KAIZEN™ is about improving people’s awareness of productivity in a positive and constructive way
Strongly believing in the value of Lean and in its effectiveness across markets and business ventures triggered Paul Hayes, Head of Supply Chain at Siam City Cement Public Company Limited Thailand (SCCC) to start a KAIZEN™ transformation for his entire team. In 2019, he decided to implement KAIZEN™ across the SCCC Supply Chain operations to become Lean and invited Kaizen Institute Thailand to accompany him on this journey. In a series of three articles, we share in-depth insights into this journey by summarizing a conversation between Ramesh Raju, Managing Partner, Kaizen Institute Thailand, and Paul on his KAIZEN™ journey so far. Let’s start in the first article by taking a closer look at the motivation behind starting on this KAIZEN™ journey.
Ramesh Raju: How did you decide to go Lean in SCCC to start with?
Interestingly, it was my past work experience with a Japanese company that gave me an overview of KAIZEN™. Based on this, I strongly believed in the potential of this philosophy. Some of us in senior management saw that Lean would be a helpful lever for change, by improving people’s awareness for productivity – in a positive and constructive way. This is in contrast to the traditional approach of trying to cut costs year-on-year without serious attention to improving the ‘real’ process. Cutting costs in such a traditional way demotivates people, hence is not sustainable.
Siam City Cement Public Company Limited (SCCC): Company Profile
- Second largest cement producer in Thailand with a history of over 50 years
- An innovative supplier of cement products, services and solutions
- Expands network to the Regional including Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Sri Lanka
- 2020: 4,734 employees; 42,000mn Baht (1,284mn USD) total net sales turnover
Sources: SCCC Company Profile; SCCC Investor Relations
What challenges did you face at the beginning?
Well, the main challenge at the beginning was to create an understanding for the full theory behind KAIZEN™. If you have not been through the experience yourself, it becomes hard to make the connection. This created some questions in the team, such as: ‘I see this concept but, what does it mean for me personally?’ ‘How does it work in daily practice?’ The only way to get beyond this is by simply starting to practice. There is no shortcut to that, it is only when you are involved in the change that your mind starts to open-up and you start to see yourself.
A good example is probably our packaging team. When we began to go through the various steps, started collecting the data and involving the operators in analysis and decision making, various managers could not grasp the benefit of the exercise. This was particularly true of our middle management team, especially as they had been working in this area for several years and, understandably, were used to doing things in a certain way.
When things got tight, we pushed on and kept up the momentum. We understood that we had to reach a stage when things would tangibly change, when managers recognize that they are the ones that need to make changes stick. There was a lot of resistance, mainly through fear of the unknown. When production floor personnel saw that top management was behind our KAIZEN™ initiatives and that the whole emphasis was on making things better for everyone involved in the process, from beginning to end, attitudes altered dramatically. People suddenly recognized that they were now in control of their own destiny.
“The main challenge at the beginning was to create an understanding for the full theory behind KAIZEN™. If you have not been through the experience yourself, it becomes hard to make the connection.”
What kind of support did you obtain from Kaizen Institute to accompany your journey?
Kaizen Institute started by making us familiar with a little bit of theory. And then, very quickly, demonstrated how to apply this to a real situation at the workplace (gemba). This for us was a great approach, as the principles were well explained and fast understood. It was immediately clear that we would only learn by doing: the sooner the better, and being the surest way to guarantee progress.
We became very specific, as every situation is different. The KAIZEN™ guiding principles must be set within a framework that best suits each functioning group and processes. Then, in simply doing, and by focusing exclusively on the process, the benefits of the KAIZEN™ methodology become evident.
“We understood that we had to reach a stage when things would tangibly change, when managers recognize that they are the ones that need to make changes stick.”
Do you enjoy visiting your Supply Chain Gemba?
Absolutely! I am delighted, because now I’ve a reason to go there much more often. Before I would sometimes feel guilty going to the gemba when I just got too busy. Now that it is part of our new operating philosophy, it is very important that myself and our other managers make the time to be there, at the gemba.
What made you keen to go to the Gemba?
I soon could see very clearly that daily visits to the gemba were a fundamental part of KAIZEN™ success, for that is where I could witness value being added, where muda (waste) occurs. I realized that it was not something I could see from far away. I now recognize and accept that I am not running away from my work by being at the workplace, for it is the responsibility of management to be there.
I often looked on meetings as inefficient and not adding any real value to the overall process. But when I started to see how meetings could be reframed from a KAIZEN™ perspective, everything changed because every meeting then was prepared correctly, many through stand-up discussion.
“We became very specific, as every situation is different. Then, in simply doing, and by focusing exclusively on the process, the benefits of the KAIZEN™ methodology become evident.”
Interested in reading how SCCC managed to create full transparency every step of the journey? Watch out for the next blog post!