The corona crisis is hitting the global economy hard. There are barely any companies which are not affected by the resolutions of political decision-makers which have been adopted to contain the pandemic. “We have no time to lose and are preparing ourselves immediately for the impacts and have taken appropriate measures”, says Wilfried Neuhaus-Gallade, managing partner of J.D. Neuhaus GmbH & Co. KG, Witten-Heven. “For instance, each worker has received a protective mask and protective visor if it is not possible to maintain a safe distance between colleagues by the nature of the activities they must carry out. We have spread out workers who previously performed their tasks in our open-plan office to multiple buildings around the company premises. Furthermore, we have started a blog in which staff can find information about subjects relating to the corona crisis. The contents will be updated at regular intervals.” The hoist manufacturer produces the protective visors for its workers using the company’s own 3D printer by itself. Since the capacity of the fleet of 3D printers is not exhausted by the company’s internal demand for visors, appropriate personal protective equipment is also provided for the staff in medical and dental practices in Witten.
One feature of the company culture at the hoist manufacturer from the Ruhr region is its open communication, as already mentioned. This also includes placing customer requirements first among its considerations and acting responsibly. All the values which shape and describe the company culture have been set out in the JDN Way. The three pairs of values of Tradition & Innovation, Performance & Durability and Partnership & Passion form the cornerstone for daily conduct.
At the same time, Neuhaus-Gallade wants to stress “that the JDN Way came to be jointly with the core Neuhaus family and the workers. We don’t consider this paper to be a permanent document for all time. Rather, the paper can and should be adapted to new framework conditions, but always on the basis of our pairs of values. These changes must always be shared by all. Using the paper, our staff – and also our suppliers and customers – can comprehend why we work how we do. This increases transparency, trust and understanding for our conduct”
And commitment to the JDN way pays off, as can be demonstrated in the current “production system”. The journey to systematically improve the “production system” was started about 15 years ago. In the classic change projects, many attempts were made to optimise the four production factors (people, machines, materials and methods). But Neuhaus-Gallade saw in this one of the reasons why change processes were carried out many times, but did not always succeed: Because people were understood as a production factor, equated with machine, materials and methods. By considering things in such a way, people were viewed as a cost factor instead of being understood as individuals with creativity and ideas. “So it is no surprise that worker motivation often fell by the wayside and many changes from before are judged to be failures. We wanted to prevent this by all means”
Managing Partner of J.D. Neuhaus GmbH Co. KG
It is advisable to review tried and tested successful practices, take these up and adapt them to new framework conditions. Instead of focusing on constant tough changes, you do not need a rigid methodology for change to make such soft improvements. Instead, the skills and ideas of the workers are sought after; that is, at least those that are closely linked with the process because they have the motivation and the knowledge to recognise improvement potentials. The workers are in the position to make good things better and only change that which actually needs corrected. People become the focus, so to speak, and not machines.
This is how the analysis, optimisation and restructuring of the “production system” at J.D. Neuhaus took place. At the end of this process, there was only one single machine standing in the same place as before at the halls on the plant premises in Witten-Heven. At the same time, methods and principles like lean management, just-in-time or the pull principle have been brought into production. This means that production only begins if a customer actually orders a hoist. This method of working requires accurately defined and executed processes. Information as well as parts must always be at the prescribed location at the right time, with the right quality and quantity.
In this way, inventories can be reduced, unnecessary internal transport of parts can be reduced and over-production can be avoided.
Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé, managing partner of J.D. Neuhaus GmbH & Co. KG
But such successes do not just appear by themselves. In order to expose improvement opportunities in the processes, the project team used “plan, do, check, adjust” (PDCA). Using this work principle for continuous improvement, research was made into the reasons why the results hoped for were not achieved as desired. Looking at the production processes, it was demonstrated: The company will only be able to improve itself if the employees themselves, from both Production and Management, are put in the position to carry out their tasks better.
An aspect which is not to be underestimated to reach this goal is meeting with all workers on an equal footing. It is only possible to achieve an excellent result through mutual respect. The guiding principles of creating the best quality forced the changes in the company culture. Here too the values play a decisive role.
The experience of the past years has shown that implementing continuous improvement depends only 20 percent on the application of suitable “tools”, but 80 percent on the way of thinking of those involved: translating the findings into understanding and ultimately into action. “And we practice this daily together – at the moment while complying with the required distancing and hygiene rules, which we are forced to take by the corona pandemic”, says Neuhaus-Gallade. “For example, from a sense of responsibility to our workers, and also to our customers, we decided to review customer visits and service trips more precisely for safety. Communication within the company as well as with suppliers and customers is primarily via telephone and video calls. We have also opened a virtual sales room for knowledge sharing. However, all of this can only replace personal communication, which is missing at these times, to a certain extent. But I am certain of this: Just as we at J.D. Neuhaus have overcome challenges together over the past three hundred years, we will also overcome the current situation and come out of it stronger”
Questions by Winfried Bauer, Editor in Chief f+h
Photos: J.D. Neuhaus