International tätiges Familienunternehmen Rettung der amerikanischen Tochter

Una gran empresa familiar alemana, proveedora de la industria automotriz y representada en 19 localidades en todo el mundo, se preocupó por su filial estadounidense: desplomes de las ventas, problemas de calidad y entrega, pérdidas más recientes en millones de dólares. La administración local obviamente no estaba a la altura.

Como director general, se me encomendó la tarea de recuperar a la “hija perdida”: volver a la selección de empresas exitosas del grupo.
La tarea principal era estabilizar la situación financiera y, al mismo tiempo, recuperar la confianza de los clientes.

Junto con un equipo de ejecutivos y empleados, implementé la hoja de ruta de cambio. Se reestructuraron los procesos y desarrollos, se establecieron los indicadores clave de rendimiento, se introdujo el mantenimiento preventivo y se realizó una gestión rigurosa de los proveedores. Al mismo tiempo, fue necesario resolver los problemas de calidad y cumplir las expectativas de los clientes. Para este propósito, los sistemas de calidad fueron optimizados y la compañía fue certificada de acuerdo con el estándar de calidad IATF. Una demostración de fuerza sin precedentes, pero la compañía regresó al grupo de los mejores proveedores.

Además de su producción en los EE. UU., la compañía también mantuvo una planta en México. En realidad, los procesos tenían que funcionar juntos sin problemas; de hecho, pero realmente la cooperación entre los sitios fue catastrófica. Para construir entendimiento mutuo y confianza, iniciamos un “intercambio cultural” entre las plantas: enviamos empleados estadounidenses a la fábrica en México, y viceversa, trajimos mexicanos a los Estados Unidos. Esto creó transparencia y respeto mutuo, y logró integrar con éxito la planta mexicana en los procesos.
Después de casi dos años, al final de nuestro mandato, la filial estadounidense está en el camino correcto: la compañía ha estado trabajando durante tres meses sin pérdida. La cantidad de empleados se redujo de 350 a 270, mientras que las ventas aumentaron en más del 20 por ciento. Los empleados restantes están motivados y los clientes se han unido a la compañía en el grupo de proveedores de alto rendimiento.

Start-up in Mexico: in the black after 12 months

A German supplier was planning a new factory in Mexico, and dispatched an engineer across the Atlantic to manage the project. We were brought in as a business partner.

The business brief ranged from procurement, via logistics and IT, to controlling/finance. However, the greatest difficulty was the Mexicans’ very different mentality and work ethic. In hindsight, our success was down to two decisive factors:

Firstly, the right management team. Anyone can buy machines and computers; it’s the people who make the difference! We sent an American and two additional Germans for the top management. The HR director was Mexican.

And secondly, well trained employees. Once we had taken on the first 30 workers, we sent them straight to a factory in Europe for three months. There they not only learnt about the technicalities of the manufacturing process, but also assimilated the culture and team spirit. On their return, they became the propagators of the factory’s philosophy of quality, thanks to which it was to go on to win a large number of awards from automotive customers in the subsequent years.

The factory was set up within a year. We started up production and were profitable a short time later. A powerful system of financial control, tailored to local conditions, and strict quality management were key.

Mechanical engineering SME: leap in profits thanks to target costing

A medium-sized mechanical engineering company, 200 employees, brought us in to implement cost-cutting measures. Our analysis identified the main problem: the products were too expensive. We proposed reducing the cost of the products by means of target costing.

Initially, there was strong resistance. The engineers defended the machines that they had developed. They feared that any simplification would impair quality. A typical conflict: the technician strives to deliver the best possible technical solution, while the philosophy of target costing is only to make the product as good as the customer actually needs it to be.

We invited a customer in, who had purchased the company’s machines for many years. In a moderated discussion with the engineers, he explained what he liked about the machine, what he didn’t like – and which features he could quite happily do without. That put the cat among the pigeons! The developers were absolutely horrified. That wasn’t true, they argued: it had to be an isolated view.

It was only when more customers confirmed the results that the developers had a change of heart. Since they were technically brilliant, they had no difficulty in “slimming down” the product, and presenting the first prototypes just four months later. Now, all those involved are proud of the result: a 17% reduction in the costs of the product line.

Interim CFO at a plant engineering company: if the project controlling fails …

Satisfied customers, successfully completed projects – the engineering manager of a plant engineering company had a reputation for doing a good job. The figures were all the more sobering once we had introduced a functioning project controlling system: not one single project had made a profit!

When we took on the role of interim CFO, various changes were afoot. The company, a subsidiary of a foreign group, had just received an order worth EUR 140 million, three times more than usual. At the same time, the group’s head office decided to outsource the accounting to India. The accounting processes had to be reorganized, and proper project controlling introduced.

The financial review showed that, although the controller had the basic indicators he needed, his reports were more or less ignored in the day-to-day business, because they were long-winded and the figures were difficult to visualize. As a result, the project managers were agreeing to almost any request for modifications, without realizing that they exceeded the budgets. Satisfied customers at the expense of profitability! To bring the projects out of the red as quickly as possible, we introduced an effective claim management system.

Safeguarding the new structures and thus the company’s success also required personnel decisions. Part of that was our own successor: since the interim mandate expired after a year, the company had to identify and recruit a new permanent CFO.

Lean management at an industrial services provider: the quotation process in the spotlight

The processes in industrial companies are often very complex – and it is all too easy to lose sight of the big picture. A typical example: a chemical complex, where the profitable manufacturing of gas marine engines had for years concealed losses in other sectors. The problem only came to light when the engines business suddenly collapsed.

The company sought support with identifying where the losses were being made and with optimizing the processes. That’s where we came in. We initiated a classic lean management project, and optimized the most important business processes. To embed the successes, we defined key performance indicators, which are controlled and managed via a “KPI cockpit”.

The greatest potential was found to lie in a process which no one had initially thought of: the quotation process. Each quotation was taking engineers the equivalent of up to ten person-weeks. There was great surprise when we calculated the conversion rate: within a few years, the ratio of quotations to orders had fallen from 80% to 25%.

A special working group was tasked with the quotation process. Amongst other things, it developed 14 criteria, which in most cases provide a simple, yet sufficiently reliable, recipe for estimating a price. The result: the time spent on producing quotations fell from an average of eight person-weeks to just two.

Restructuring an automotive supplier: the Brazilian butterfly

Disorderly and neglected, finished and half-finished products were strewn all around the factory site: impossible to deliver quality in such conditions! This was a Brazilian manufacturer of automotive safety components, with 1,400 employees and annual sales of EUR 170 million, the subsidiary of a German automotive supplier.

When a product recall cost millions, and caused untold damage to the company’s image, the parent company in Germany took action. It sacked the Brazilian manager of the factory, and we were called in to “put the house back in order”.

Our analysis showed that there was considerable need for restructuring. However, the top priority was to motivate the managers and workforce again. A decisive tool that we selected was a balanced scorecard, tailored to the company’s situation, which made it possible systematically to involve a large number of employees in developing and implementing the targets. This broad-based strategy came off – the process of change was accepted. One employee had the idea of calling it the “butterfly” project. “At the moment we are still an ugly caterpillar,” he said, “but when we are finished, everything will be beautiful and colorful.”

Two years later, the factory was back in the black. And its biggest customer, a leading car manufacturer, even honored it with a “quality award”. Managers and workers, together with their families, celebrated with a big, colorful party on the factory site: the butterfly had emerged!