor control, reducing turnaround times and organizing self-managing teams.
But this also involves: limiting the number of management layers and jobs, coaching leadership, broad employability, room for delivering ideas for improvement by employees, and a lot of attention to learning and coaching on-the-job and tracking trends in Smart Industry.
Changes in work
Almi has been working with robots since the 80’s. This involved: more attention to factory production- flow, more logistical operations and more preparatory work. Welding has already been fully robotized, the next step is to automate the milling machines so that the milling volume can also increase.
The welder prepares work for the robot by placing the material in welding molds and he maintains the process through the Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP); when finished he can pick up the product. The robot is programmed offline by a welding programmer.
For new machines, software or hardware, employees are trained in internal training courses or by the supplier of the equipment. Some coordinators do the coaching on-the-job and provide supervision. New young people are preferably trained in an internship.
Thus, Smart Industry developments, especially digitalization and connectivity of products, machines and people, can be quickly integrated.
Results in terms of business results and quality of work are not explicitly mentioned in this case study. But we may see as a good result that this relatively small machine factory has been able to succeed in technical developments since 1946, and at least in recent years in terms of employment and developing and using the competences of its employees.
A lesson on the functioning of self-managing teams is mentioned in this case report. Previously, the teams planned their work themselves, but teams could not handle the freedom, according to the management. They planned ‘more fun’ work, first. Therefore, the company’s production coordinator plans the work now.
B1 ALMI Vriezenveen. In: Govert Gijsbers, Tijs van den Broek, Jop Esmeijer en Jos Sanders. (2017) ‘Smart Skills voor Smart Industry. Hoe werk verandert in de fabriek van de toekomst.’ TNO-rapport. TNO 2017, R 10618. Pagina 26. This report in Dutch, with the case study about ALMI in the annex can be found elsewhere in this knowledge bank. See:
2008 – In the publication of TNO and the employers association MetaalUnie: ‘Productivity: Investing in People, Machinery and Organization’, the ALMI machine factory was also described. The title of that chapter about ALMI is: ‘From employees to learning entrepreneurs’. Below is a short excerpt from this chapter.
Why this is workplace innovation
Since 2006 ALMI has been working on a new strategy to win the competition with low-wage countries. Besides experimenting with the mix of supplier products and own products in the production planning, a lot of energy is invested in the development and input of the employees.
Employees are encouraged to develop into learning entrepreneurs. Where do you stand, what do you want and what is needed for that. In addition to this opportunity to follow courses and grow, employees are also actively involved in changes and get a lot of freedom in their work. Its motivated and flexible employees have increased ALMI’s productivity by at least 17%.
Employees are actively involved in the organization. They can decide on corporate purchases and get a budget for small investments. Production groups also have the freedom to arrange their planning and task allocation themselves. To stimulate growth, the staff’s qualities and experiences are determined and a personal development plan is drawn up.
Stocks have been reduced by 8% and productivity increased by at least 17%.
ALMI Machinefabriek ‘Van medewerkers naar lerende ondernemers’. By: Raymond Belderink, manager. In: ‘Productiviteit: Investeren in mensen, machines en organisatie’, TNO en de Koninklijke Metaalunie (2008). The digitale version of this publication in Dutch, is attached.