At Aalberts advanced mechatronics, we are on a continuous quest to create synergy between the four companies in our group and deliver even more value to our customers. One way we do this is through functional networks, including our Operational Excellence (OpEx) network. The OpEx network connects people in quality-related roles across our group, with the aim of helping them share and learn from one another and together find ways to improve our performance.
The OpEx network was created about 1.5 years ago, following the formation of advanced mechatronics. At the time, one of our key customers said that they didn’t understand how advanced mechatronics being a group would benefit them – actually, it seemed like it might make things more complicated. We needed to find a way to show that being a group adds value for customers – thus the OpEx network was born.
To kick things off, Roy Daniels, General Manager Lamers and the coordinator of the OpEx network, suggested to find something our companies had in common to work on together and thereby improve as a group. Besides sharing customers, another thing we shared was struggling to stay ahead of increasingly challenging quality targets. In particular, the team decided to focus on the material quality performance, or MQP.
A first critical step was to build trust. “That took a while,” says Mark Prins, OpEx member and Quality Health Safety and Environment Manager at Mogema. “When we first started meeting, all we heard from each other were success stories, but our performance wasn’t getting any better. It took some time for everyone to get to know each other and open up and share the problems they were facing.”
Another critical piece of the puzzle was developing a shared way of working. “In the beginning we looked at problems differently and told very different stories,” Mark says. “Since OpEx formed we’ve worked together to align and improve the way we analyze our problems and interact with our customers. Now we discuss our performance and give each other feedback, and when we go to the customer we’re all speaking the same language.”
Besides making things more consistent, the network is also delivering results. Mark explains, “All of our companies are seeing quality improve. We’re also getting positive feedback from our customers. They’re pleased with the effort we’re putting into this project, the progress we’re making, and how this new approach makes things easier for them.”
However, big challenges still lie ahead. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep improving and actually hit our customers’ targets,” Mark says. “We need to move beyond having common problems to having common solutions. This is tough, because our companies have a lot of differences. We’ve started by creating a list of areas where we can work on solutions together, but we’re only at the beginning of the journey.”
Mark believes we’re headed in the right direction. “We’ve evolved from only showing our successes to actually trying to help each other,” he says. “Every time we meet the atmosphere is good and there’s a strong will to keep improving. We trust each other now and feel more and more like a team. I feel confident that our plans make sense and will benefit our customer. This project has made it very clear to me that we really are stronger together.”
Liked this? Click here for our other stories.