We at Alvey do our absolute utmost to be in this business to stay, and to stay in the long run. For this we need to have a long-term view. Thankfully, our key financial partners – the KBC Group and PMV - both understand our business and support our long term objectives as opposed to short term gains and games.
Our shareholders are all active managers in our Group.
What does this long-term view entail?
First and foremost, and this since many decades, we never walk away from a problem for which we are responsible. Customer satisfaction must be and is a prime concern. Without our customers we are nothing.
It is impossible to achieve customer satisfaction with an unhappy team. Therefore safety and wellbeing go hand in hand with customer satisfaction. Safety and wellbeing is a matter of Management attitude, training, time and money.
For a customer to be satisfied, we must first sell. To sell, we must be competitive. To be competitive, we need to invest in research and product development and we need to be extremely careful with costs. Indeed, we have never reduced research investments – crisis or no crisis. This is because we believe that without research and product development we have no future.
All the above we know and apply for many years -sometimes with great success, sometimes possibly with a little bit less…
And still, it was not enough. More, much more needed to be done to get our company on the absolute right track.
This is why we started our very own “Lean” initiative. When I say “we” it is to indicate that this task was not relegated to some department: : the initiative came directly from the shareholders: Frédéric Hermier and me. We studied Deming, and other relevant literature. We looked at our company and asked ourselves the question: “What is it that we are doing? How are we doing it? How should we be doing it? How do we know?” We very soon learned that we embarked on a project that will span multiple years, and that the objective is to never stop. We also learned that, in order to successfully implement Lean, we need to instil the right culture. Which is why we circulated an internal guide “Towards Cultural Change”. We learned that we need to get all departments – and ultimately all team members – involved. Which is why the effort is managed by a steering committee. Which is also why we refined our company values and rules.
Where do we stand now?
We now are ready to get all Managers trained in detail. We have shared our general thoughts with our employees. We have obtained ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certification for our Czech subsidiary, and VCA for our Belgian company. We now have a full time and dedicated Quality manager at Group level, reporting directly to me. We have retained a top consultant to ensure we focus on the right things and do not go astray. We have also discovered that we are not in the automotive industry, and that reducing batch sizes is not necessarily our first problem. In fact, it is the other way round.
Interestingly we found that we know almost everything there is to know about our projects, and that there is still a lot we do not know about our company. So we’re discovering.
None of the above will give any short-term benefits. None of the above are likely to give any benefits at all - other than laying the foundation for a long term Lean initiative.
I almost forgot: we call our initiative “APM” which stands for Alvey Production Management. No, not very original. Being original is not the aim. Long term continuous improvement is.
Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director
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