An extreme focus on impact to increase throughput.
The pilot project
Industrialization of the Carbon Fibre production, is a production optimization project aiming to increase the quality level and throughput of carbon fibre profiles in the factory in Middelfart. The project was initiated as a building block to keep pace with increased market demands, i.e. the sales budget for the product. The production of carbon fibre profiles ran 24/7, spread over five shifts and a total of about 60 operators. The task was to identify root-causes behind quality deviations as well as countermeasures that address these root-causes and to mobilize the organization to implement the countermeasures.
The HDM was applied in the pilot project with respect to the specific case and context of Fiberline. Each of the three core elements was adapted to the manufacturing environment in scope.
An Impact Case was created specifically for the project at an early stage where the overall target was broken down to business and behavioural impact elements. The overall target was to “create a foundation for increased throughput that will secure profitable and competitive growth”. The business impact was focused around volume and quality levels in the production that corresponded with the overall target. The behavioural impact was that standardized work in the production would bring the quality level up and increase volume. While the business impact was broken down from the sales budget and mathematically translated into volume and quality, the behavioural impact was based on hypotheses from other cases and best practice. The latter implied that as more knowledge was gained about the root-causes behind Fiberline’s problems, the hypotheses were confirmed or disproved. Standardized work among the operators seemed to make less of a difference compared to technical improvements or the two combined.
To align stakeholder expectations, a pulse check was distributed to about 10 people at Fiberline every two weeks. The pulse check was a short survey focused on stakeholder satisfaction and impact creation in the specific project. As the respondents represented all organizational levels, the survey both covered satisfaction on impact (senior management) and process (core team and participants). The result of the survey and general status were discussed in a 1½-hour bi-weekly pulse meeting between the core team and the project owner. Decisions about approach, scope and communication were typical outcomes from these meetings. The pulse check made sure that all expectations on impact and process were aligned among the core team and project owner as well as enabling agility regarding the deliverables.
The improvement process was designed around hypotheses that were scoped at an early stage. These were validated and prioritized by the entire carbon fibre organization (approximately 70 people) in a half-day kick-off meeting as the official start of the project. The prioritized ~10 hypotheses were then elaborated into improvement initiatives that were formalized in A3 format (Lean methodology). The impact solution design approach was to distinguish “quick wins” from initiatives. By doing this, some of the impact came earlier (from the quick wins) while the initiatives needed more time to create impact. This approach sent a strong signal to the organization, that the project could create impact early. After 2½ months, a “challenge day” was conducted with the intention of proving the concept of implemented initiatives during a 24-hour session in production.
To ensure flow in the project, co-location (1), visual plans (2) and rhythm in key events (3) were used as methods.
First, Fiberline allocated one project manager (50%), four operators (20-40% each) and one project owner (at least one hour per day) to the project. Together with two consultants from Implement Consulting Group (40-80%), the core team was defined. It was communicated to the entire Fiberline organization that this project had top priority. This attention was sometimes challenging, as it required prioritization in the daily work for all staff involved in the deliverables. It was challenging that initiatives were identified in the project weeks soon after launch, the implication being that some deliverables depended on people that were not officially allocated to the project from the start. This really tested the organization’s prioritization agility. Some front-loading could have been done to identify possible contributors earlier in the project. On the other hand, a lot of the knowledge on the root-causes was gained after the project started.
Second, as the project’s goal was to improve production, the plans had to be visual for the people working in that area. Accordingly, it was decided to use a “project wall” that was located between the production area and the break room, locker rooms and the exit. This meant that all the operators passed the wall every day. The wall was made of glass and consisted of a project plan poster that showed the current week’s activities (open and closed), last week’s performance and other findings that could be of interest. Furthermore, the project “war room” was located on the other side of the glass wall. When the operators passed the wall, they could look straight into the project room. Consequently, transparency was established between the project team and the operators, inviting them into the process.
Third, deliverables were aligned twice a day in a sprint meeting in front of the project wall. The meeting participants were core team, project owner and ad-hoc stakeholders that were relevant for the on-going activities. Early in the project, the daily sprint meeting was received with mixed enthusiasm. The core team and project owner early recognized the benefits of coordinating. However, some of the supporting departments did not see the value of meeting twice a day to coordinate their activities with other departments. Agility and a structured daily cross-functional collaboration were new ways of working at Fiberline. Later in the project, the technical departments played a key role in creating impact and as that became clearer, their commitment to the sprint meeting increased. On top of the daily sprint meeting, the already mentioned bi-weekly pulse meeting was conducted. In addition, monthly steering group meetings were conducted and used as a means for critical decision-making. These decisions could have been made in the pulse meeting, given the presence of the sponsor and relevant management group members.
Leadership of the project was divided between project ownership and project management. The project owner was the Vice President of Production who had an active role in ensuring impact from the project. As he owned the KPIs that the project would improve, he had a big stake in succeeding with the project. One of the greatest successes of this project was actually the project owner’s commitment and his presence in the daily project work. It was manifested by participation in the sprint meetings twice a day, ownership of resource needs and conflict handling on a daily basis. He also took some of the project management tasks that the project manager was unable to handle. That also showed his adaptive mindset as a key stakeholder in the project.
The project management was initially a joint responsibility between Fiberline and Implement Consulting Group. The idea was that Implement Consulting Group was leading their engagement in the project while the client project leader had the general responsibility for the progress and outcome of the project. The purpose of this setup was that Fiberline should be able to continue the project also without external support. The complexity and cross-functional nature of the project often required Implement Consulting Group to step in as general project leaders of the project. This collaboration was enabled due to Fiberline’s active project ownership.
Learnings were reflected upon both via the bi-weekly pulse meetings and continuously in the process enabled by the presence of the project owner and other stakeholders. Often stakeholders stopped by the war room on their way out to reflect and discuss successes and concerns together with the core team. These conversations enforced a change journey as people expressed how they felt about the project.