WAAK: reliability is our greatest asset
Providing tailor-made solutions for our clients by creating suitable jobs for their employees who are distanced from the labour market. That is the essence of WAAK. The company based in Kuurne has over 2,000 employees.
In addition to their traditional industrial activities, where some 1,500 employees are active, around 500 employees work outside the company. "In 55 years, WAAK has grown into the largest customised work company in Flanders," says Dominique Kesteloot, Process Improvement manager at WAAK.
From metalworking and assembly to finished product
"The focus at WAAK is on making finished products, such as a cooker hood, a charging station or a ping-pong table. We divide the production process into several steps, each of which we safeguard to the maximum extent. In this way, we make complex work simple, with quality and sustainable partnerships as a result."
"That 'Assembly' is explicitly part of the name WAAK is no coincidence. It sets us apart from many other metalworkers. Like a traditional company, we have extensive machinery for bending, painting, punching and welding sheets and tubes. But we go one important step further. We also assemble the parts we make, on the same site. That way, we deliver a fully assembled end product."
WAAK focuses on development
"People-focused business is our top priority. This means that we put our employees at the centre of our activities. After all, in a customised company, we work with people who, due to personal factors, have difficulty entering the labour market. They therefore need optimal support and guidance. So that they can develop their talent optimally and with full enthusiasm," Dominique explains.
"Because we are constantly working on creating full and meaningful customised work, the need for customised work instructions also emerged. At our customer Addax we came into contact with Azumuta for the first time. We took a look behind the scenes and soon found out that Azumuta was a solid system."
A digital workplace
"Like other organisations, we are always looking for new digital solutions to be able to continue to guarantee the best service on the one hand and to create permanent work for people with disabilities on the other."
"Having the software was one thing, drafting the instructions was another," says Dominique. We work with non-native speakers and people who do not master the skill of reading, or not to a sufficient extent. That is why it was important to work visually. With Azumuta we had that opportunity."
"We started automating 20 workstations. Our employees scan their work order and Azumuta shows the correct instruction flow. In this way the correct work instructions can be run through. We try to approach the real situation as closely as possible, the software shows the correct images with the order and elaboration of a certain assembly. Step by step."
Small sequences and great diversity make that more difficult for our people. We try to close that gap with technology. Dominique Kesteloot - Process Improvement manager
"The tool is fully tailored to our employees. After scanning their personal batch and scanning the order form, there is feedback with the ERP system. If the data are correct, the work item and product are matched. In this way, there is an automatic check that the right employee is at the right workstation."
Changing with the seasons
"Due to the great diversity that exists between different types of customers and products, it is important that our employees can switch easily and quickly from one type of work to another. This therefore requires some flexibility in staff deployment."
"Switching workstations involves meticulous planning. Because Azumuta offers the possibility of working with visuals, we can minimise the training time when changing over without loss of quality. Our employees on the floor immediately see what is expected of them and what actions they have to take. The multilingualism of our operators also makes visuals an extra asset."
The people behind WAAK
"Organisational changes are not always obvious to our people. It is an art to choose the right approach in changing situations. We will therefore involve our employees as much as possible, better still, we will give them a responsible role in change management. We offer frameworks in which our employees can get to work and we stimulate them in this process. All this by taking small steps," Dominique explains.
"Each team is supported by an experienced supervisor who supervises their work. But we also pay a lot of attention to the personal development and independence of our employees. Through Azumuta they can work much more independently, this also pays off in their commitment. Their self-image goes up which results in a positive approach to themselves and others."
Looking to the long term
"Sustainability is high on the agenda at WAAK. This focus is expressed in various facets of daily operations. Of course, social employment is important within that vision. WAAK gives employment opportunities to people who, for whatever reason, cannot find access to the regular labour market."
"A big challenge remains the changing market. Small series and great diversity make it more difficult for our people. That is why we are constantly adapting the production processes and workplaces to the needs of our customised workers. The influence of work instructions will therefore only increase in this story," says Dominique.
Azumuta in three words according to WAAK: