Operational Excellence Wartsila Norway

Operational Excellence: Wärtsilä Norway

Imagine being able to help cut customers’ lead time by half, or reduce, drastically, the number of declined orders for a job. No, this is no pipe dream. It’s the sort of efficiency achieved by departments at Wärtsilä - courtesy Operational Excellence (OE). Our three-part series on OE focuses on people who make this happen.


At the heart of Operational Excellence (OE) is the idea that continuous improvement is key to business and customer success. Under OE, departments at Wärtsilä implement 100-day improvement initiatives called ‘Waves’ to help their divisions attain efficiency and provide value to customers. They do this through methods including identifying and eliminating waste in processes, or through better inter-departmental collaboration.

For each such successful initiative, there is a dedicated departmental effort on ground. At Wärtsilä Services, this means a network of OE Pioneers leading the direction of various Waves by working with business owners and departments. Wärtsilä Services currently has 67 OE Pioneers leading 74 OE Waves.

In our three-part series, we meet the people living the ‘Waves’. Our first OE Pioneer is Arne Valvatne from Wärtsilä Norway. Read on.

Making Wärtsilä more efficient – One wave at a time

Arne Valvatne is a people person. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and one in Quality & EHS. He has the experience of working both at a mental hospital and as a consultant in different companies. He feels these unique qualifications have helped him balance being both an OE Pioneer and a QEHS manager.

“This has shaped my thought process because OE is all about listening, analysing and collaborating with people to achieve goals. It isn’t like auditing and non-conformity where something is just wrong, black and white. It’s about working with a team to look into a process, identify problems and figure out if the current method of working is the best, most efficient one. As OE Pioneers we help keep the team engaged and get things done,” says Valvatne.


In quest of shorter lead times

Valvatne is leading four Waves at Wärtsilä Norway. One of these four waves includes reducing the lead time to customers by revamping the process of overhauling cylinder heads.

He kicked off the Wave together with the team involved in the cylinder head overhaul process.

They started by reviewing the whole value stream through weekly meetings – analysing and ensuring that they found the right solutions. Soon, they discovered eighteen improvement opportunities for which they then defined actions that were spread over a 100-day plan and were closely monitored.

“Many of the improvement opportunities could be fixed by one action. For instance, prior to starting the Wave, the workshop started the day with a 30 to 45-minute sit-down meeting. This meeting was inefficient and didn’t provide much information,” he says.

“Today, we have a 10-minute whiteboard meeting down in the workshop. Everybody not only sees the progress for each project, but can also identify whether there are any hiccups or risks, determine prioritisation – who is responsible for what, and so on. All the information is visible and easy to find.”

Valvatne says that not only did this action save time, but it also made their day-to-day work easier.

“Many of the improvement opportunities were about communication in the workshop and working as a team. So, for example, by tuning in workshop operators to the bigger picture, they have a better understanding of what their role is and have ownership over their tasks,” he says, “The whole Wave will result in reduced lead time of component overhaul and improved service for our customers.”


The perfect balance

It isn’t easy balancing the dual roles of being a QEHS manager and an OE Pioneer. But, Wärtsilä’s prioritisation of OE is clear. By giving him more resources, Valvatne was able to dedicate two to three days of his working week to OE duties, and the rest to QEHS activities.

The support of the larger network of OE Pioneers at Wärtsilä also eases matters. Not only does he have his own OE mentor, but also access to a plethora of resources including OE workshops and Skype meetings with other pioneers.


A rewarding experience

Ever since becoming an OE Pioneer in August, Valvatne has had few regrets and many learnings.
“It’s great to see people benefit from smarter solutions they themselves brainstormed and put to work. For instance, revamping the way the workshop works – that’s not my word, it’s the team’s word. It is rewarding for me to be able to lead them to that. It’s also a learning experience. I’ve become more patient, and have full faith that the team always has the right answers,” he says.

OE’s customer centricity, he believes, will be pivotal to Wärtsilä staying ahead of the competition.

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