Kurtz Ersa Magazine

Ersa wins Factory of the Year

Ersa wins “Factory of the Year”!

Agile and lean – this is how the new process landscape at Ersa is structured. For this, Ersa GmbH received the GEO Award at the industry competition “Factory of the Year”, which honors “Global Excellence in Operations 2021”. This award confirms our high operational excellence across the entire value chain. In addition to the holistic approach, top scores in the areas of “Digitization”, “Processes & Products”, “Performance” and “People & Spirit” were recognized. A great award that spurs us on to become even better in the future!

Live out ambitions!

If a fast-growing global market leader curbs its ambitions, the company may fall behind. That´s where a prestigious competition comes in handy to stay on top. At Ersa, the company had set its sights firmly on the competition: We participate to win. The reward for the effort: The soldering machine specialists from Wertheim won the prestigious GEO Award in the “Factory of the Year” competition, which honors “Global Excellence in Operations”.

Kurtz Ersa CEO Rainer Kurtz brings the competition to Ralph Knecht 2020´s attention. “We could participate,” says Kurtz. Knecht, now CEO of the Group and then still Ersa boss, is visiting an important customer a short time later: Siemens. The electronics giant had won the title of “Factory of the Year” with a plant a few years earlier. After talking to the Siemens plant manager, Ralph Knecht is clear: “We´re in. And want to win.” The starting position is difficult, which makes the project even more sensible. Ersa is growing strongly. The Wertheim-based company´s soldering machines are in high demand. Applications of the digital mega trends are based on PCBs – whether 5G mobile communications or autonomous driving. Everything requires powerful networks, almost every electronic device contains one or more PCBs. Without circuit boards, there is no digitization.


“We have a clear strategy in all business areas and essentially the focus is always clearly on customer benefits. Everything we do is derived from that.“


Rainer Kurtz


“Also a key element for success are our Digital Transformation and all services around Industry 4.0. For us, this is ‘connectivity’ in action – machines and soldering stations are connected online, production is paperless, many things can be controlled via digital interfaces, and the ICCS is our digital supply center.”


Ralph Knecht


New production capacities for growing business

The rapidly growing business requires new production capacities. Plans for a factory building at the Ersa site in Wertheim have long been ready. The shell is in place, but simply expanding the existing structures is out of the question for Ralph Knecht. He wants to create the greatest possible flexibility so that the company can react quickly to changes in market requirements. After all, strong growth also causes pain. It is not unusual for a company´s organization to reach its limits as production output scales. Ralph Knecht wants to get to the root of the problem and prevent potential negative consequences of growing pains from arising in the first place. And yet, the new approach must conform to the “GoGreen250” sustainability offensive, with which Kurtz Ersa aims to become CO2-neutral by 2029 – the “Sustainable Production” area is a decisive pillar in this, which has an effect both internally and externally. “With the help of the industry consultants from Staufen, we have completely redesigned and set up the organization and processes,” says Ralph Knecht.

“We have completely aligned the company with our redefined processes for strong growth and made it ‘fit for future’.”


Roland Diehm


“For us, it was about defining the magic triangle in a sustainable way – cost, delivery reliability and quality. In all our process approaches, we have included this again and again. As a result, we´ve succeeded in significantly reducing throughput and delivery times, improving quality and, last but not least, increasing ergonomics and occupational safety.”


Rainer Krauss


Clear key figures as a guideline

In order to be able to clearly define goals, clear key performance indicators (KPIs) serve as a guideline: Above all, throughput times are to be reduced so that the increasing demand for Ersa machines does not lead to overloading of capacities – with increasing quality and decreasing quality costs. At the same time, delivery reliability, or “on time delivery” (OTD), is to be improved. At first glance, the overriding goal is simply formulated: “We wanted to plan the new structures in such a way that it would be possible to double sales without any major challenges,” Knecht explains. The reorganization involves serious changes that open up perspectives for the employees. The two-tier organization is broken up. A new layer is added: middle management. Until then, this intermediate layer did not exist in production. But as the company grows, there is a danger that important information will not reach all the people involved.

“We relied primarily on employees who raised their hands of their own accord, signaling that they wanted to help successfully shape Ersa´s future in a position of responsibility.”


Judith Seindl


“The key and the kicker for the successful transformation of the company was the introduction of funds management.”


Ralph Knecht


Open, clear communication

“Managers and employees have clarified the challenges situationally, but not necessarily with all the facts,” says Ralph Knecht. And adds: “We reached limits when the operation got too big. It was always fine as long as we produced three, four, five machines a week. But when you have to deliver 15, 20 or 25 machines a week, it doesn´t work anymore.” The new positions open up career prospects for a whole range of Ersians. “We were able to fill almost all positions in the new intermediate level with our own personnel,” explains Ralph Knecht. Production processes at Ersa now increasingly follow the principles of the lean approach with open, clearly structured communication. Shopfloor management guarantees that challenges are solved on site without having to make unnecessary loops. With rule communication, problems are identified and usually solved directly – the next level up in the hierarchy only comes into play if the available resources are not sufficient.

“Ersa´s great strength is the enormous know-how about soldering in the minds of its employees. If you want to pass this on to our international clientele, it makes sense to equip our machines so that they can intelligently and independently manufacture high-quality products in a process-safe manner.”


Nicolas Bartschat


Constant companion: Digitization of Manufacturing

Ralph Knecht: “We have digitized the entire process so that we can produce machines without paper. From order acceptance to the entire logistics, quality processes, acceptance and documentation, and work plans.” In this way, information always remains up to date, and all team members can access it. This creates transparency. Lean processes, transparency, clear communication in an efficient organization – these are the cornerstones of manufacturing at Ersa. They enable flexible reactions to market requirements without putting the company under stress. The clocked flow assembly 2.0 increases agility and reduces production time, which also has a positive effect on delivery reliability. With the continuous improvement process, order throughput time dropped significantly, and thanks to the product development process, “time to market” was reduced by 50% – likewise, assembly was massively optimized using “design for assembly”.

“As a result, the ‘Factory of the Year’ competition was a yardstick for us to see whether this really works,” Ralph Knecht sums up. It works, as the Ersa employees prove every day. Above all, the customers benefit and can better manage their own challenges in these dynamic times.


About the Award

The “Factory of the Year” is one of the most prestigious industrial competitions in Europe. For almost three decades, the management consultancy Kearney and the trade magazine “Produktion” have been honoring companies for exemplary production concepts. The competition jury is made up of renowned figures from industry and research. After reviewing the submitted documents, an experienced audit team from Kearney visits the shortlisted production sites. Ersa won the GEO Award in the competition, which recognizes excellence throughout the value chain and high value generation. Winners in the other “Factory of the Year 2021” categories are Siemens, ABB, Brose and Beiersdorf.


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