Reinforcement of the system for continuous improvement in Aciturri

Reinforcement of the system for continuous improvement in Aciturri

Reinforcement of the system for continuous improvement in Aciturri

José Ángel Galindo Gómez
Lean Manufacturing Director at Aciturri

Starting point

Since its establishment in 1977, Aciturri has been characterized by its ambitious eagerness to improve. The company has been growing and our improvement system has evolved and matured with it.

In mid-2018 we launched an improvement program in all the company's facilities that takes advantage of our previous experience, helps us to standardize the way of working in the different locations, extends participation to all of our people and covers all the mainstays of the continuous improvement model.

The main objective is to achieve a culture of continuous improvement that contributes substantially and sustainably to the improvement of our performance year after year, aligned to our customer’s demands. We aim to make Aciturri a benchmark in this field, as well as in operational excellence.


Project approach

It is a transformation project with external support which purpose is to consolidate the continuous improvement in the company's culture. Thus, we reinforce the appropriate behaviors and make the improvement activities to be fully aligned with the business strategy.

The effort, dedication, involvement, motivation and good work of the entire team is essential for the success of the project, which initially starts in the most operational part of the company, but extends throughout the organization.


In each plant, there is a dedicated team with experience in lean methodology, whose priority is to lead this change process by constantly transmitting their enthusiasm for improvement. We focus ourselves on accompanying people in practical situations in workshops. To do this, we work around four pillars:


1.- Daily management: continuous improvement in natural equipment

We conceive natural teams as groups of people who work together in a certain department, and that are able to implement improvements autonomously in their work area. They have a leader and develop improvements that can be implemented very quickly with maximum involvement of the rest of the team.

Generally, around ten people integrate these teams, which identify and eliminate “waste” in a systematic way. We understand waste the seven traditional losses in lean; over production, over processing, inventory excesses, defects and re-work, transport, unnecessary movements and waiting. All natural leaders have completed a training process and participate systematically in coaching sessions. These teams mainly use structured problem solving tools.

The teams meet daily and use a panel to review their indicators and follow the progress of their improvement proposals. The leader registers the improvements on a web platform once they are launched, and the best ones are shared with the entire organization.

Currently, there are more than 130 natural teams operating in the company that, during 2018, have implemented more than 3800 improvements. In 2019 the activated improvements will increase by approximately 20%.


2.- Improvement in multidisciplinary teams. improvement projects

We use multidisciplinary teams for improvements that require the participation of different areas, including in many cases support areas (Engineering, Programs, Supply Chain ...). These projects usually have implementation deadlines of multiple months and are led by senior profiles in the organization.

In 2019 we have defined our projects to improve multidisciplinary teams with Hoshin Kanri (HK) methodology. This has allowed us to align in a better way the projects with the company's strategy, while facilitating its follow-up.

Each floor has an Oobeya room where the teams meet weekly and follow the progress of the projects with the help of a panel. Every two weeks the person in charge of the plant reviews the programs progresses whit their managers, giving the necessary support. The involvement of support functions is key to the success of these projects.

The lean managers of each plant have an important role, ensuring the correct formalization of the projects, especially in relation to the KPI’s definition and monitoring, and in their link to the final objectives defined in the HK matrix of each plant.

Each plant has a variant number of projects, but all of them are aimed at improving gross margin, reducing fixed assets and increasing sales.


3.- Leadership and strategic deployment in management teams

We usually refer to this pillar as Kaizen Leaders, and it is aimed at improving the daily management of management teams and middle managers. The way to achieve this is through basic training sessions and mainly through coaching and practical support on a day-to-day basis. It remains a matter of “learning to do” by doing.

First, leaders are helped to identify opportunities in sales, quality, costs, deliveries or motivation of their teams. Next, the appropriate visual monitoring and management elements are prioritized and implemented, always in the Gemba, where things happen. The next step is to provide leaders with problems and resolution tools. In this phase, we have had very good experiences with the “help chain” tool to define a standard way of acting and scaling decisions for a certain type of problem.

Currently, most of our leaders are completing this phase of problem solving. Then, with the same methodology, we will strengthen the coaching and recognition skills of their teams. Finally, we will review, audit and correct until this way of working is automatic in the organization.


4.- Support and sustainability

It includes support activities destined to guarantee the success of the long-term model. That is, everything associated with knowledge management, coaching, training, communication, governance model and system audits.

Within the support and sustainability initiatives we can highlight:

  • Development of improvement methodologies
  • Database of best practices
  • Coaching plan
  • Reception, awareness and training courses
  • Program marketing
  • Attitude reinforcement. Recognition Plan
  • Audit system. Questionnaires, development of audit teams
  • Monitoring and communication of program results


From the beginning of the project we start an operating steering committee that meets every three months in a different plant and that has the presence of all the plant directors and other directors involved. This committee, in addition to reviewing the progress of the project as a whole, visits the workshop where the people of the plant share their best achievements.

This last pillar is the least developed, in which we are working with more intensity in recent weeks. We are aware of the importance of ensuring one of the key aspects, the sustainability of the improvement system.


Conclusions and next steps.

The deployment in the operations area and supply chain is advanced. 100% of people in both areas participate in natural teams. Many of them participate in a very active way proposing improvements and collaborating in their autonomous implementation.

All the activities linked to the way of working of the equipment and the conditioning of work environments are consolidated in operations. In this last part of the year the teams are working on the process standardization. At the beginning of next year, we will work with them the KATA concept.

During the next months, we will extend this work dynamic to the rest of the company's departments. We will also reinforce support activities starting with all the activities linked to recognition and conducting the first global audit of the improvement system in early 2020.

We are on our way to achieving a sustainable global transformation with tangible and lasting results that add value to our position as an aeronautical Tier1.

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