Reducing waste – increasing sustainability together
As Operational Excellence (OPX) Manager, Cornelia Spanka pushes for continuous improvement and more sustainability in the plants of thyssenkrupp Materials Processing Europe. The main question the 30-year-old industrial engineer has to deal with is: How can waste in production be reduced or – even better – prevented? Read on to find out more about the tools she uses in her work and why she thinks thyssenkrupp is underrated.
Cornelia, what is waste and how can it be prevented?
Waste can be all sorts of things. In a business sense, it’s anything the customer isn’t willing to pay for. In that sense, it’s the opposite of value creation. It can include for example overproduction, waiting times, or defects. In the OPX team, we aim to raise awareness of sustainability and waste management among colleagues at thyssenkrupp: That means identifying waste and then in the next step reducing or eliminating it.
How are you doing that?
By carrying out training courses and workshops on specific lean methods with employees. The focus is on employees in production, but related areas such as order management or production planning are also involved. Our OPX coordinators, who act as multipliers at the sites, help ensure this knowledge is applied and passed on to others. We’ve now also introduced a “shop floor management” system at almost all our sites. After each shift, the workers rate the success of their day by answering questions in five categories using a simple green-red color code. For example, was the shift target achieved, or was any waste identified. Key performance indicators are used for this, for example how high is a production unit’s value added. Daily shop-floor meetings are held to discuss reported problems and define activities to solve them. Only when the person who reported the problem confirms that it has been solved is the report archived and reported as completed. Two things are extremely important to us here: actively involving all employees and utilizing the knowledge gained. After all, the people who work in production know the processes best. We also want to systematically document problems and ensure they are fully eliminated.
Have you noticed things changing at thyssenkrupp?
In the three years I’ve been with thyssenkrupp, there have already been a great many changes. Right now especially there’s a lot going on. Both in the group and in my area many issues are currently being addressed with the aim of improving our structures or optimizing networking within the company. At the same time people’s mindset is also changing. I have the feeling there’s a sense of new things happening. People here are open to change, they want to actively contribute to it. This atmosphere obviously helps move things forward.
From your point of view, where do you think thyssenkrupp is often underrated? What potential do we have?
There are mainly two areas in which thyssenkrupp is underrated. Firstly our community and our network: the intensive communication among employees and across the thyssenkrupp group are key factors that define us as #GENERATIONTK. But this goes largely unnoticed by people outside the group. Many have this image of us as a big faceless corporation. Although thyssenkrupp consists of lots of individual companies, I have the feeling that we all work well together. Secondly I’m convinced that today we’re more flexible and agile than many give us credit for. I’m proud of that.