On 21 September 2015 Siemens in Congleton (UK) opened up its doors to a “Best Practice Visit” as part of the EFQM Excellence Model. The company has achieved World Class Status as one of the select few in Europe. The visit became an experience far beyond the usual with a company characterised by a carismatic management team, dedicated employees, a musketeer oath and an iron will to win. Ellen Andersen from New Future Formula, member of EFQM Business Excellence, took part in the visit. Below Ellen relays some of her impressions from the visit.
The story of David and Goliath
The modestly sized 500-people Siemens company in the small town of Congleton in Northern England lives life dangerously in the large Siemens Group. In the Siemens Group everything is huge and Siemens companies are generally found in large cities. In the light of this management and employees at Siemens Congleton are under constant threats. Standing with a knife to their necks the operation must present top notch performances in order to prevent some busybody in the Siemens Group from becoming aware of them and getting the idea to close down the small operation in the town of Congleton far out in the Northern English countryside. In the words of managing director Andrew Peters, it is all about NOT being spotted by the radar. Which is in fact what they have managed. In contrast to this the rest of Europe is beginning to realize that the small company featuring 500 top motivated employees and a carismatic management team has created a development and production company in the absolute world elite.
Travelling starts towards the stars
They set out on their journey towards the stars way back in the early 1990s when they determined to work with TQ management. In the process various tools such as Lean, Six Sigma and others were added and things were looking promising when in the mid-00s the crisis struck. The warehouse was bursting, production was on full speed ahead but orders vanished into thin air over night. A single blow had brought Siemens Congleton to the brink of bankruptcy. Twenty per cent of the labour force were let go and the rest divided the work between them. It came as a complete shock to the small community where factory workers go as much as four generations back working the plant. Very soon management was replaced. The new Senior Management Team looked each other in the eyes and made a commitment under musketeer oath to show the world and big brother Siemens that Siemens Congleton indeed deserved its place in the world. They chose to apply the EFQM Excellence Model in order to get the company going again. They knew the performance had to be something beyond the ordinary in order to rescue the facility from the guillotine within the Siemens Group. And so management called the EFQM office in Brussels to ask what it would take to become a classified World Class company. The reply was to achieve an assessment score in excess of 700 points. Right – then this is what we do, management promised each other and the top notch motivated personnel who likewise promised each other never to risk losing their workplace.
Siemens Congleton to achieve World Class Status
Today, five years later Siemens Congleton has in fact achieved a 700+ score in an EFQM assessment. The then doomed company won the 2014 prize for Manufacturing Excellence and Organization Development and is also one of very few companies in Europe so far to achieve World Class Status. The tool continues to be the EFQM Excellence Model because, as Jason Speedy, Head of Operations, explains, this model asks all the nasty questions. You can't hide anything. Another key word is agile management. All meetings are conducted standing on the shop floor. Top management's day-to-day task is to remove any obstacles obstructing the path for the employees. It is obvious that the employees are used to seeing top management on the shop floor and discussing matters with them. There is only a short distance from top to bottom in the organigram and action is taken immediately.
Strategy 2020 to become nothing but a game changer
They have just launched the new 2020 strategy and management has promised that it will become nothing but a game changer to Siemens Congleton. A new standard will be set for how to make the best cross-disciplinary use of the qualifications harboured in the organisation. Conventional professional barriers will be broken down. They will work with 360-degree teams. The aim of Strategy 2020 is to once again give the company a critical lift in relation to its customers and the competition. Thanks to the common basis and the shared spirit that has developed between employees and management, the dreams and the will to reach new heights continue even after five years of hard work. The strategy lies with the mid-level managers because they want to avoid line managers who only focus on their own areas. The employees express pride in their factory and great job satisfaction. Many have been employed there for years. They express the need to improve themselves every day and dare not rest on their laurels. They never want to risk giving the Siemens Group an excuse to close down their factory in Congleton. A visit to Siemens Congleton is loaded with surplus, smiles and heartfelt warmth. It was an unforgettable experience to meet such joy in one's work and a creative spirit, so characterised by vision and integrity.
21 September 2015, Ellen Andersen, New Future Formula
Mr. Jason Speedy, Head of Operations at Siemens Congleton
How has using the EFQM Model impacted your results?
“We have seen a real positive impact on our key results, but this is no surprise as this is the essence of the Model. If you clearly define your strategy and align your people, key approaches and partners to this strategy, then the results will follow. This is the beauty of the EFQM Excellence Model, it is common sense leadership.”
Andrew Peters, Managing Director at Siemens Congleton
What is the one thing other organisations can learn from you?
“One of our key focus areas has been managing with agility. We have systematically implemented a culture and a framework that enables us to make quick decisions and react to change whilst also delivering a clear productivity benefit. As an example, our monthly Senior Management Meeting has moved out of the Boardroom and is now structured as a series of stand – ups on the shop floor. This allows the management team to see issues first hand, fosters a culture of openness with the employees and has also reduced the meeting time by halt. “