The 8th European KAIZEN convention

Innovative projects aiming at the continuous improvement of SEKISUI. This is the focus of KAIZEN. On November 21st, representatives from different European companies met in Tarragona, Spain, and competed against each other at the 8th European KAIZEN convention. Successfully hosted by SEKISUI Specialty Chemicals, the event allowed eight European teams to present their improvement activities to reinforce company structure and business performance.

Preparation time

After a safe arrival in Spain, the event started by a practicing session for the participating teams on Wednesday morning. Simultaneously, the judges sat together to learn all about the different projects and have first discussions on the topics that would be presented.

When the preparation time was over, all participants joined for lunch and could meet the other participants in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone enjoyed meeting colleagues from other SEKISUI companies and sharing the passion for KAIZEN.

KAIZEN presentations

After lunch, it was finally time for the KAIZEN presentations. Hitoshi Kobayashi, Head of Total Manufacturing Management Center SEKISUI CHEMICAL, welcomed everyone to Tarragona – he was looking forward to learn about the different European projects. Also Mike George, Managing Director of Sekisui Specialty Chemicals, spoke a few words and officially opened the presentation part. In addition to the importance of KAIZEN he also mentioned the good opportunity to meet colleagues from other companies and encouraged the attendees to make use of this day. In total, eight different European teams presented at this year’s convention.

Each presentation was limited to eleven minutes and followed by a Q&A session of four minutes. There were two breaks in between – the ideal opportunity to do some networking and share experience and ideas.

All teams presented their project in a clear and convincing way, keeping within the given time frame and enabling all attendees to follow their explanations. The questions and answers after the presentations gave additional insights to the topics. All presenters explained how they found possibilities for improvements through detailed analyses of the current situations and which concrete measures they took for optimization. Great effort and great achievements by everyone!

After the final presentation the judges were facing their most difficult task for the day: Determining the winners of this year’s convention. They met in a separated room, discussed the different projects and shared opinions. They finally decided on the best three teams. The winners were not known before the evening though…

The winner is…

In the evening and after a relaxing break, all attendees came together again: the award ceremony took place at the hotels’ restaurant. Hitoshi Kobayashi, Alfredo Seco, Site Manager at SEKISUI Specialty Chemicals, and Uwe Keller, European Steering Committee Chairman, guided through the evening and finally announced the three best rated teams.

The winner this year is called Pedro Soler. Pedro and his team from Sekisui Specialty Chemicals in Tarragona convinced the jury with their idea to reduce the steam consumption in the High Purity (HP) Methyl Acetate Production. The team aimed and succeeded at reducing a specific steam consumption by 30% – in order to accelerate growth for HP Methyl Acetate, one of the more value-added products. Pedro was very pleased to receive the award and is looking forward to presenting the topic again very soon. As the winner of the European KAIZEN Convention he is invited to join the global KAIZEN convention, taking place in Japan at the beginning of 2019.

The winner: Pedro Soler from Sekisui Specialty Chemicals.

And there was another reason to smile for the host Sekisui Specialty Chemicals. The second place also went to a team from Tarragona. Elena Llorens and her team presented a project focusing on the very important topic “Safety First”. As also laboratories have several risks related to the manipulation of reagents, the team successfully worked on eliminating the usage of bromide/bromine reagents (toxic products) and developed an alternative method for the determination of residual vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) in polyvinyl acetate (PVA). With machines already in use and low costs the team successfully reduced the toxic’s exposure and developed a new, forward-looking method.

2nd place: Elena Llorens from Sekisui Specialty Chemicals.

The bronze award went to one of the three teams from SEKISUI S-Lec. Tom de Koning and his team from the film plant received the award on their project “roll cleaning equipment”. As roll cleaning was not easy and meant working in a chemical environment, in a bad working posture and with a complex protective equipment the team worked on an idea to make this important task easier for the operators. And their idea was successful. Thanks to the improvement of a “simple, but very important” process, the rolls can now be cleaned by two instead of three operators. They also allow a better protective equipment as well as better working conditions.

3rd place: Tom de Koning from SEKISUI S-Lec.

Three great projects and three great teams. Congratulations!

Hitoshi Kobayashi congratulated all winners and handed over the trophies. It was not about winning though. The day was a great experience for everyone and every single team can call itself a winner. This was celebrated by a delicious dinner with everyone.

The next day

The KAIZEN Convention was concluded with a bus trip to the factory site of SEKISUI Specialty Chemicals on the next day. All attendees enjoyed seeing the laboratory and listened carefully to all the details given. The tour also gave a good impression of what the two winning projects from SSCE were about. The group then went back to the hotel to have a KAIZEN coaching as well as an environmental workshop.

All in all, the 8th KAIZEN Convention in Tarragona was a great experience to get in touch with SEKISUI colleagues. It offered a great opportunity for networking as well as knowledge sharing aiming at the continuous improvement of SEKISUI 

It is great to see how many SEKISUI employees are actively involved and taking part in KAIZEN. We are looking forward to the next convention in 2019. And good luck to Pedro Soler and his team for the Global KAIZEN convention in Japan!

If you want to learn more about KAIZEN and what it is about, read our article.

Special thanks to all participating teams!

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