Questioning the way we work − so that we do things even better every day

What are Hoshin Kanri and PDCA, and what is the role of the individual employee in these techniques? An interview with Gottfried Nuber, Head of Global Quality Management, and Roland Sommer, Head of Global Supply Chain Management and Shared Services.

Mr. Nuber, the Hoshin Kanri method and PDCAs are already being used by many organisations in the company. Nevertheless, many employees probably are not fully aware of what this really means. Would you please briefly explain the differences between the two methods and how they relate?

G. N.: A PDCA is a quality control chart which can be used for any process. Employees keep a watchful eye on their daily workflows and track key metrics. Hoshin Kanri is primarily a tool for management. It can be used to set goals and also to manage day-to-day operations. In setting goals, managers can for example break down the annual plan into precisely-defined objectives for the various organisational units. As a management system, managers use their employees’ PDCAs as a starting point for critically analysing workflows and making improvements.

Mr. Sommer, you have been using these methods successfully in your area of responsibility for two years. Why were Hoshin Kanri and PDCA chosen?

R. S.: Naturally our goal is to make our daily work more efficient. However to do that, we have to take a critical look at what we are doing on a regular basis. We used to generate and share a lot of information at the group level. In production for example, we used to track metrics such as productivity, quality and on-time delivery, but this was done in isolation from the higher-level processes. Now with Hoshin Kanri and PDCA, we create a relationship between the metrics and the underlying workflows. The information contained on the completed PDCAs highlights problems in the process, for example deviations from the delivery schedule, repeated machine faults or unnecessary work. Employees and managers must jointly develop an action plan to eliminate the problems and improve the daily workflows.

How were the methods introduced?

R. S.: When I took charge of my area of responsibility in 2014, I noticed variability in the maturity levels in the different departments. Some worked in groups, some had introduced a continuous improvement process (CIP) and others were using Total Productive Management (TPM). For me, Hoshin Kanri and PDCA provided an ideal migration path, because the methods do not depend on previous knowledge or skills by the employees and managers. Naturally we had to provide good support and in-depth training, but we quickly had everyone on board and ready for the new approach.

What is your assessment so far?

R. S.: I see the method as a good opportunity to promote sustained communications between managers and employees. The ongoing review and questioning of our work methods and the relentless search for improvement opportunities are the biggest plus factors.

How has working with PDCAs changed since they were first introduced?

R. S.: Initially, the PDCAs were limited to the individual organisational units. Cross-departmental communications are now gradually developing. The different functions and employees are engaging with each other and building networks, and they are using the PDCA for shared processes.

The Hoshin-Kanri method, and the use of PDCAs, will be introduced throughout the Group. What steps are defined in the implementation plan?

G. N.: Many employees are already using these methods, not only in production but also in engineering, logistics, warehousing and project management. During Group-wide introduction, the first wave will be limited to the AG. The second wave will then bring the subsidiaries and branches on board.

What long-term benefits do you expect from the introduction of Hoshin Kanri at Krones?

G. N.: Quite simply good communications, good collaboration and good work results. Our work methods will only improve on a sustained basis if we share information and all pull in the same direction.

Roland Sommer (left) and Gottfried Nuber are convinced that Group-wide introduction of the Hoshin Kanri and PDCA methods will produce sustained improvement of our work methods.

What does PDCA stand for?

P as in Plan: Reproduce and analyse the current process step with its preceding and subsequent steps (cause analysis and prioritisation)

D as in Do: Fill in a list of measures to improve the process (Who? What? When?)

C as in Check: Check if the measures were successful by using the process indicators (such as number of hours, faults per output, etc.)

A as in Act: Transfer the working measures into a standard which currently represents the best possible status that can be ensured with a lasting effect