When manufacturing boats that are expected to last decades, a company can’t afford to compromise on quality, and its processes must run smoothly. The Finnish manufacturer of Buster boats is attempting to rid itself of manual work and Excel tables by utilising modern tools to develop its business applications. Thanks to the mobile application developed in cooperation with Digia, quality issues can already be addressed during production, bringing the goal of producing every boat perfectly on the first pass one step closer.
Inha Works Ltd has been producing aluminium boats that are made to last since 1955. Most of the 125,000 aluminium boats the company has delivered to customers around the world are still in use. The company is known for its Buster, Yamarin and Cross lines of boats, and more than half of its production is exported outside Finland’s borders. Inha Works has been a subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. since 2016.
Previously, the quality system of Inha Works employed an Excel form in which production personnel entered any quality issues detected during the boat inspection process. The Excel tool did not allow for comprehensive management of the process or analysis and overview of the number of errors occurring at certain stages of the manufacturing process and their causes.
What we did
- mobile application for reporting quality issues and the supporting process automations
What we used
- Microsoft Power Platform tools
Thanks to the new application and operational model, we now also have the opportunity to monitor and continuously improve our results in an area that is very important to us: how many of our boats we can make without defects in one pass.
Jari Lehtonen, IT Manager, Inha Works Ltd
Getting rid of Excel and manual entry
Jari Lehtonen is responsible for information management in Inha Works’s organisation of approximately 150 personnel. Lehtonen has a long history of working in the manufacturing industry, and the role of information management as an enabler of a company’s growth and internationalisation fascinated him enough to become the subject of his PhD thesis. “Digitalisation and automation have always interested me. They make it possible to get rid of pointless manual work stages,” Lehtonen says. “If I could, I would ban the use of Excel altogether. There’s always a better tool.”
Coding is not the most interesting subject.
Inha Works had employed Digia’s Microsoft Power BI solution for over a year for tasks such as management reporting, and the company utilises other Microsoft technologies as well, such as their Azure cloud service. Lehtonen considered options for digitalising the reporting of production quality issues and came to the conclusion that Microsoft Power Platform could offer a quick and cost-effective option. “Coding is never the most interesting phase of a project,” Lehtonen says. “Staying within the solutions of the Microsoft ecosystem was an attractive prospect. When it came to implementation, Digia had been our partner for the successful Power BI solution and also had a proof of concept that fit our needs well.”
Digital development in your own hands
“Digia’s Power Platform Proof of Concept service can work in one of two ways,” explains Filipp Koivu, the Chief Architect and project lead in the Inha Works project. “The first option is that Digia’s experts implement the agreed functionality as specified with the customer’s business activities. In the second option, the customer’s own ‘citizen developers’ can learn to use Power Platform tools themselves with Digia’s assistance, and Digia’s experts support the customer in only the most difficult technical stages of implementation.”
We wanted to learn how to do it ourselves.
“We wanted to learn how to do things ourselves and how to utilise Power Platform tools,” Jari Lehtonen says. “The specification stage of new solutions becomes work intensive if every field and attribute needs to be explained one by one to the implementation partner.” Power Platform offered Inha Works an excellent opportunity to take the reins of their digitalisation development into their own hands. The progression from gaining an in-depth understanding of their own processes to the specification of the necessary fields and tables was seamless.
“The customer had a strong desire to put the opportunities of citizen development to the test,” Filipp Koivu says. “We at Digia supported them in the planning of the implementation and architecture and helped with transferring it into production and deploying it.”
Transparency of production errors
The application implemented using the Microsoft Power Platform tools offers Inha Works production personnel a way to report the quality issues they detect at different stages of production directly through their mobile device. These observations are automatically reported to the appropriate places. The application also allows for photographs to be attached to reports, which improves their clarity and reduces the need for written reporting.
“I was surprised to find out how much time we used to spend on repairing defects that had occurred at various stages of our manufacturing process,” Lehtonen says. “It is supremely important and extremely valuable for us to see how many errors occur in the different stages of manufacturing and how much time is spent correcting them, as well as to be able to conduct reliable analyses to find the root causes of those errors. The sooner we can address the causes of those errors, the better,” he concludes. Now, having all data concerning quality issues directed into a single data warehouse allows for comprehensive and user-specific reporting, which has also been praised by the management of Inha Works.
Getting it right the first time.
“Thanks to the new application and operational model, we now also have the opportunity to monitor and continuously improve our results in an area that is very important to us: how many of our boats we can make without defects in one pass,” Lehtonen explains.
Digitalising routines with a mobile application
Lehtonen sees ample opportunity to utilise Power Platform’s adaptable application development platform in Inha Works’s operations. For example, the parent company, Yamaha Motor Europe, requires specific financial data from its subsidiaries to be entered into its SAP ERP system. This data integration was automated using Power Automate, which is part of Power Platform. “With just half a day’s work, we can already get impressive and functional solutions,” Lehtonen says.
Lehtonen mentions the processes related to the Intrastat declarations required for foreign trade by Customs and an equipment ordering solution for staff as possible subjects of future automation. Another interesting opportunity in Lehtonen’s view is streamlining the processes related to new employees arriving and old employees leaving the company. Both involve a number of necessary routine tasks that mobile applications and automation could free employees from while improving the experience of those concerned.
A truly excellent tool.
“As information management, we are able to support the company’s growth and internationalisation through the development of different apps that improve the efficiency of routine tasks and reduce errors. I believe that there are still many opportunities for this in places like financial processes. The threshold of getting started on a project like this on Power Platform is extremely low. If you want to do this kind of development, this is a truly excellent tool,” Lehtonen concludes.