Efficiency Improvement Program
and Aurubis Operating System
How can we make something good even better?
Aurubis is in the middle of implementing the largest efficiency improvement program in the company’s history. Mehdi Al-Radhi discusses the challenges and the specifics of the program and explains how he turns losses into successes.
Mr. Al-Radhi, you started as a consultant and then became head of the efficiency improvement program at Aurubis. Drawing on your 25 years of industry experience, what challenges does this type of program hold?
Dr. Mehdi Al-Radhi (MAR): The crux is that it has to enable both short-term and medium-term success while also making a sustainable impact. This requires management that clearly takes on responsibility for the program and, at the same time, is capable of making employees excited about the coming changes. When a company like Aurubis is successful and achieves healthy results, this strength also translates into the risk of becoming too comfortable. Everyone is familiar with this effect in their personal lives. Questioning the status quo and leaving our comfort zones – this is a huge challenge. This is exactly what our efficiency improvement program addresses so that Aurubis doesn’t just maintain its leading market positions, but continues to expand them.
What makes Aurubis’ efficiency improvement program special, in your opinion?
MAR: To state it simply, we’re tackling the relevant issues from two sides – from above and below. To determine the company’s individual potential for improvement, Aurubis underwent a diagnostic phase in the entire Group from mid- to late 2016. On this basis, we defined the financial target of gradually generating total project success of € 200 million between 2016/17 and 2019/20, compared with the base year 2014/15. The Executive Board has initiated and driven a number of smaller and larger measures that contribute to this success. In addition to this top-down program, we have taken a great deal of time to implement a second optimization phase, our Aurubis Operating System, or AOS for short.
Where do you stand in 2017/18 in terms of implementation?
MAR: With our top-down program, we have achieved a total of more than € 60 million in project success in this fiscal year and the previous fiscal year combined. We’re therefore fully on schedule. Thanks to foresight in our planning process, we know precisely what improvements we will introduce next year.
And what will those be?
MAR: We’ll be standardizing processes more strongly than before, for example, and initiating established methods within the entire Group to learn from each other even better. To us, process optimization means that we avoid bottlenecks or redundant work, among other disruptions. Moreover, we want to make the shift handovers as smooth as possible. As a company highly dependent on its equipment, we are focused on continuously improving our maintenance measures. At the same time, we are automating routine tasks and working on harmonizing IT infrastructure across the Group.
“With our efficiency improvement program, we have achieved a total of more than € 60 million in project success in this fiscal year and the previous fiscal year combined.”
A lot of projects are underway at the same time! How do you handle everything at once?
MAR: We have put a high priority on establishing an internal organization that supports this change process. We now have 15 internal consultants overseeing the different projects and assisting our colleagues on site. They provide support across all aspects of a specific measure, from the initial idea through to the launch phase. After all, people often underestimate how crucial the implementation phase is. This mistake doesn’t happen to us. Moreover to maximize the success of our projects, we use a special controlling system that allows us to track project implementation almost in real time. More important than sheer numbers, though, is that we remain in continuous dialogue with the highest level of management about the change process, and that we make immediate adjustments when necessary.
One further distinguishing feature of our program is that it doesn’t involve any staff cuts! Aurubis is in growth mode, after all.
Will AOS also contribute to increasing revenues
MAR: Absolutely. AOS is our system for continuous improvement, tailored to Aurubis’ specific needs. It was introduced in 2017 with the goal of ensuring continuous improvements in results, even after we have fully implemented the € 200 million planned for the efficiency improvement program.
With AOS, we are thoroughly analyzing our company to uncover operating losses in order to eliminate them. To that end, we are empowering employees, across all divisions and hierarchies in the organization, to take on an added measure of responsibility for their own conduct and activities. This includes a distinctive error and feedback culture, which is particularly important when it comes to the topic of accident prevention, one of our highest priorities. We hope to improve a little more each day.
From a financial standpoint, we plan to at least balance out the inflation trend in the medium term through AOS. Only the combination of the two programs will make our success sustainable.
AOS has been introduced at different production sites since 2017. How has your initial experience been?
MAR: It’s been very good so far! I’ve observed that AOS motivates colleagues to work on solutions actively and independently, to communicate with each other more, and not just to follow standard processes.
From that perspective, AOS is changing the way we work together in the Group.
By forming working groups made up of experienced employees on-site and internal consultants, we also benefit from knowledge transfer.
We carry out pareto and source analyses with the collected data at different levels to identify the biggest sources of loss in detail. We systematically work to stem these negative influences until production is stable again.
Personally, I’m so confident about this program that I really look forward to implementing it not as a consultant, but as a full-fledged Aurubis employee.
Aurubis Operating System (AOS)
Management system to achieve continuous and sustainable process improvement. In addition to this example for the production sector, AOS is adjusted and applied in the supporting administrative functions (transversals).
We are creating loss-free production and drawing the best out of our facilities and processes. Furthermore, we are concentrating on focus improvement in production and in the supporting functions (transversals).
We produce in the safest and best facilities. We independently take care of, maintain, and improve our production processes for optimal operation.
Business Process Optimization
Ensuring, with cost awareness, disruption-free operation as a first-choice technical partner. We want to continue developing towards scheduled, predictive maintenance in the future.
We want to continue improving the management and monitoring of technical processes and facilities in our production. The focus in the supporting functions is on an agile organization building on lean processes and clear roles and responsibilities.
Training & Education
All of our employees receive the necessary qualifications so that we can achieve high flexibility and avoid losses from qualification gaps.