On a new course
Alstom Salzgitter had only
18 months to build and deliver
13 complete trains to Deutsche
Bahn – an ambitious goal
with a lot riding on it,
literally and figuratively.
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Alstom was founded in France in 1928, and today it operates in
over 60 countries. This giant of the transport industry gets people
where they need to go and offers an extensive range of products
and services: Alstom produces the high-speed TGV train, as well
as manufacturing urban trains, subways and trams, and provides
services, infrastructure, signal technology and digital mobility
With almost 33,000 employees, Alstom generates annual sales of
€7 billion. The high-tech corporation is powered by values, including
team spirit, trust and action. Most recently, however, it is also
being powered by hydrogen. Alstom‘s Coradia iLint is the world‘s
first hydrogen fuel cell train: in other words, Alstom is really on
Can 13 trains really be built in only 18 months?
However, the company also faces challenges. China’s two largest
state-run train manufacturers merged to form a megacorporation,
putting pressure on Alstom’s profitability. Among other
things, this affects the Salzgitter site, where some 2,500 people
work, which is why Alstom turned to Staufen for support in 2015.
The consultants’ task was to help them keep optimizing. The core
of their approach: transparent shop floor management. Time
was of the essence, because a major project from Deutsche Bahn,
the German railway system, came rolling in. Alstom Salzgitter had
to complete 13 entire trains within a mere eighteen months, and
they had to comply with many detailed specifications. This project
was a major challenge given the complexities of the rail technology
sector and its demanding regulatory environment. There was
no time for errors: their new shop floor management method
had to work seamlessly from the outset.
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Employees as the engines
Employees were integrated into the process from the outset to
ensure that the entire workforce was on board.
A 30-member project team led the way and set a good example.
Working together, the group successfully demonstrated for
the first time what the current state of communications was in
Salzgitter and how it needed to change. The members of staff
came up with the slogan, “I’m on board,” publicized it on site and
motivated the other teams. More and more employees became
involved and contributed ideas about how to make shop floor
management more efficient.
The project team rolled out shop floor management with four
pilot projects, strategically positioned in critical areas: development,
construction, production and supply chain. Alstom and
Staufen introduced open and regular communication between
team members and the departments in these areas, generated
central figures and values for daily tasks and long-term targets,
and created well-coordinated decision-making processes. Everywhere
they turned, the newly trained staff could see for themselves
how their work proceeded calmly and expediently, thanks
to clear guidelines, transparent key process indicators and newly
defined escalation hierarchies.
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Four pilots that became
The progress in the pilot projects was so apparent that other
teams and departments took the initiative and implemented
the new methods as well.
Initially there were four pilot project dashboards documenting
targets and approaches; within a short time, the number rose
to 200. Employees underwent intense coaching and received
guidance, at their newly created development centers, over
200 managers had to put their strengths and weaknesses to
the test. Managers learned how to encourage team-based work
and move it forward. When problems arose, the teams were
able to present their case clearly using facts and figures. Managers
felt that employees again took real pleasure in making decisions
and finding solutions independently. The new sense of
openness also helped to break down the silo mentality between
departments that had taken root in the company; a global way
of thinking evolved; in its place.
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Changes that arrived on schedule
Productivity improved at the site in the first year and, at the same
time, downtime and waiting time declined dramatically. And the
best news of all: Alstom reached its destination. It fully met its delivery
target: all 13 trains were ready on schedule. Deutsche Bahn
acknowledged Alstom’s good work by awarding it the Supplier of
the Year Prize in 2016.
After this successful sprint, Alstom managed to implement lasting
changes in its operations and staff. Among other things, it opened
its own Lean School, the best way to make the site ready to face
the future. Now Alstom Salzgitter is right on track and travelling full
STAUFEN. | ALSTOM 7
Inside every company there is an even better one.
With this conviction, Staufen AG has been advising and qualifying
companies and employees for more than 25 years.
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INSIDE EVERY COMPANY
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