VDL Nedcar: Line Balancing

VDL Nedcar is an experienced car manufacturer, the only independent in the Netherlands. For fifty years, VDL Nedcar built cars for DAF, Volvo, Daimler Chrysler, and Mitsubishi. Since 2012, VDL Nedcar is part of the VDL Group in Eindhoven and started building cars for BMW. Currently, VDL Nedcar manufactures four models: the BMW X1, the Mini Convertible, the Mini Countryman, and the PHEV variant of the Mini Countryman.

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Complex assembly processes

The factory of VDL Nedcar consists of four production departments, including the Final Assembly Shop (FAS). The takt time (production rate) is set at 61 seconds, the interval at which one car rolls off the production line. Accordingly, this is the time in which 600 FAS employees have to complete one job. Because of the possibilities of customization by the customer, each car is unique. Therefore, the production processes are extremely complex.

Reduction of 35 jobs

VDL Nedcar has to deal with an efficiency target of 3% cost savings per year – this is an industry standard. For various reasons, the 2019 target was raised to 5% cost reduction. PDM was asked to support VDL Nedcar in achieving these cost savings; the project goal was to realize a reduction of 35 jobs in the FAS.

Line Balancing

PDM selected a Lean project approach for realizing the project goal: the Line Balancing methodology. Line Balancing means that tasks within jobs are reallocated more efficiently in order to ultimately reduce the number of jobs. The Line Balancing methodology consists of four crucial and consecutive steps:

1 – Scan Fundoshi’s
2 – Analysis optimization potential
3 – Implementation optimization proposals
4 – Cashing

1 – Scan Fundoshi’s

Initially, the FAS counted 600 jobs, each with five variants on average, totaling 3,000 different jobs. These jobs are called Fundoshi’s, a term for the detailed work descriptions of a job, derived from the Toyota Lean philosophy. Each Fundoshi has one or more specific tasks. After a Lean Quick & Dirty scan and a 50/50 breakdown, the 1,500 Fundoshi’s with the highest potential for optimization were identified.

2 – Analysis optimization potential

The high potential jobs were analyzed by measuring the ‘work, walk, wait’ times. In addition, the wastes were determined, for instance, unnecessary walk, inefficient logistics, unnecessary activities, inefficient tooling and machinery, etc. Solutions for minimizing these wastes were proposed to the VDL Nedcar management.

3 – Implementation optimization proposals

PDM supported VDL Nedcar in the implementation of the proposed optimizations. PDM intensively coached and guided VDL Nedcar personnel during this entire process of change.

After completing the first three steps, only the optimization of the jobs had taken place. As a result, additional time became available in the optimized jobs. This released a significant Line Balancing potential.

4 – Cashing

Finally, the most complex step – the actual Line Balancing – took place. Taking into account various factors such as the production mix of the different models and variants, the quality of the processes, and the building sequence, tasks within jobs were reallocated more efficiently. This was made possible by utilizing the time that had become available in the first three steps. Every time all tasks of a job were reallocated to other jobs, the job became redundant. Consequently, by removing this job from the production process a significant cost saving was realized.

Project results

The results of the Line Balancing project are significant and diverse:

  • Significant cost reduction in production. The cost savings are recurring on an annual basis during the entire model’s lead time.
  • More efficient processes.
  • Increased quality.
  • Less down time.
  • Potentially increased production volume.
  • Balanced workload.
Ron Sonnemans
Vice President FAS, VDL Nedcar

Within a week, your team defined more opportunities than my team in a month, because your team has a fresh view and is not suffering from historical obstacles and company-blindness!


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