Operational Excellence (OPEX) is a slogan often heard within Vetipak! On all fronts, in all locations, we are working to a greater or lesser extent with Operational Excellence. Since the beginning of 2015 a strategic restart has been made, because in practice we started with OPEX in 2010. In the plans of 2014 are therefore the necessary budgets, people and resources made available to achieve long-term level "Mastery" - Stage 3.

You will get in touch with the aspects from various disciplines of OPEX within Vetipak in the coming period. This can involve logistics, manufacturing, as well as our New Product Development processes. In short, every process within Vetipak will be addressed in the coming years, and your involvement ensures that we can excel, "after all, together we make the difference!".

Below we want to take you through our Operational Excellence Journey.

What exactly is Operational Excellence? How do all these terms (Operational Excellence / Lean / Continuous Improvement) relate to each other? What is the development in the market regarding to Lean/Operational Excellence? What can we learn from this? Is there anything else that stands Vetipak in the way to deal successfully with Operational Excellence?

Definition and consistency 

Fig 1: 3 layers of 'process'.

A recent study (1) has shown that the number of Dutch companies that applies Lean principles in its operations, is increasing. The majority of this group has as its main objective to increase both the quality of its projects and services as its productivity. Also, cost reduction is (still) an important incentive to begin with this Lean Journey. Yet the ultimate goal of the majority of companies is to improve customer satisfaction, motivated by the current market conditions, forcing organizations to work even more effectively and efficiently.

The study describes the three stages of the degree of maturity of Lean organizations: "In the first phase, companies gain their first Lean experience to train people and to carry out the first projects. In the second phase, the Lean principles are then more and more part of the daily work. Organizations that are most mature in Lean (phase three) have a culture of continuously improving productivity and increasing the quality of service. "

Vetipak and OPEX
The "journey" of Vetipak looks very similar! At this moment we are in the crossover between stage 1 and stage 2, this may vary by process and daughter company. As of 2010 we started with 'Lean'. In this phase, we have gained the first experience in the principles of 5S and SMED projects in production. We achieved some great results with a project application of Lean tools. It was important to properly capture these initiatives and to ensure our processes to achieve successful mastery.

From the research we have learned that companies often encounter obstacles in the transition from phase 1 to phase 2 and from phase 2 to phase 3.

Some of the most important 'obstacles' that companies face in the transition from the first to the second stage, and to the third stage:
 The Lean initiatives responds too little to the organization's strategy;
 The need to improve is focused too internally (rather than on the entire process chain);
 The focus is too much on the short term;
 Employees are often insufficiently involved in these improvement projects.

How can we prevent that we run into similar obstacles with the current Operational Excellence Program? Can we learn something from the aforementioned study?

We have chosen our basic principles of the program, so the risks are as small as possible:
 The basis is the strategy of the organization (how we differentiate ourselves and what we want to  achieve);
 In this strategy, the client / customer value is core;
 Customer value is created in the customer-to-customer process chains;
 This process chains have been developed to the level of activity on the factory floor,
o So everyone knows how he / she contributes to the achievement of the business objectives / to  realize customer value;
 OPEX Vetipak focuses on the short and long term
o In the short term, we initiate small steps of improvement by continue flying daily to each other  with the so called 'Performance Dialogue' How did it go yesterday? How are we going to do better  today?;
o For the longer term we are looking for 'bigger' improvements that  we can implement on a project  basis;
 Key in all of this are the employees: "Are the employees willing to cooperate " and "Are they able  to do this"?

As told earlier, we are in the middle of the Vetipak OPEX program. On all areas (Logistics / Quality / Production and New Items) we are working hard on the parallel short and long-term steps. The employees are the key: They know the processes, issues and know how it could be improved. This improvement potential is about to be unlocked.

We can not wait to share these first results with you in the following business reviews to differentiate even more together!

 (1) KPMG “Helft bedrijven past Lean toe, maar slechts 5% volwassen” 11 april 2016 Consultancy.nl)