Dennis Scheibler, Strategic projects, Sustainability Manager at Interroll Group.
Dennis Scheibler, Strategic projects, Sustainability Manager at Interroll Group.

It’s a story shared by more and more companies in our ever-faster moving world: Keep up or die. This is not the time to rest on past achievements but to look ahead and innovate. But how? An interview with Dennis Scheibler and Jürgen Wik, who have, respectively, responsibility for Interroll's strategic projects and production system. 

Dennis Scheibler, your technology-related responsibilities at Interroll include strategic projects. In view of the company's dynamic development, you surely can’t complain of having too little to do.

Scheibler: No, quite the opposite. We are faced practically every day with new questions and challenges. That’s what makes our work particularly appealing. After all, Interroll has been growing for years from its own resources and through targeted acquisitions. This dynamic development gives us constant momentum, leaving us no time whatsoever for slacking (laughing). Change management is a good example. Implementing projects in this area enriches you both professionally and personally.

Why is that so appealing?

Scheibler: Take, for example, the best practice approach. This entails striving to learn from the world’s best companies; it’s an integral component of our Interroll production system. It helps us ensure that we remain open for new ideas, rather than becoming narcissistic and stuck in a rut. We regularly look beyond the horizons of our company and sector. In this context, we have been holding regular study events for years with international colleagues. Some time ago, for example, we visited companies recognized for their particularly high-quality standards. Doing this not only provides you with valuable ideas, but also gives you the opportunity to meet interesting people with unusual roles and perspectives.

Continuous improvements in all areas: The Kaizen principle

Jürgen Wik, you are responsible for the global introduction and implementation of the Interroll production system. How would you describe this system?

Wik: The Interroll production system is a concept applied throughout the Interroll Group, based not only on the best-practice approach but also, in particular, on the Japanese Kaizen principle. We have been successively implementing this system with great consistency since 2006. It aims to continuously improve our processes in all areas - not just production. Our objectives are clear: to achieve maximum competitiveness, minimize internal complexity, make our quality products available worldwide and provide solutions that always give customers added value. 

That sounds methodically challenging. Is it?

Wik: Yes, we use a variety of methods and tools. After all, we are dealing with different topics such as operational processes, the management of platforms and innovations and uniform quality worldwide, which needs to be ensured by establishing local expertise and commitment.

On the other hand, the objective is always the same: to achieve constant improvements in efficiency - in other words, to avoid waste and make things more straightforward, and to unfold and enhance the potential of our employees. This makes us more competitive and delivers crucial benefits to our customers in terms of quality, costs and delivery times.

Jürgen Wik, Head of Global Kaizen/Interroll Production System.
Jürgen Wik, Head of Global Kaizen/Interroll Production System.

People are at the heart of the Interroll production system 

Efficiency certainly plays a key role for all companies. What is so special about the Interroll approach?

Scheibler: One special aspect is certainly our end-to-end approach and efforts to measure up to the world’s best companies. Our strategy is ambitious: It requires a fundamental change in the company and is primarily geared toward the long term. Even Toyota, the international leader when it comes to the Kaizen concept, has taken around 50 years to achieve what it has today. This is presumably also the reason why, even in Japan, only around an estimated 20 percent of businesses have actually addressed this challenge. Although we have been working on becoming more efficient for 11 years and have already achieved some outstanding success - for instance, increasing the productivity of acquired businesses by up to 100 percent - we're still at the beginning of this process.

Wik: The reason why the enterprise-wide implementation of Kaizen principles requires a great deal of patience is that they basically involve a cultural process and this requires establishing a new personal mindset and conviction. If you want to achieve this, you need to be able to listen carefully, display communication skills and take others seriously. All employees must be included and must constantly strive to improve their own environment out of their own conviction. For this reason, it is people who take center stage in the Interroll production system. Ultimately, you need to take advantage of the expertise and ideas of every single individual.

Mindfulness and credibility for commitment and identification

How can this be achieved?

Wik: Take production, for example. Of course, you can reorganize production and achieve certain one-off effects quickly. But how can you achieve further improvements? You need to give every single employee the necessary freedom to suggest possible improvements. Then you need to be careful not to discard their ideas, but to discuss them together, even if they perhaps appear impossible to implement at first. Attentiveness and credibility give rise to commitment and identification.

How exactly can they be empowered to do this?

Scheibler: First, you need to set the right framework. This means allowing them to assume responsibility and encouraging an entrepreneurial and cross-divisional approach toward tasks. We’re currently doing this with our Culture for Growth program. This initiative also involves looking at mistakes constructively to learn from them. Second, it is important to give people new learning incentives by changing their fields of work and areas of responsibility. I myself am a prime example: Interroll is currently allowing me to do an executive MBA course at ETH Zurich alongside my career. It’s demanding, but also fun. What’s more, it shows you how much you still have to learn.

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