SINCE THE ‘THINK BETTER’ idea initiative began, the WTS site in Kristiansand, Norway, has come up with many great suggestions – from large money savers to small things that have made life easier.
“Our people want to find ways to do things better. Everyone sat down and thought ‘how can we improve?’ and ‘how can we contribute?’,” says Lars Erik Lunøe, managing director of Maritime Protection for inert gas systems for WTS.
One example stands out from the rest. In the past – without questioning why or thinking about the cost involved – the site would rent a large forklift from its neighbour. Because the forklift was large, it meant that WTS also had to rent a qualified operator. This cost the company around NOK 300 000 (EUR 36,000) per year. A suggestion was made that it would be cheaper to lease a smaller forklift truck. That has been implemented. A smaller forklift – arriving in June 2015 – will be leased for just NOK 75 000 (EUR 9 000) per year. Besides an 80% cost saving, it’s also more efficient: WTS will be able to use the forklift whenever they need it, instead of having to loan it from their neighbour.
NOT EVERY IDEA at the Kristiansand site saves so much money, but every suggestion counts. Another issue was the amount of large wooden packaging quickly filling up the garbage container. Employees came up with two ideas on how to improve this. The first was to sell the wood to local citizens for their fireplaces at home. The second was to crush the wood so it would take up less space in the garbage container. Both options mean that the container needs to be emptied less often and saves NOK 20 000 (EUR 2 400) per year.
“I think this campaign has made it easier for people to come forward,” says Lunøe. “In the past, people often thought they had a good idea but were afraid to share it; now we have an environment where no idea is considered wrong.”
Spring cleaning – the dead stock sellout
ONE DAY, the nitrogen service team in Poland came up with an idea regarding the company’s ‘dead stock’ – equipment which lies ‘dead and unused’ in the company’s warehouses. They suggested having a ‘dead stock sellout’ to clear out and save space. This suggestion has saved the company over USD 20,000 in just three months.
Christen Chen, global operations and process controller for WTS, based in Shanghai, was tasked with implementing the suggestion. “This idea came up around the same time that we were starting to implement a similar initiative. It’s great to know that our colleagues see things from the same angle and that different functions can share their valuable advice with us,” she says.
First of all, her team went through all the warehouses’ inventory lists to evaluate the stock and classify nonmovers as dead stock. This list was then sent to the product management group that checked if any of the dead stock would be needed in the future. Afterwards, the list was sent to the strategic sourcing team that contacted the external supplier to see if the unused product could be returned. If not, the product management group investigated if the product could be used elsewhere within the WW group. For example, if a product was no longer needed in Europe, perhaps it could be used in Latin America or Asia. If another region had a use for the product, then it was transferred internally across the sites.
“Everyone has been very positive about this initiative,” says Chen. “Now we are drafting a formal process for managing the dead stock. It’s going to become a routine process that will reduce material scrapping of our inventory stock.”
“We take every suggestion seriously”
Cecilie Heavens, marketing and communications manager at WTS, talks about the ‘Think Better’ idea bank, how you can submit your ideas and why it’s your suggestions that count.
What is the ‘Think Better’ idea bank? “We started the idea bank at the end of 2014. It’s a way for employees to come up with ideas – big and small – about how we can do things more efficiently and also save money. It’s a chance for everyone to share their ideas and for us to make improvements that the management may never have considered of. So far, we have received about 90 suggestions and taken every single one of them seriously.”
Why did you start this initiative? “We wanted our employees to take five minutes out of their daily work schedule to think about how they could do things differently or smarter. People are really good at what they do, but sometimes we all get programmed to do things the way we have always done them.”
How can employees share their suggestions? “You need to fill in a template in the idea bank on the intranet explaining what your idea is, how it can be implemented and what the outcome could be. A team will assess the idea and assign a responsible person to implement the idea.”