Taking the lean road to excellence

How continuous improvement is setting GEA on the road to excellence by improving productivity and reducing waste.

Uwe Möller is a man with a mission. As Director of Ideas & Improvement Management / Lean Manufacturing Management he is steering GEA down the path of continuous improvement.

‘Ideas management‘ is a leadership and learning tool which complements – rather than competes with - an organization’s other methods and systems, creating an additional basis for business success. ‘Lean’ means engaging all employees in the systematic identification and elimination of all activities that add no value to the customer.

“Added value is what the customer is willing to pay for – activities that enhance a product or service,” Uwe explains. “Waste covers all the activities for which the customer is not willing to pay, in other words there is no increase in value to the raw material, product or service.”

He believes that the secret lies in relationship management. “It is critical to listen to colleagues and management and to relate effectively to different people – and to motivate them,” says Uwe. “Nothing great has ever been achieved without creating enthusiasm for it.” 

Uwe joined GEA in 1985, starting in the R&D department. Since 2008 he has been championing i²m, the company’s ideas and improvement management system, which, he believes, plays an essential role in the continuous improvement process. In 2012 he boosted his credentials further by gaining the black belt in kaizen and lean manufacturing.

Kaizen - Lean - Six Sigma

Kaizen is Japanese for continuous improvement and, together with Lean Six Sigma, it provides a set of tools and techniques for process improvement. Lean management focuses on removing the process steps that lead to no added-value. Six-Sigma eliminates the variations and deviations in the remaining value-added process steps. 

“Lean thus ensures that you are doing the right things and Six-Sigma confirms that you are doing these things in the right way at the first time,” says Uwe. “Lean has to do with teaching people to look for and think about waste. Then, when they see waste, they use their brain - and they find better ways of doing things more efficiently.”   

“The key is to continuously come up with better ideas (i²m) and more creative ways to solve problems. It doesn’t mean cutting things down to the bone - just the opposite. It´s about innovation, creativity, efficiency and getting everybody engaged and solving the problem.”

The lean approach can often involve simple solutions, such as fitting shelves and drawers in service cars for carrying tools. “Imagine our technicians would spend at least one hour per day on finding the right tool,” says Uwe. “That meant five hours a week, 230 hours a year. Multiply that by the number of service engineers, it adds up to a huge amount of ‘non value-added’ time and money.”

Uwe works with continuous improvement colleagues in other GEA departments worldwide, sharing good ideas and developing common Lean Six Sigma standards. He has also qualified for his Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt which adds new tools to the traditional black belt skills. 

“We need only two ‘little’ things in our Lean world, a toolset and a mindset,” Uwe adds. “The challenge here is the mindset - that's something we have to work on."

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