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ZF Friedrichshafen AG

Fit for the future: applying lean principles in administration benefits the whole company

Optimization in administration secures jobs throughout the company

Lean principles that have stood the test of time for over a decade in production at the Passau site of ZF Friedrichshafen have now been applied to the office. As an established partner, Ingenics carried out a project titled “Fit for the future” to optimize and secure administrative jobs. Procedures were made simpler and more effective thanks to a stronger focus on work that adds value while avoiding waste.

The most important project results and Ingenics services:
ZF Friedrichshafen AG
  • Project concept definition
  • Intensive qualification of many staff members
  • Implementation workshops
  • Systematic change management
  • Development of a communication concept
  • Development of an expert team
  • Increasing the potential of several department
  • Boosting space efficiency

In the production area, ZF Friedrichshafen AG introduced lean principles at an early stage at its Passau site. These have been part of day-to-day operations for more than a decade, proving their worth in every respect. As it applies to manufacturing at ZF, lean production achieved all desired effects and far exceed expectations in some areas.

This raised the question as to why some new ways of thinking that had become long established on the shop floor should not be applicable to administrative processes. The decision was therefore made to integrate production and administration in a new overarching management system at ZF in order to make lean principles standard for all departments and all employees. Ingenics AG was commissioned to manage the design and implementation processes in order to make it possible to transfer the lean philosophy to all office roles in a project titled “Fit for the future.”

The explicit goal was to create an even sharper focus on work that adds value and avoidance of waste, thus ensuring the company’s long term success and job stability. To this end, many processes had to be made simpler and more efficient. Ingenics supported ZF in both design and implementation, which included qualification of in-house trainers. These individuals were then able to take over the project gradually, ensuring that practices were embedded in the company for the long term in a move that also made optimal use of internal and external resources. Both sides benefited from the fact that Ingenics has a wealth of expertise in administrative matters as well as far-ranging experience gained in thousands of efficiency projects in production. Success depended on a clear external perspective – something that always identifies potential that cannot be seen from the inside.

„Every employee – all the way up to the managers’ floor – should scrutinize the procedural steps taken every day, examining their effectiveness.“
Gernot Hein and Klaus Schartner, ZF Friedrichshafen AG
former Project Leaders

The “Fit for the future” project was completed in two stages. To begin, workshops were held in which experienced coaches from Ingenics explained the basics to thousands employees and managers, most of whom had never encountered the topic of lean business. In sessions to raise awareness, employees were made familiar with the philosophy of lean production and administration, establishing a level playing field of knowledge. The idea of “learning to see” waste laid the foundation for later optimization measures. In an office kaizen workshop (Japanese for “change for the better”), staff learned to apply their newly acquired knowledge in practice. The focus was improved workplace organization and creation of meaningful organizational and filing structures. Some 700 employees moved into a new office building. Improved structures allowed a perfectly ordered moving process followed by work that was more comfortable and efficient in the new location.

In the second stage, additional work structures and processes were investigated, and the lean office system was considered in thematic areas. Aiming to make processes even more efficient, every employee up to the managers’ floor scrutinized procedures and examined their effectiveness. There was an increasing focus on added value at this point. The “Fit for the future” project was thus able to make an important contribution to securing the company’s long-term success and job security at the Passau site.

Furthermore, the two-stage approach allowed employees to make gradual changes. Since management deliberately took time to incorporate suggestions and ideas from the workforce, employees had the opportunity to influence developments and to create their own solutions rather than just implementing prescribed measures. In the view of Ingenics consultants, the combination of suitable methods and commitment of those involved are the real keys to success.