While the notion of operational excellence is reflected in certain management methods and, more generally, in all global quality approaches, it is increasingly inseparable from the use of information and communication technologies.
“In order to improve their competitiveness and increase their productivity on the international markets, industrial companies must more than ever consider the future under the digital banner and devote their efforts to the transition to Industry 4.0”, explained Sasha Baillie, the CEO of Luxinnovation, guest speaker for the opening session of these “Meetings of Operational Excellence”, held in Mamer last Thursday 21st March.
“This term alone expresses the crucial importance of digitalisation in the global chain of the production tool and the capacity of each of the concerned players to be much more responsive to the increasingly specific and ever more urgent demands of the market,” she said.
The message was received 100% at Ceratizit, the global group (9,000 employees at 34 sites worldwide) active in the development and production of carbide solutions. For the past 5 years, it has embarked on the implementation of a number of projects, with the idea of ensuring that the needs of the end customer are reflected in all stages of the value chain and optimising each of these steps.
“Our digitisation initiatives have mushroomed, but in a very uncoordinated way,” said Frank Thomé, a member of the Ceratizit Management Board.
“We have identified 70! That’s why we hired a consultant to structure everything, with the aim of becoming the digitalisation leader in our field of expertise: the production of carbide tools.”
By engaging in this approach, the company has played on several fronts: improving sales & operation planning, increasing reliability, reducing delivery times, increasing efficiency and quality, and, logically, improving customer and employee satisfaction.
It’s about People more than technology
Once all the projects identified and listed, a “digital roadmap” for 2025 was established, grouping these initiatives by categories: business models, products and services with, for example, the identification of products by a barcode so for their traceability; digital customer interaction with, for example, the ability to design and configure products online before placing a direct order; or digital primary value chain (quality measurements throughout the production chain, planning system for the use of the raw material to reduce production times and optimise storage at different sites around the world …), until the implementation of “automated guides vehicles” that will pick up the finished parts or launch new orders.
“It also required modifying our infrastructures in order to make our machines and hangars accessible for these vehicles,” says Thomé, who however wants to reposition all these projects in a more human dimension: “The biggest challenge is not technology, but people, because they often have to agree to work in another way and to question what they have always done so far.”
Frank Thomé also warns against an approach that could be distorted from the start: “Digitization is not the goalin itself. We do not do it to do it, but to increase economic success and create added value. It is therefore necessary to have a very agile approach and learn to improve. Above all, avoid digitizing the wrong process, as this will only aggravate the problem. ”
Those convictions are shared by Emmanuel Gay, partner of the consulting firm Resultance, specialised in improving operational performance: “the men and women who make up the companies will remain the keystone of all these transformation projects, which is why it is essential to accompany the change associated with these process redesigns. Beyond this human dimension, we try to bring financial credibility to projects by carrying out detailed, encrypted business cases based on improved performance. Digitalisation must create value for the company, its employees and its customers. ”
These operational excellence meetings culminated with a visit to the Ceratizit production site in Mamer.