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Oesterbank boosts shop floor digitalization with 24Flow
Sheltered workshops face unique challenges. On the one hand, their goal is to provide accessible jobs to people who are otherwise excluded from the labor market. On the other hand, they also answer to their customers: manufacturers, food companies, municipalities, etc. Belgian work shelter Oesterbank believes that digitalization offers a solution on both fronts. Recently, the organization replaced its shop floor solution with 24Flow: a future-proof operations platform that is part of the delaware family.
Wouter Desplenter, Oesterbank’s General Director, has a clear vision: “I want to shatter some of the stereotypes surrounding sheltered workshops. We’re not performing simple jobs with outdated equipment, for example. Instead, we’re a team of 500 motivated people delivering highly complex and valuable services to our partners. By investing in innovation and digitalization, we can offer even more value while ensuring that the jobs themselves remain accessible.”
Expecting the unexpected
Oesterbank’s customers – Wouter prefers the term ‘partners’ – include some of the most prominent manufacturers in Flanders, like Daikin, Thule, Roxell, Renson, Exterior Living, SISA, MOWI and Foresco – to name just a few. Most of them have been working with Oesterbank for decades, and for good reason. “We differentiate ourselves by specializing in just-in-time and sequential delivery,” explains Wouter. “For example, a manufacturer gives notice of an upcoming assignment, drops off the goods just a few hours later, and we get the finished units back to them in just two hours, often already in the right order for further assembly.”
Obviously, such a fast turnaround requires high levels of flexibility, and a tight grip on your shop floor processes. In other words, an MES is indispensable to manage production orders and provide work instructions. However, since Oesterbank doesn’t make its own products, it requires only a fraction of the full feature set that a traditional MES provides. At the same time, the system fails to provide an adequate solution for dealing with unexpected schedule changes – something Oesterbank is facing every day.
Getting in the right flow
“We started looking at other MES solutions that could be a better fit for us,” says Wouter. “Most of them are essentially built around a powerful scheduler. But since our daily schedule changes so fast, our key requirements were flexibility, configurability and user-friendliness. And that’s how we came across 24Flow.”
Initially built for made-to-order production businesses, 24Flow’s unique, modular setup is designed for navigating uncertainty. The intuitive, user-friendly interface improves accessibility and makes it possible to create personalized overviews for each user, from operators to operation managers. Because 24Flow is built with Salesforce’s low-code technology, it comes with best-in-class cybersecurity capabilities too.
Low-code delivers high value fast
The low-code approach also ensures that new features and tools can easily be added to 24Flow to meet our customers’ specific needs. “It’s like a construction kit that allows you to build anything you want, and to which new pieces can be added whenever your business needs them,” says Michiel Van Rompu, product manager at 24Flow. “Combined with our iterative plan-do-check-act (PDCA) methodology, this results in extremely fast value generation. We started the Oesterbank-project at the end of December 2021 and went from concept to a first live version within one of Oesterbank production sites in little over three months.”
As of April 2022, Oesterbank is running 24Flow as a pilot project alongside its old MES on a production line for air conditioning manufacturer Daikin. Wouter: “Within a few weeks, we’ll gather feedback and evaluate the experiences to see what still needs to be adjusted or reconfigured. Not only does this way of collaborating allow us to expand the project systematically, it also ensures that we’re not getting a ‘black box’ solution. Once everything is finished, we will be able to make small adjustments ourselves.”
Creating something unique together
“Although we’re still early in the process, we’re very excited about the way things are going so far,” Wouter adds. “Just like Oesterbank, 24Flow focuses on creating a customized solution, in close collaboration with its customers. It’s true that this means some features can’t be implemented ‘off the shelf’, but at the same time you have the opportunity to create something entirely unique together.”
“Ultimately, our goal is to outsource the complexity of the job at hand to the digital platform and make the manual tasks as straightforward as possible. Everything needs to be immediately clear. Innovative, digital solutions like 24Flow enable us to make complex tasks accessible to everyone, while still meeting strict quality and efficiency standards. In the near future, we want to expand 24Flow to our other departments and workshops as well to ensure visibility across different sites.”