Alstom Salzgitter had only 18 months to build and deliver 13 complete trains to Deutsche Bahn – an ambitious goal with a lot riding on it, literally and figuratively. After this successful sprint, Alstom managed to implement lasting changes in its operations and staff. Among other things, it opened its own Lean School, the best way to make the site ready to face the future. Now Alstom Salzgitter is right on track and travelling full speed ahead.
Alstom was founded in France in 1928, and today it operates in over 60 countries. This giant of the transport industry gets people where they need to go and offers an extensive range of products and services: Alstom produces the high-speed TGV train, as well as manufacturing urban trains, subways and trams, and provides services, infrastructure, signal technology and digital mobility solutions. With almost 33,000 employees, Alstom generates annual sales of €7 billion. The high-tech corporation is powered by values, including team spirit, trust and action. Most recently, however, it is also being powered by hydrogen. Alstom‘s Coradia iLint is the world‘s first hydrogen fuel cell train: in other words, Alstom is really on the move.
However, the company also faces challenges. China’s two largest state-run train manufacturers merged to form a megacorporation, putting pressure on Alstom’s profitability.
Among other things, this affects the Salzgitter site, where some 2,500 people work, which is why Alstom turned to Staufen for support in 2015. The consultants’ task was to help them keep optimizing. The core of their approach: transparent shop floor management.
Time was of the essence, because a major project from Deutsche Bahn, the German railway system, came rolling in. Alstom Salzgitter had to complete 13 entire trains within a mere eighteen months, and they had to comply with many detailed specifications. This project was a major challenge given the complexities of the rail technology sector and its demanding regulatory environment. There was no time for errors: their new shop floor management method had to work seamlessly from the outset.
Employees were integrated into the process from the outset to ensure that the entire workforce was on board.
A 30-member project team led the way and set a good example. Working together, the group successfully demonstrated for the first time what the current state of communications was in Salzgitter and how it needed to change. The members of staff came up with the slogan, “I’m on board,” publicized it on site and motivated the other teams. More and more employees became involved and contributed ideas about how to make shop floor management more efficient.
The project team rolled out shop floor management with four pilot projects, strategically positioned in critical areas: development, construction, production and supply chain. Alstom and Staufen introduced open and regular communication between team members and the departments in these areas, generated central figures and values for daily tasks and long-term targets, and created well-coordinated decision-making processes. Everywhere they turned, the newly trained staff could see for themselves how their work proceeded calmly and expediently, thanks to clear guidelines, transparent key process indicators and newly defined escalation hierarchies.