putting ideas to the test
Then, of course, comes the time to start implementing the initiatives in their predetermined order. “This step takes the most time, but it’s also the most rewarding. This is where ideas can really be put to the test through their interaction with everyday reality. That’s why it’s a major advantage to team up with a partner who goes beyond strategizing and building roadmaps to handling the execution as well.”
There is, of course, a fourth step to all of this, which has everything to do with sustaining cost optimization efforts in the long run. “Most companies conduct operational excellence exercises when there’s an urgency or they risk exceeding their budget. And while costs will go down initially, budget creep is often unavoidable. As humans, we just don’t like to be restrained. So, an important additional step to all of this is making operational excellence and OpEx management a part of the company’s culture.”
Don’t go there alone
Are there any key factors that determine the success of these projects? “Every organization is different, and every business will have some unique struggles. But the most important piece of advice I could possibly give is: don’t try to do this all by yourself, or with a single team.”
Michael’s advice works on two levels: internally, and externally. “Some of these initiatives will likely have a major impact on many of your coworkers and how they’re currently working. You absolutely need to get them involved right from the start. Not only does this allow you to explain the value of the project, it also opens up new avenues for knowledge sharing and problem solving. In this way, you’re creating a sense of ownership, which helps lay the foundation for meaningful and lasting change.”
But there’s also a major advantage in working with an external partner, as evidenced by a recent OpEx exercise that we conducted at Umicore PMR. “They have the in-depth expertise and cross-industry experience you need to be successful. Moreover, they are less constrained by company culture and will tell you right away whether your goals are realistic – which is often an undervalued quality. Most importantly, their involvement will add accountability, so you will actually get the job done."