After a careful selection procedure, delaware’s proposal was finally withheld based on a number of key points, including:
- a clear roadmap, including a detailed study of OpEx opportunities;
- the ability to tackle projects end-to-end;
- strong upfront knowledge of Umicore PMR’s company culture;
- a solid change management methodology to ensure company-wide adoption.
That last point is key for Elien and Martijn: “This project will impact many people, and a lot of them will have to change how they’ve been working for years. That’s why you need to get them involved as early as possible. By talking this through, explaining the value, and solving potential problems together, you’re laying the foundations for meaningful and lasting change, and securing the value of the project.”
Four steps towards excellence
After several exploratory talks had taken place and the inevitable paperwork was completed, the project formally kicked off in October 2022.
Phase 1: Scanning
The first step was to expand on Martijn and Elien’s efforts and detect opportunities for optimization throughout Umicore PMR. The original plan was to include every department, but to save time and resources, the scope was limited to 8 departments with the highest potential OpEx reduction, i.e. Operations, Maintenance, Sampling, etc.
Michael Bulthé, leading the Supply Chain Transformation team at delaware, explains the team’s approach. “We perform a holistic scan of how the business is organized. This includes people, processes, and technologies, for example: how are shifts organized, where’s the waste in a specific process, are IT and OT technologies deployed in the right way, etc. The end-goal is finding ways to become as cost efficiently as possible without having to compromise something else. There are infinite ways to optimize OpEx, but the right ways for your situation are limited. Figuring out what works is the challenging part.”
Phase 2: Refining and prioritizing
Based on a formal briefing by the project team, designated representatives per department prepared a preliminary list of ideas. The delaware team then further enriched these ideas by talking to the workers involved, including operational managers and operators.
To get accurate and actionable answers, delaware could rely on its deep expertise in information technology, and leverage a broad network of expert partners, like ABB. As a leader in robotics, ABB could provide up-to-date and accurate information on the application of specific industrial automation opportunities, and whether they would be a good fit for Umicore PMR. These combined strengths provide detailed insights on the feasibility and cost of certain OpEx opportunities.
Phase 3: Roadmap
Over the course of the project’s first two phases, delaware was firmly in the driver’s seat. Elien: “Our task was to provide them with as much valuable information as possible to do their job.” To develop a clear roadmap, however, close collaboration between the delaware team and the various stakeholders at Umicore was needed.
Michael: “We set up several recurring meetings to reach and maintain consensus and keep the project on track. These include:
- a weekly status call based on the activities log
- a monthly meeting with the teams and other key stakeholders, e.g., colleagues from Operations
- a steerco meeting every few months with the key project sponsors”
For Martijn, an engineer at heart, the prospect of that many meetings seemed daunting at first. “I was worried that there would be a lot of talk and no action. But the truth is that they open up a designated space and time for discussions, meaning there’s a lot less ad hoc back and forth going on. Furthermore, they help to set clear deliverables and ensure that ownership is properly divided.”
In 2023, six projects will be tackled. “The common thread in many of these ideas is to increase the transparency and predictability of our processes, which allows us to deploy people more efficiently,” says Martijn. “2023 is a transitional year, where departments can adapt and free up the necessary resources. That’s why a lot depends on the success of this first wave. By demonstrating their value, we’ll be able to draw more resources and tackle more projects.”