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Look, talk and listen

The foundation for the right improvement flow

In today’s world, data is sacred. That goes for the food-processing industry as well. From data we can obtain a great deal of information that proves useful in making plans for improvement. And in carefully monitoring the results of those plans. Still, at ARV Group, we will never start off by diving into that huge mountain of a production site’s data. On the contrary. The first thing my colleagues and I do once we’ve crossed the threshold at a new customer’s site is to look, talk and listen well.

Analyzing operational processes, inventorying opportunities for improvement. Less waste, fewer stocks, less downtime, more efficiency on the production lines and in logistics, better coordination between departments. With the ongoing improvement of results and a continuous focus on improvement as our ultimate goal.

Walking and observing

You could, of course, choose to dive right into the production figures. And to use that as your basis for developing an all-inclusive plan for improvement and for rolling out that plan within the organization. But I have serious doubts about whether that really works. In my view, it makes much more sense to get a firsthand look at all the processes. To walk around and observe. Why is that production line not rolling? Why is one department clean, while the other one has a lot of waste lying around? Why do I see people interacting all the time on one production team, while a little further along the people seem to be flying solo?

Asking questions

On the basis of my observations, I approach the workers and team leaders whose job it is to pull together and make sure those processes are running at an optimum. I ask them what they think and which problems and challenges they see. Do they have ideas of their own about how to carry out their work in a better, smarter and more efficient way? Do they understand what it is their management wants them to do? What do they feel are the preconditions for doing their work well? Manpower, teamwork, more planning and coordination, better maintenance? They often come up with not only answers, but also with solutions and very practical or even very creative ideas. They are directly involved. Because who knows the ins and outs of their company and their department better than the people who work there?

Down to work

The first opportunities for improvement that show up are often the “low-hanging fruit”. We use those to get started right away. In the form of concrete, clear and practical steps. Not all at the same time, but by establishing clear priorities. Hands-on, an approach that works. Because quickly enough, the first results come in and become visible. That gets people’s energy going and puts them in the improvement flow. Involvement, in other words, as the fuel for motivation. And concrete improvements as proof that it’s possible.

Long term

At the same time, that improvement flow is a major stimulus for management. As soon as I notice that flow happening, I meet with the management and take a good, hard look at the data. On the basis of all the available figures and management information, and with practical input from the shop floor, we discover options for improvement and put together a plan for structural improvement for the long term. Including sub-plans for the individual departments or teams. Plans aimed at concrete improvements in process and efficiency. With attention for investments and/or training. And including the option of a period of interim management to drive along the flow that has now been released. After this has been accomplished, we’re ready to hand back the reins. Because at ARV Group, we’re convinced that the people in your organization have to do it themselves, and that they are certainly capable of that.

Partner ARV Group

“Hands-on. That’s the best you can get. That’s what makes people’s energy start to flow.”

Publish date 2 March 2017
More information? Ronald Visser Partner +31 (0)6-29 51 78 30