Operational Excellence – making tomorrow better than today

At Fortaco, Operational Excellence means making tomorrow better than today. The company’s Director of Operational Excellence, Andrzej Wrona, strives to cultivate a culture in which improvement is a part of all employees’ daily work. “We are building a mentality of zero defects and bottom-up commitment. Our development projects are always made with the people, not to the people. We want our people to be hungry for improvement,” he explains.

For Fortaco’s customers, “better” means faster and more affordable solutions. Other benefits that have also been gained through Operational Excellence are better predictability in delivery times, proactivity through mapping customer value and also more efficient cooperation and knowledge sharing between customers and suppliers. “Our customers, being lean companies themselves, look for lean managed partners to work with. Standing still is regression. This is by no means an option for us,” Andrzej notes.

The five dimensions of Operational Excellence

Fortaco achieves a better tomorrow by following its Operational Excellence framework, which covers five different dimensions: We Will, What and Why, End to End, We Know How and Lean Leadership.

The first dimension, We Will, is about engaging people and aligning them with the common goals. We strive for perfection, and our employees have a significant role on this journey. Therefore they need to understand what we do, get more and more knowledge and apply it in their real working environment. Everyone should have two jobs: daily operations and improvement tasks.

The second, What and Why, focuses on deploying the strategy and making sure all know what is expected from them. Recorded performance is regularly compared with the dashboards of selected key performance indicators (KPIs) to secure immediate actions, in case performance does not meet the assigned KPIs.

The third dimension of the framework, End to End, targets attention to customers‘ needs instead of managing through the department silos. It includes the value stream management, which is accomplished by determining, which processes are delivering the kind of value customers are expecting by interviewing them.

The fourth dimension, We Know How, focuses on having the necessary tools and techniques that enable the fulfilment of the business targets. There are multiple examples of successful application of different tools across Fortaco. For example, the change over time was reduced in Narva, Jaszbereny and Wroclaw Business Sites.

Last but not least, the fifth dimension is Lean Leadership. At Fortaco, everyone is encouraged to think through what can be done to improve individual jobs. At the end of last year, Operational Excellence assessments were conducted on each business site, and as a result individual lean roadmaps were created for each site. “We did not want a top-down Group plan, but made-to-measure development programmes compiled together with the sites. This way, in a year’s time, the sites can achieve what they themselves said they would achieve,” Andrzej explains.

Training the trainers

Fortaco is currently developing a Fortaco Academy concept, a suite of training programmes which build broad and common skills in critical operational areas throughout the company. Many of the Fortaco Academy programmes can be part of the personal growth and development plan. “Immediately after a compact theory section, participants are shown how the theory can be applied into practice and are asked to use their newly learned skills in actual work with the support of the trainer,” tells Andrzej. The active involvement of all employees in Operational Excellence work prevents the need to wait for a trainer to be available, as the trained personnel can now share their knowledge with other colleagues in their sites using their local languages. In addition, Fortaco can have one common lean language. Internal trainers are also well-trusted, as they are familiar with Fortaco’s story and operations.

Several development projects, such as the value stream mapping and machine efficiency improvements, are ongoing at Fortaco’s different Business Sites. Andrzej mentions a one-piece flow project in Janów Lubelski, Poland, with an End to End focus as a notable example. “We mapped the customer consumption of the goods and aligned the production line output accordingly. We ask our supplier to deliver parts only as needed in minimum quantities, which will lower our inventory level significantly. This is expected to increase productivity by 30% to 40% and will help us become more responsive to our customers’ needs.”

In terms of measuring the benefits of Operational Excellence, the tangible results of single projects contribute to the bigger picture. On the other hand, success does not come from counting cents. “I have seen companies in which the main purpose of development is saving money, but none of those companies have been successful in true lean transformation. I would prefer to let the right actions turn into the tangible results,” Andrzej states. This way, Operational Excellence efforts lead to a win-win situation for all parties – through improved customer satisfaction, and at the same time, make work more meaningful for employees.