‘Saudisation’: achieving efficiency in manufacturing

Saudi furniture manufacturer Al Joaib’s assignment to Schuler Consulting was to develop a solid and future-proof production concept for manufacturing and to increase productivity per worker.


The government of Saudi Arabia wants to develop the Kingdom’s manufacturing sector from manual labour to a highly automated industry through “Saudisation”.

The core of it is to increase the cost of work permits for foreign production workers and hire more local skilled workers, invest in more efficient and automated manufacturing.

In 2023, the 5-year transition period for increasing the cost of foreign work permits will end. As a result, the competitiveness and profitability of many companies will be at stake.

The Saudi furniture manufacturer, Al Joaib, made the decision to take action and counts on Schuler Consulting’s assistance. Al Joaib is a kitchen, home furniture and bathroom manufacturer, specialising in the production, supply and installation of furniture.

The project business is specifically geared towards larger housing projects in the range of three- to four-digit residential units. Al Joaib not only produces the furniture, but also carries out the assembly service on site.

In addition, the manufacturer uses 5% of the production capacity for the retail business and special orders in the high-end segment. It also cooperates with well-known European furniture manufacturers that include Bauformat Küchen & Noteborn.

With a  total of 82 employees (33 in production, 49 salaried), it produces around 20,000 cabinets per year in a single-shift operation. The main products are Euro-style kitchens, vanity units and built-in cupboards.

Until a few years ago, the manufacturer was very well known for its kitchens with solid wood fronts. This trend has changed and today flat, melamine-coated fronts are in demand.

Increase productivity

Al Joaib’s assignment to Schuler Consulting was to develop a solid and future-proof production concept for manufacturing. The first step was not to increase capacity, but to increase productivity per worker. The goal was to reduce the work force by 30%. The planned value in the optimised production concept is now 37% less staff.

The second step was to set up the production concept in a scalable way, to enable future development steps. For example, Al Joaib can double the capacity in single-shift operation by investing step by step in known bottlenecks.

Through these investments, Al Joaib can eliminate the bottlenecks in production and is able to achieve double the output with a minimal increase in the work force.

Major optimisations were made in the areas of cutting, edging, assembly and logistics. In the cutting department, parts handling was made more efficient.

In addition, a software-supported cutting optimisation with an import function from the work preparation has simplified and optimised the processes at the saw.

In the current day-to-day business, Al Joaib uses a lot of resources to remove the adhesive residues. A new edge bander eliminated this rework and also minimised set-up time. In addition, a re-circulation system was implemented, which increased the efficiency in parts handling.

Structural change

The biggest structural change took place in assembly, where a new assembly concept, a flow production using carcase press, is being implemented. Currently, the employees assemble the cabinets manually at different assembly stations in production.

In the new concept, individual assembly steps have been arranged in optimised work areas alongside an assembly line. This includes separate pre-assembly for drawers and front fittings, as well as an optimised pre-insertion area, front and drawer assembly and attached packaging.

Kitchen and bathroom cabinets are currently screwed together by hand during assembly. The cabinets can now be pressed together using a carcase press with a pure dowel connection. There will also be a commissioning area for the carcase parts and fronts upstream of the assembly.

Eventually, Al Joaib will consistently use a transport and buffer system in the form of roller conveyors for logistics in pre-fabrication. Transport has been made easier via roller conveyors, without auxiliary means.

Newly arranged fixed buffer locations allow simpler intermediate storage of components between processes, and limit the production quantities in upstream processes, thus preventing over-production.

The new logistics concept simplifies the material flow, enabling better control of the production process and creating more transparency about production performance.

Flexible drilling

To improve flexibility, accuracy and quality in drilling, the company has invested in new drilling machines. Although Al Joaib operates in the projects business, the production volumes do not justify the acquisition of a high-performance drilling machine.

For this reason, and to maintain scalability, a more flexible drilling concept is used. This can efficiently handle the entire spectrum of parts, where flexible machining allows the batch sizes to stay minimised. This creates more flexibility in production planning and subsequent delivery.

Al Joaib has used the state-driven modernisation offensive to set the course for the future. It remains to be seen whether other companies will be able to do the same.

A wave of modernisation, digitalisation and automation is rolling towards Saudi Arabia that will produce winners. The message is clear: ‘Those who do not follow suit and modernise in order to be competitive will have to discontinue their business in the long term’.

The investments in the areas of digitalisation are paying off in Saudi Arabia. The state subsidises projects that fall under the heading of ‘Industry 4.0’ with up to 75% from various funding sources.



Comment here