In Antwerp (BE), the High Performance Materials (HPM) Department of specialty chemicals group LANXESS creates the ingredients polyamide and fiberglass. These are high-tech plastics used in a number of sectors such as the automobile and the electronics industries. The department faced the challenge of combining six different maintenance approaches into one uniform process for its Antwerp location.
LANXESS chose for decentralized management of its maintenance for the production companies, also known as plants. This method allows for more focused handling of the specific nodes required for certain production process. These nodes can differ greatly among the plants. However, since it started using this decentralized method, one of the obstacles LANXESS has encountered is that it has lost track of the bigger picture. This was one reason for the chemical company to bring in Dimensys and to seek advice on standardizing the maintenance process without ignoring the differences among the plants.
Uniform working method
"The decentralized management approach hampered the exchange of knowledge and best practices between our various plants. In addition, training new personnel has also become a real challenge," according to Philippe Larno, Head of Technology at HPM in Antwerp. "This not only entails an element of risk, but in most cases it also involves additional costs. An audit confirmed the need to take a more uniform approach." The greatest challenge for Larno was standardizing the work planning process without sacrificing the flexibility and individuality of the different plants. Dimensys was brought in to help him in these efforts. "LANXESS selected Dimensys because the company has a lot of experience with optimizing maintenance and service processes, as well as with guiding change processes. Dimensys used a three-phase change process to help us get the employees in all six plants on the same page and to define one uniform work process together."
Phase 1: Interviews
In the first phase, the progression of the work processes was investigated using interviews with a large group of stakeholders. This was done in order to identify potential avenues for improvement. The study indicated that the greatest improvement could be made in the planning process.
Phase 2: Work sessions
Work sessions were then organized with all those involved, from planners to engineers, to workplace supervisors. During these sessions, there was discussion about working methods, responsibilities, support from IT tools, and the required organizational structure. All these work sessions resulted in a uniform planning procedure used by all those involved.
Phase 3: Implementation and adjustment
After the head of the HPM department in Antwerp agreed to the improvement proposal and the implementation plan, the required organizational changes were made and the implementation of the new process could begin. This was explained to the affected employees during a training session. In conclusion, LANXESS has been able to use a 'temperature check' to follow the continuous improvement process and to adjust it where needed.
In the meantime, LANXESS has developed an excellent foundation for further optimization. The tangible result is a uniform process that has now been formalized. The temperature check revealed that the planners are enthusiastic about the collaboration. They are open to learning from each other. Larno has indicated that the new organizational structure enables LANXESS to bring the planning to a higher technical level and to make optimal use of the knowledge of its people. "Our ability to exchange knowledge has been increased and, as a result, we are better prepared for peak work periods. Furthermore, we have created a good foundation for a permanent improvement process. We are once again on track and, thanks to Dimensys, we are fully fit for the future."
Larno says, "At this point, Dimensys has phased out its presence and our employees have learned to stand on their own two feet. In other words, they are able to further intensify their mutual collaboration and continue implementing the uniformity required for the process. However, we have not yet reached the finish line. On the contrary, we are just at the beginning of our permanent improvement process!"
Name: LANXESS NV
Sales: LANXESS Group, €7.7 billion (2016)
Employees: 19,200 in 25 countries
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