Friday, February 16, 2007

Process Innovation Approach & Case Studies for the Automotive Sector - Roundtable discussion and Seminar

Both the Roundtable discussion (Monday, February 12) and the Seminar (Tuesday, February 13) were made possible thanks to the precious support of Dragos Nicolescu. Without his preparatory work, excellent business relationships, and support for hosting the event at Casa Camelia, this would never have been such a success!

The Roundtable discussion on Monday included management from tier 1 automotive/manufacturing companies such as Emerson, Johnson Controls, Lear Corporation, etc. Many improvement initiatives such as lean manufacturing, six sigma, theory of constraints, and others were discussed, only to demonstrate that the productivity improvements that can be obtained with such techniques are inherently limited by the resource and process characteristics. Moreover, the automotive industry has already applied these traditional approaches, to a point where further improvement becomes insignificant. Therefore, rather than trying to further improve on existing processes, innovation in order to fundamentally rethink key process steps is required. Building on this evidence, Ives De Saeger discussed the P41 approach to Process Innovation and the dramatic performance increases that can be obtained. Case studies from the automotive/manufacturing industry were discussed, demonstrating the latitude for innovation and competitiveness that is still available to Romanian companies.

A dozen representatives from automotive/manufacturing companies from the Pitesti area -- many of them suppliers to Dacia/Renault -- participated in the seminar on Tuesday. Christian De Neef provided a general overview of the challenges of the automotive industry, outlining solutions for further improvement. A McKinsey research report from November 2005 states that "Process Innovations in the [U.S.] automotive industry were the largest contributor to the increase in productivity growth, while advantage conferred by Product Innovations was short-lived."

Ives De Saeger went on to present his philosophy and approach to Process Innovation, with plenty of practical examples and case studies to highlight the different areas where improvement can be expected: Productivity, Quality, Safety, etc. Whilst all participants were convinced that investments in Process Innovation would yield high Return on Investment, there were many outstanding questions on financing such projects... Also, Christian De Neef and Dragos Nicolescu presented a model for pre-financing the investments in partnership with local financial institutions, whilst applying for potential EU subsidy.

RomAdvice is proud to collaborate with P41, promoting improved competitiveness and innovative practices to the automotive sector in Romania!

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