Wouter Vreman
Job Planner
Wouter Vreman is one of the Job Planners at the Process Control department of Gunnebo. One of their tasks is the programming and managing of the Amada punching machines. And: the day to day planning for the factory shop floor.

“My education started with MBO level 3 CNC Sheet Metal Work, and subsequently I did MBO level 4 Work Planning. Through a Dutch educational program called ‘BBL’, by which you can learn and work simultaneously, I first joined a small company with 6 employees. The work there was pleasant – we handled a lot of different products: golf ball washers, parts for stoves, parts for welding screens. But the management of the company was simply unfriendly towards us employees – there was an unpleasant atmosphere. In the end, I could no longer cope with this, and started looking for another employer to learn and work. “

“I joined Gunnebo in 2008 through the Euro Planit job-agency. I started as a production assistant at the bending department. Bending is a part of the preliminary work on sheet metal for safes. It took me a while to get used to the new job – when you’ve worked at a small business where you are familiar with everyone, it’s something of a change if you simply are told to ‘do this or that’. The work was more straightforward, more fixed. But I can handle repetitive production work very well. If you’re really dedicated to the bending of sheet metal, you don’t mind bending a thousand sheets in a row – it’s a job that requires constant attention and focus, as every sheet matters. “

“When my contract ended, the level of orders at Gunnebo was diminishing temporarily, so there was no prospect on an extension. So I started to look for another job, one nearer to my home town of Winterswijk. I worked at 2 companies, at each for a short while, but I did not feel at home at either. Then Gunnebo called me and asked me to return, offering a fixed contract as well. As I had just bought a house in Winterswijk, this was also a bit of luck financially. And, I wanted to be a Job Planner, for, after all, that was what I had learned for. I told Benny Bus, the Production Leader, that this was my goal, and although at that time there was no vacancy, there was one for that position in 2014.“

“Every week, on average, I spend about 10 hours programming and managing the Amada metal sheet punching machines. These machines (there are 3, part of one overall system) create custom metal sheet shapes, to be used in our safes production, by forceful punching by means of metal stamps. Our system is technically advanced: the finalised batches are stored in an adjacent warehouse by a robot, and sets of metal sheets for new jobs are transported to the machines automatically. “

2 Examples of the nesting of (to be) punched metal sheets on a steel plate. The default, automatically generated nesting (left) offers a yield of 65%. The manually optimised nesting (right) offers a yield of 80%.

“My colleague Marcus Alefsen and I have become very skilled at ‘optimising’ the Amada punching jobs. The starting point for each job is a DXF file, which describes, in a vector format, which shapes are to be punched from a steel sheet. A blueprint, so to speak. Then the Amada Dr. Abe software converts this file into a GEO file – the translation of that blueprint into a 3-dimensional description of the stamps and movements needed to punch those shapes. This conversion can be fully automatic. The nesting – the layout of the final shapes to be punched on a steel plate – this is calculated by the program. But you can choose to manually optimise that design, so parts are punched in a more efficient way. You can thus increase a yield of say 65% per sheet to, for example, 80%. This is particularly important for our company given the current price increases in steel. You can also improve the choice of stamps used for each job, or the punching order. Stamps are costly, so you want to use them efficiently. And, naturally, the speed with which you produce also affects costs.“

“I like my job a lot. I have a lot of freedom to choose how to get things done, and there’s a lot of interaction with co-workers. As a Job Planner, it is very important to be careful in how you address the production staff, when asking them for their cooperation. I did find this difficult at times initially, as they regarded me as a former colleague from the production floor, and could not always accept me asking them to do certain tasks. But this is something that just takes time.“

Wouter Vreman, programming the Amada punching machines.

“The office” and “The shop floor” – they have to work in unity to create the end product. As a Job Planner you are the first point of contact for the factory workers. We schedule the work for the factory, but we also have to supply feedback on its progress to the management. And we can be, at times, the target of some discontent among the workers when there are, for example, standstills or slowdowns due to missing parts, or technical outages. That does not trouble me – I regard it as merely the reflection of their effort to do their job the best they can. And I must say – the atmosphere at our factory is great. We, at Process Control, aim to be open in our decision making. The people at the Shop floor – they are the ones who know from first hand experience what is needed for a fluent process, for good products. Involving them is a requirement for mutual respect and working together. “


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