Teams can move mountains. They are able to achieve what one person cannot do alone and that is the idea behind the TIGER program. Employees’ knowledge is shared through cross-divisional teams in order to continuously improve all of DMK’s activities.
Teams get together in meetings and through their discussions, they come up with solutions that improve performance in terms of safety, quality, cost, added value, morale, or the environment at DMK. Large, cross-functional projects look at entire product categories and identify which parts of the value chain can be adjusted in order to achieve greater efficiency and save costs. So far, projects in many plants have already saved considerable sums.
One of these cross-functional projects run within the TIGER framework is called Transformer. It is important to change or overhaul ways of working and production processes that are no longer up of date in order to stay ahead in the highly competitive dairy market. “As one of the largest producers of cheese and sliced cheese, DMK must exploit all its potential,” says Karl Eismann, Director Operations in the Private Label Business Unit. “In Transformer, alongside major investments, we also have a broad agenda: among other things, we want to identify what technology we want to invest in for the future.”
Karl Eismann, Director Operations BU Private Label, responsible for the TIGER project.
Transformer is not only focused on updating production machinery but also addresses the issue of digitization. “We had been thinking about our assembly network over the past year – and that meant looking at how we want to align ourselves in the future and where we need to invest,” says Karl Eismann. “That led us to think bigger – not only from a production point of view, but holistically, involving all stakeholders.”
That sounded good in theory but the next challenge was putting it into practice. Karl Eismann and his team spent a lot of time talking to employees and stakeholders and explaining their plans. Before Transformer, he says, none of his earlier projects involved much in the way of describing and persuading. “At first, we thought this might mean too much effort but we realized that we had to get everyone on board and get them excited about thinking holistically.” People’s willingness to participate is important now and in the future, he says, in order for the project to succeed. Now, the teams are full of energy. “Colleagues are taking their share of responsibility and want to ensure that assembly is efficient and future-focused,” says Karl Eismann. This is positive for Transformer, he says, and in the coming months it will be important to keep expanding this kind of collaboration. “We want to inspire as many employees as possible with the idea of an integrated approach and expand the team step by step,” Karl Eismann hopes.
He and his team are not going to stop spreading the word about Transformer, he says, whether they are talking about its successes – or when things did not go quite as planned. Eismann is sure that more and more people will support Transformer in the future, and more people will become involved – meaning there will be no limits on the larger goal of “improving results.”
“A relaxed and constructive atmosphere”
Romy Paepke, Team Leader Product Development Cheese, Industry.
“We are responsible for developing new products and processes so we support process and product optimization. We are currently working with lots of our colleagues from other areas to optimize the assembly process through the Transformer project. We are looking at the whole of the process from the delivery of the raw material, the cheese (including the ripening conditions and their impact on the process), through to cutting, grating, and packaging steps, to the finished package that consumers see in the supermarket.
In the project, openness and transparency is really valued which means the working atmosphere is constructive but also goal-oriented. People treat each other in a way that’s focused and appreciative. So far, we have already come up with lots of ideas and approaches for optimization and now they are being assessed in terms of their potential: for example, possible improvements in the form of savings on packaging materials, or making the plant more efficient by standardizing the qualities of the raw materials, or more efficient equipment, or optimized handling. I am sure we can make positive changes for all involved. Open discussions in the project groups have given me a much better understanding of the problems and challenges faced by other participants and the Business Units. Regardless of how the Transformer project develops, I am sure this exchange of ideas will be extremely helpful for the way we work together in future.”
“This kind of exchange is becoming more natural”
Gianna Krieger, Senior Product Manager, Cheese, BU Private Label.
“Alongside developing and presenting new products for the German food retail industry, I also oversee many projects relating to the product portfolio, including packaging. Market dynamics challenge us to set new standards in ever shorter periods of time and ensure we can provide them consistently. Within Transformer, we consider projects like the development of sustainable packaging, as that can influence machine parks.
The cross-functional team that is looking at the process stages is made up of people from marketing, sales, operations, logistics, packaging development and, to some extent, quality management and purchasing. Colleagues from specialist departments are also involved sometimes, depending on the topic or issue. My sense is that this kind of exchange is becoming more and more natural and matter of course. It is exciting and motivating to see how that helps us gain a better understanding of the way different departments work. The Transformer teams have already come up with cool and interesting approaches!
So not only do you get to know your colleagues from the plants, you but also gain a better understanding of the whole value chain. This kind of cross-functional collaboration, on this kind of scale, is new for me. Analyzing these things jointly gives us much deeper insights into different parts of the process and how things are related and that knowledge helps everyone involved – also in other projects.”
“Identify what we have in common”
Karin Iffland, , Quality Management Business Partner, BU Private Label.
“My goal is to improve quality at eight plants in the Private Label Business Unit. I develop concepts for how we can optimize and standardize processes and promote the exchange of ideas in order to learn from each other. For me, multifunctional teams are really valuable because they help identify things we have in common and areas where we differ. That helps us understand each other and prevents misunderstandings and misinterpretations, both on a professional and personal level. Solutions and decisions that are made by the teams are usually very resilient, because they have been considered and thought through from all angles – alone you are strong, in a team you are unbeatable, as the saying goes. Changing a corporate culture is not easy, so that is why we always have to make sure everyone understands their roles right from the outset.
That’s something that works much better in a team than if it’s only done by a supervisor. We have also achieved a lot already, developing a tool that evaluates complaints and stoppages, for example. We had to make sure the data basis for all the plants in the Private Label BU and the Industry BU were the same. That transparency a and ability to compare meant we could identify trends and systematical errors in this area and introduce effffective preventive measures. We were also able to use the tool to assess how effffective the measures were. Getting facts and fifigures to make things transparent is the fifirst step towards improvement. Sometimes you get a gut feeling that can be a fifirst indicator, but that can also be deceptive. We can only change a situation if we are aware of it. By bringing the plants together for regular jourfifixe meetings, we were able to accept and understand each other better. We share ideas and solutions and learn from each other. I see that principle in the Transformer project.”
“DMK has a vast store of knowledge.”
Bernd Semken, Head of Corporate Procurement Packaging, DMK.
“I represent the purchasing side in the Transformer project. Together with other in-house purchasing experts, we examine the entire packaging process. We evaluate packaging materials and look for ways to optimize them in order to save costs. So we look at which suppliers in our portfolio would be best for DMK for this particular type of packaging at this location.
Sometimes the teams are individually selected, depending on the step of the process. We are there whenever our expertise is needed. We are currently involved in several TIGER projects. It is fun to see how motivated our colleagues are. The discussions we have are open and appreciative, and it’s great to see so many good ideas. We are currently evaluating measures such as reducing the film thickness used in cheese slice packaging: How far can we reduce the film thickness without compromising quality or cycle output? Significant sums can be saved by reducing materials in a sensible way! And that also makes us more sustainable. The project has shown that DMK has a vast store of knowledge. Succeeding is always rests on putting together the right team.”
“Experiencing what your ideas can achieve”
Gerwin Westendorp, Value Chain Optimiser | Gullfoss.
“We need to expand process-oriented collaboration across departmental boundaries in order to continuously improve. That would improve our understanding of each other and generate more solutions for retailers and consumers. Our goal should be to satisfy consumers, who then buy more of our products. Ultimately, that will enable us to pay farmers more.
I have worked with many organizations in the course of my professional life. Unfortunately, most have focused too much on departmental goals, meaning efficiency and overall results suffered. Also, value chains were not optimized. Through Transformer we can bring together teams from research and development, logistics, procurement and sales, and all the functions in between. We have even brought together different business units and markets. Everyone involved took a virtual look at the entire value chain, discussing what works and what could be improved. Lots of smaller ideas became bigger ones that had the potential to improve the value chain as a whole. Identifying ideas is one part of the process. Then there is the implementation. In the end-to-end approach, the people who fifirst identifified an area of potential are the ones who have to implement everything and that means they are able to experience in practice what their ideas can achieve. These employees are all highly motivated, I fifind, as are all involved. The continuous improvement principle in TIGER not only boosts DMK’s performance but also each individual, more than ever before.”
“We are only at the beginning.”
Holger Lewerenz, Head of Packing, Private Label.
“As head of department, I represent packaging in the Transformer project and am steering employees from Euro Cheese in Altentreptow. We analyze all of the production processes from the logistics to the finished product, taking all quality controls into account. The focus is on the highest level of quality and on saving costs. We are steadily improving communication in the teams and we are growing closer and closer together. Our performance improves in the process. The intense focus on the stages of the process confirms our way of working and motivates us.
We have already achieved an improvement in the utilization rate on our six production lines, for example. Last year we managed to increase performance by 1.5 percent. We have added 1 percent more this year so far. And we are only at the beginning: the Transformer project has only just started to gather data and now we are identifying potential and looking at business scenarios. The advantage of TIGER and projects like Transformer is that we can focus intensely on our tasks and gain new perspectives through team discussions.”