Collaboration in MX and Lean Operational Excellence leads to innovation in structural adhesives

A caravan company was seeking to reduce the weight of its vehicles to improve production efficiencies and eliminate the rising number of warranty claims.

Henkel had been carrying out a project within the caravan industry to demonstrate how the latest advancements in adhesives and sealants could add value to the production processes for touring caravans and motorhomes. During our initial discussions, the company advised that their primary goals were:

  • To reduce the weight of its vehicles to improve production efficiencies, and;
  • Eliminate the rising number of warranty claims, caused by water ingress (leaks).

Henkel’s specialist team carried out a detailed production line survey at the customer’s production facility to enable us to comprehend the build process of all the company’s product lines.

Applying the principles of Lean Engineering and Operational Excellence led to the emergence of an innovative partnership between the customer and Henkel’s Manufacturing Excellence Team. 


Caravans and motorhomes are typically held together with screws, rivets and staples, to create the main box structure. Each vehicle required the application of over 300 assorted fixings during the production process. Over time, these fixings loosen through vibration; the resulting gaps create water ingress points, leading to damp and mould on interior panels. As the number of repairs required increased, warranty claims were escalating.

The weight of the vans was an additional issue as industry legislation meant they were neither green nor efficient. 


Lean Thinking & Manufacturing Excellence (MX)

Partnering with the customer, Henkel introduced innovative light weight structures and new designs to support the company in revolutionising the way the vehicles were built.

Henkel identified a new design which delivered an opportunity to remove the screws completely and replace them with adhesives. By creating a completely bonded structure, we were able to greatly reduce process steps, inventory, WIP and overhead costs incurred in the production process.

The unique finished product is now stronger, lighter and drier and the production processes are lean and efficient.

Drawing on the extensive and diverse skills of the Manufacturing Excellence team and focusing on Lean operational excellence, Henkel solved the following customer challenges:

  • The van weight was reduced by removing screws and other mechanical fastenings.
  • Creation of a fully watertight joint design eliminated water ingress.
  • This example of operational excellence and collaboration improved cost efficiencies, enabling vans to be towed by smaller cars, while dramatically reducing warranty costs. 


A partnership in operational excellence

This collaborative approach between the Henkel team and the customer’s designers, engineers and operatives, epitomises the ethos of operational and Manufacturing Excellence. In this instance, the application of Lean thinking enabled traditional methods to be superseded with innovative bonding solutions.

The new vehicle design, optimised production process and an ultimately superior product led to an increased market share, enhanced productivity, job creation and greatly reduced warranty claims connected to water ingress.

In partnering with the customer to achieve their goals, strategically aligned design teams developed ideas that challenged the status quo. In practice, this allowed the opportunity for creative thinking, resulting in design changes, production efficiencies and cost savings.

“The Henkel MX program and Lean operational excellence programs, of our key customers, go hand in hand. The MX program brings a diverse, knowledgeable team from Henkel, into the production facilities, to compliment the in-house teams and to offer different ideas and insights on possible solutions, for all of the production process and support the drive for continuous improvement. Particular focus on productivity gains, total cost of ownership reductions, quality improvements and product enhancements”. Rob Whitehouse Global Head of MX Program.

About the author

Craig Alford

Global Key Account Manager Aerospace

Craig has been supporting the Adhesives and Chemical industry for almost 20 years. In that time working with some of the leading Automotive and Aerospace companies.

His motivation comes from developing solid partnerships and building trust where he can offer turn key solutions with an added value philosophy. Drawing on support from vastly experienced teams to drive projects which optimize supply chain, enhances productivity and delivers cost savings to the customer.

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