‘One step ahead’ is the slogan of Bunschoten-based company voestalpine, a leading partner for the automotive industry with Austrian roots. Voestalpine makes parts for various international car brands. In recent years, it has ventured into a new global market and has taken a big step to remain ahead.
Traditional shing village: capital of Europe for car parts
The company has traditionally operated in the manufacturing sector, doing different kinds of work for the car industry. However, several key thinkers within the organisation, including Austrian-born Managing Director Josef Lamplmayr, were able to pinpoint emerging trends and fresh opportunities: more automobile models were appearing on the market, serial automotive manufacturing was thus becoming increasingly complex and car firms were outsourcing not only the pressing but also the assembly of parts. Its strategic position within the industry allowed voestalpine to anticipate these changes and take advantage.
Thanks to the presence of voestalpine, the traditional Dutch fishing village Bunschoten, is now a centre for pressing and assembling car parts (such as bonnets, boots and doors) on a scale not seen elsewhere in Europe. The company can quickly deliver parts to the many major car companies that operate within a 500-km radius of Bunschoten. This includes key warehouses that are mostly located in Germany and Ger- man distribution centres shipping parts to all corners of the world.
Automotive manufacturing is actually a people business?!
If someone were to say, ‘Austrian origin’ and ‘automotive’, you would probably think of a highly streamlined organisation. Work processes that are up to par and systems that add up. “To a large extent all that is true. However, you should realise that with assembly and press shop teams, you not only have to deal with systems and machines but also with people,” explains Josef Lamplmayr.
He continues, “Our team leaders and managers are very dedicated and loyal. Many have been working here for decades and are very happy. But some were to a certain extent stuck in a routine. This was not optimal for productivity and quality. The issue was that ‘not optimal’ was often still quite good. But with the introduction and expansion of our value chain, we thought it would be wise to review things and see where we could improve. I can’t begin to tell you how glad we are that we came out of our comfort zone and hired Accezz!”
It is only successful when it works on the workfloor
While voestalpine was always assessing the automotive industry from different perspectives, there were blind spots when it came to operations within the company itself. “Accezz looked at our processes with a fresh pair of eyes and has successfully transferred its vision to our employees,” says Lamplmayr.
Accezz made use of the systems and data already available and set out to make improvements alongside the team leaders and general management. “The systems were largely up to par and we were already collecting all the relevant data. It was the human factor that offered room for improvement. We had not sufficiently established the operational link between our systems and data and the workfloor,” explains Lamplmayr.
During the analysis phase, Accezz outlined the improvements that could be made in terms of quality and results if data were to be used more effectively in managing employees and setting priorities. This would not only benefit voestalpine but would certainly provide a quicker service for customers.
“It required management and employees to change their way of thinking and behaviour,” says Lamplmayr. “Accezz also revealed that team leaders and management were too focused on putting out fires and less on the bigger picture. Moreover, holding employees accountable was not part of our culture. Too much time got lost in meetings and talks, and operators were not adequately coached to get more out of their work”.
Behavioural change that is result-oriented and measurable
An important part of the Accezz solution involved coaching and guiding team leaders and management in various areas, such as motivation, transferring work to operators, planning and coordinating, communicating about goals and expectations and the achievement of results.
The monitoring and development of each team leader or manager was based on a predefined rating system. Accezz made every point transparent and individually measurable. At the same time, everything took place within a secure context. As maintaining trust and confidentiality is important, ratings were not shared with the executive board but only individually with the managers and team leaders who had been assessed. And the results soon became apparent in terms of the production process, quality of production and the commitment of team leaders and management.
Accezz was able to quantitatively measure commitment as well. “Measuring commitment was also carried out anonymously, which made it secure for the employees involved in the process and result-oriented for us as an executive board. Each week, we saw the line in the graph representing commitment go up. In short, fitting very well in “automotive”, behavioural change that is result-oriented and measurable,” explains Lamplmayr.
What will be the next step ahead?
Over 70% of Accezz’s work was guiding and coaching team leaders and management on the workfloor. Lamplmayr says, “That is why we brought in Accezz and not the consultants we usually think of. And the approach has worked. As Accezz records and measures everything, we even know to what extent it has worked: operator ef ciency is 40% bet- ter now than in the previous year. On average, labour productivity has increased by 32% compared to the year before the project began. It means that 1,640 less man-hours are needed per week to perform the same work. That’s 205 shifts less per week. Accezz’s first audit is now taking place in assembly to ensure the changes remain embedded within our organisational culture. When you see the results, you realise just how impressive the steps taken by our team leaders and managers are. It’s much more than ‘one step ahead’!”