Many companies look at Lean too narrowly. They see it as just a tool set to drive efficiency in their manufacturing processes. Done right, however, Lean can go much broader, embedded in every facet of the organization, integrated into every process, and firmly etched into the mind of every employee. Lean has the potential to transform the way everyone in the organization collaborates.
In Aptiv, as in the broader automotive industry, the concepts and applications have been around for a long time, with the Toyota Production System forming the basis of Lean thinking as we know it today.
We realized a few years ago that we could get more value by taking Lean beyond the four walls of the factory to deliver great impact. We sought cultural change to improve employee and customer experiences while achieving better financial outcomes.
We call this effort “Lean 2.0” to emphasize the step change in our thinking.
Getting to 2.0
To us, the first step was one of humility. We had to really internalize the idea that we can always do better, and that meant everyone would have to accept that all processes – some built over many years of experience by very smart people – would be examined and continuously improved everyday.
To do that, we decided to start with the company’s leaders, focusing intensely on how together they could increase employee empowerment and ownership for results at every level in the organization.
The second big push was to become a better listener. To us, Lean 2.0 means listening to the voices of the customer and the ultimate consumer and then applying our knowledge and skills where it truly makes a difference to them. The challenge, of course, is to then use what we hear from them to continuously improve the way we develop and deliver our products and services.
Our Lean 2.0 approach is built on several key fundamentals we believe are critical to the long-term sustainability of our transformation:
1. Applying Lean principles to all of our business processes enterprise-wide. Teams are now more aware that they are part of a value chain, and they have a better understanding of the effect their actions have on other parts of the chain throughout the company. Being world-class only in pockets of excellence does not help our end-to-end processes — which means everybody at Aptiv has to be part of the transformation.
2. Enabling our culture to flourish. We are working to build a thriving environment where teams have a common set of beliefs and behaviors, where people want to learn, develop and be successful. With this environment in place, our common way of operating survives, even if leaders and individuals change roles or move on.
3. Acknowledging the critical role of leaders. In our Lean 2.0 approach, we ask our top leaders to reflect on how their behaviors affect and cascade throughout the organization, with intensive workshops to provide clarity of purpose on how they need to support the broader teams differently in this new environment. Getting full support from all leaders is necessary to successfully carry out transformation on this scale.
4. Building capabilities at all levels. This is what makes any Lean approach sustainable. From our associates building products on our production lines, to our engineers designing software, to our senior leaders identifying market opportunities, we are trying to systematically ensure they have the right tools for the problems being solved, which means our teams understand which activities add value and how they can deliver results through our continuous improvement methodology.
Early results from our Lean 2.0 efforts are extremely encouraging. Sites that have completed the early phases of the transformation have seen significant increases in employee engagement and improved retention, along with a step change in safety, quality, delivery and productivity.
Lean 2.0 forms a common language across the company, which in turn builds momentum no matter where one works within the organization. While our transformation is ongoing, we have already proven that we can deliver a more reliable and consistent experience for our customers while reducing complexity internally — allowing our teams to deliver business results while working smarter rather than harder.