Lean transformation and digitalization go hand in hand. In the podcast, Tobias Kehrer and Falk Hieber explain how Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH benefited during the pandemic.
From a traditional family business to a globally active specialist: Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH can look back on a history of more than 140 years. In the company, safety is the measure of all things. Since the beginning, the ropes and other products from Süßen (district of Göppingen) have ensured safe lifting, gripping and transporting of goods, some of which weigh several tons. They therefore ensure the safety of people and materials in daily work and must in each case meet the individual requirements of the customer.
“We only manufacture our products to order,” says Falk Hieber, Head of Organizational Development: “Every order is supervised by one employee from start to finish.” Despite these production conditions, which are more like a manufactory, the company has been paying attention to disturbance-free and stable processes for years in order to make operations as efficient as possible.
Lean Transformation: The roots go deep
Carl Stahl Hebetechnik took its first steps in the area of lean back in 2007. “At that time, after strong growth and corresponding diversification, we found that our organization was reaching its limits,” recalls Managing Director Tobias Kehrer.
A highly branched organizational chart, wide management scope, long lead times and many interfaces led to the decision to change something. Leadership decided to start by transforming one product area using Lean Management principles: “After we reduced inventory as a first step, liquidity and lead times improved in that area.”
After initial success with lean, the road got rockier
The company wanted to extend this success to all departments – and had to recognize that the transformation was not successful without outside help. “The road became rockier, but our path up to now has been filled with detours,” says Managing Director Kehrer, describing the course so far, which Staufen AG has been supporting for several years.
Now Carl Stahl Hebetechnik is a BestPractice Partner of Staufen. Although the Lean Transformation is not yet complete, Tobias Kehrer is convinced that the company is on the right track: “We have now really reached the point where we can talk about Lean Transformation, have a roadmap and have achieved interim success.”
Lean und digital belong together
The two managers consider the interaction of lean and digital in the company a success. Because Carl Stahl Hebetechnik recognized early on that digital ideas could support the principles and methods of Lean Management.
“We all sit at our computers every day; we use video calls. We do many things digitally. And when you’re dealing with lean processes, you can’t avoid dealing with digital topics,” says Tobias Kehrer.
I’ve never understood the competing view of lean and digital.Tobias Kehrer, Managing Director, Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH
Shop Floor Management for more transparency
This has an impact on collaboration and the culture of the company. Today, employees give positive feedback when asked about issues such as transparency and communication within the company. Employee involvement in solving problems is on the rise. “We conclude that Shop Floor Management as a structured management tool has made a significant contribution to this,” says OD Manager Hieber.
3 important points for a new mindset
The company’s new culture today includes
- more open exchange between managers regarding individual topics,
- breaking down silos, and
- improving overlapping work in teams.
A new mindset that has so far been predominantly used by managers. In the future, however, this new way of thinking will also be promoted among employees. Falk Hieber: “This will enable us to achieve the desired cultural change in the medium term.”
Navigating the pandemic with digital processes
Right at the beginning of the pandemic, the well-functioning interplay between lean and digital came to the rescue. From the beginning of the first lockdown, all employees who were not employed in production were able to work from home. In teams, they worked independently during this phase using virtual boards to maintain the workflow.
Contact among managers was maintained in daily virtual jour fixes. “As a result, we were also able to make decisions very quickly, enabling us to react to situations very quickly,” Tobias Kehrer recalls. Being digitally prepared, Lean Management and the resulting clear communication structure allowed management to take handle topics from the start. “And that certainly led to the fact that we also had slumps in terms of incoming orders and sales, but overall we came through this period very well economically.”
Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH
Head of Organizational Development
Carl Stahl Hebetechnik GmbH
Lean Transformation and Digitalization hand in hand
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