23. May. 2018

Bridging the Gap: Kaizen Institute Thailand

a conversation with Ingo Stroehler - Managing Director at BBV Systems Co., Ltd.

Company Profile

BBV Systems Co., Ltd. incorporated in the Kingdom of Thailand is a specialized engineering and construction company, mainly active in the construction markets of the Asia-Pacific Region and Thailand in particular. Our services focus on supply and installation of post-tensioning systems and geotechnical products for infrastructure and industrial constructions projects.

Background Information

“When was the KAIZEN™ journey started in BBV Systems and why?”

We were desperate from the start. BBV Systems had just moved the entire organization from a small old warehouse to this brand-new facility at a location far away. It was a huge challenge for us to set up the business here from scratch while forming a capable team that would work well together. We had been operating more or less individually before then, and we soon discovered that we couldn’t simply import our old way of doing things and expect it to work for us here at the new company premises.

Our difficulties mainly centered around our internal structure. With some freshly hired Thai team members to work with, we needed to deal with specific challenges in terms of cultural differences, language barriers and the new geographical situation as well. There is always a need for improvement in any organization and a good management team might be able to improve a lot, but these were itching issues that triggered for me the idea that I needed professional help.

Researching possible solutions and consulting my network quickly led me to Kaizen Institute. I knew of their reputation for guiding companies towards healthier management and leadership strategies, but I also noticed that their presence in Bangkok was as new as ours. Wouldn’t they be facing similar issues? I then sensed a chance to benefit from possible synergies in that case and we were pressed for time to improve our situation. Kaizen Institute’s office in Thailand definitely represented more than a chance to make things better.

Improvement Needs

“What are the challenges your team had, to understand KAIZEN™?”

We were facing multiple challenges in our company understanding KAIZEN™, but they were all centered around our internal structure and corporate culture. We have been working in Thailand for more than 15 years already, but now we were confronted with a new location, new premises, a new work place set up and a growing organization. We had entered into this situation with the mindset that there was one right way only to run the business efficiently: our (western) way. The local employees, however, were accustomed to very different kinds of organizational structure, work co-operation and work processes.

In addition to the wide range of expectations that the Management brought to the table, there were other, more easily anticipated issues that nevertheless went unresolved. Language remained a persistent barrier between us, for example. And these were just the obvious ones; it turned out we were off the track in ways we didn’t even know about.

Even our successes proved difficult to handle. Since turning our focus on the Thai market, our assets and sales jumped 100% last year. Ordinarily this news would be most welcome, but here it had evoked only urgency to solve our managerial issues. We simply needed a better-functioning work environment in order to grow sustainably and keep up with demand.

The KAIZEN™ Methodology

“What kind of approach was used by Kaizen Institute Thailand”

Kaizen Institute Thailand took the opposite approach that we had taken. We had run our operation on a one-size-fits-all template, borrowing from our experiences abroad and expecting them to replicate easily in Thailand. Kaizen Institute’s team instead began by focusing on us as individuals and digging down into our core identity as a company. They wanted to learn about us and understand our key goals before making any recommendations. They asked about the function of each department, and how the various segments of the company fit together.

They asked questions that we had forgotten to ask, helping us rediscover a unified mission statement, a company vision and develop a set of goals that we all could subscribe to. They wanted to know in detail what each of our responsibilities was inside the company and what our motivations were for coming into work. They asked what each of us did to ensure quality, and how each of us specifically added value for the customer. Later, when our attention switched to the narrower goal of improving efficiency, these conversations helped us to reduce and then eliminate the activities which failed to add value for our customers.

Their focus on first principles was key to helping us rethink our own attitude towards management and company organization. It took some time (and is still continuing), but we no longer implement processes just because we were supposed to adopt them from other branches of the company. Our team has begun to analyze elements of our business more open minded and make adjustments and improvements to adapt it to local business environment wherever appropriate.

Key Areas of Improvement

“What is your take away from this approach, and why is it important?"

Kaizen Institute introduced a set of systematic tools to both management and office/ shop floor employees, then helped us practice using them repeatedly until they became natural to us. These tools were mental, practical and organizational – putting us all on the same page and helping us commit to a common goal within the company.

The most obvious practical improvement so far has come from the implementation of 5S. We had started our operations with inexistent, incomplete and inefficient procedures for warehousing, stocktaking, production, as well as loading and unloading of goods. 5S gave us the impetus to rearrange, clear, organize, standardize and visualize each essential part of the process. Every single employee now knows the standards we are committed to maintaining and further improving on a daily basis.

As a way of ensuring that we were comfortable adopting their methods, Kaizen Institute used hands-on demonstrations on the shop floor to bring us together as a company team. These exercises helped bringing us away from abstract theory, using a ‘learning by doing’ method that crystallized many of their core lessons.

By uniting our company under a clear set of principles, aims and methods, my colleagues and I are convinced that Kaizen Institute Thailand has put us on the right path. We still have a long way to go, of course. Language issues are not fixed overnight, nor are cultural differences. Kaizen Institute itself openly states that its methods are long-term processes, not quick-fixes. Our efforts so far have already led to dramatic improvements in the way we approach our work at BBV Systems. We are from now on acting as a single, well-managed team, dedicated and motivated to achieve a bright future for our company.

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