SPRINT METAL is an industrial company based in Germany that specializes in producing fine and ultra-fine metal wire. The fine wire industry is characterized by formidable requirements for flexibility, but SPRINT METAL has operated successfully in this competitive market for 25 years. They follow a Kaizen culture, and their commitment to continuous improvement has enabled them to improve employee engagement and achieve democracy and transparency across the whole organization.
Kaizen is not just about improving business processes; its true function is comprehensive improvement at every level. In a successful Kaizen environment, employees receive as much value as the company. Team members are able to develop their skills and be an important part of the system, rather than a cog in the machine. The free exchange of information is promoted, and anyone can contribute new ideas for improvement. Safety requirements and the overall well-being of employees are also given careful attention.Following these principles, SPRINT METAL tries to foster an environment of open communication at their factory. Employees from all levels of the hierarchy are encouraged to send feedback and ideas up the ladder. Department heads use Targetprocess’s Bug Tracking functionality (with Bugs renamed as Messages) to manage such communication so that all internal messages (production error tickets, requests, suggestions, ideas for improvement, etc.) receive documented attention.
With this system, top-level management can give instructions, department managers can document errors, and team members at the operational level can send suggestions or requests up the hierarchy. SPRINT METAL has also created special views to facilitate internal meetings. Meeting results are logged as comments on the meeting entity (which is also represented as a Bug).
The benefits of open communication:
The careful attention that internal communications receive helps to enable the culture of trust dictated by the Kaizen approach. Before SPRINT METAL adopted Targetprocess, meeting minutes and employee messages would often get lost in mountains of paper and nonuniform Excel sheets. Now, everything is available from one central location, and no employee messages or important meeting minutes can be forgotten.
In addition to the transparency boost this system provides, team members also feel listened-to because any suggestions, requests, or other messages they submit receive noticeable attention. Participation in any actions or initiatives is also highly visible; this encourages team members from every level of the hierarchy to take a greater participatory role in process improvements and high-level operations.
This high visibility ensures that contributions from individuals don’t just get swept under the rug; team members actually receive recognition for their suggestions. This is monumentally important for nurturing skill development and team confidence. It’s notoriously difficult to keep up morale in a factory setting, but employees at SPRINT METAL seem to be happy with the way things are. And, if anyone does have a problem with their worklife, they can easily make their concerns known to management.
Facilitating collaboration with software:
Because many employees work with factory equipment and do not use computers in their daily work, operational workers submit their requests and suggestions manually through handwritten notes, text messages, or their preferred medium. Department managers then place these messages into the appropriate project within Targetprocess. The 11 pillars of work at SPRINT METAL make up the different projects, so messages are grouped by whichever pillar (project or category) they are most related to:Team members that don’t have access to Targetprocess can still check on the status of messages by logging into SPRINT METAL’s internal system, where all relevant views have been made available to employees. A monitor has been also set up in the factory to display completed requests.
There are many different views for Targetprocess users at SPRINT METAL to see messages and actions, including:
- An overview of all messages in the system - these can be grouped by category, status, and priority
- A team-level view of messages for each department
- An individual-level view for users to see messages by responsible person or by author
- Views for new messages - these are used weekly by the board to process messages
- Views for done messages - these are used for reporting and analysis
- Views to see actions for each work pillar (project) - these are used by the people responsible for each respective project
Customizing the tool:
SPRINT METAL has altered the standard workflow taxonomy and customized the cards in Targetprocess to reflect their communication-centric process. Custom Fields are used to measure things like visibility, effectiveness, and what medium was used to submit the message.Visual encoding is used to facilitate prioritization of all incoming messages. If an item has a high business value (such as emergency maintenance), it is usually assigned a planned end date. If a card moves past the planned end date without being closed, it turns red. To make quick analysis of views easier, new messages are colored green, and ‘done’ messages are colored blue.
SPRINT METAL practices a Kaizen culture characterized by openness and transparency. Their process for internal communications allows for flexibility in the management hierarchy, from the bottom-up and top-down. Employees at all levels have the opportunity to develop their skills and make visible contributions to operations. Their process and culture allows them to meet the ambitious market requirements of the fine-wire industry.
SPRINT METAL’s use of Targetprocess has enabled them to improve standardization, transparency, democracy, and employee participation. Bug Tracking is used to track incoming messages (tickets, requests, ideas, etc.), actions taken, and internal meetings.
In the future, SPRINT METAL would like to improve their process for messaging so they can reduce similar messages coming from different employees. This will allow them to put a greater focus on the quality (rather than quantity) of their responses. They would also like to see more options for advanced reporting in Targetprocess -- something which is on our roadmap for 2016.