The Human Side of Lean at Grundfos

Based on the factories in Bjerringbro, TWI is being implemented globally in the entire Grundfos Group. Meanwhile, The Danish TWI and Kata conference is taking place at Grundfos November 20th this year (2018, Ed.). Thus, TWI is a priority at Grundfos. Before the conference I met the three musketeers of TWI, Ole Rasmussen, Steffan Skydahl Roer and Susanne Thorup at Grundfos Electronics to learn about the significance of TWI at Grundfos. All three are doing presentations at the conference.

Date: 1 October 2018
By: Lars Jensen, Lean Manager, PostNord
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Ole is the Factory Manager of three factories and has been with Grundfos for 32 years. Ole speaks about the strategic considerations at the TWI and Toyota Kata conference November 20th. Susanne, Head of Production, has been with Grundfos for 30 years. She will speak about concerns regarding the implementation of TWI and the role and time consumption of being the Head of Production. Steffan works as Senior Lean Consultant. He has been with Grundfos for three years and has run a lot of Kaizen workshops.

“But Steffan is still a newcomer”, Ole says with a smile. I instantly feel a warm but serious atmosphere. Lately Steffan was allocated 80% of his time to the work with TWI, meaning he now has a key role. Steffan will do a presentation about the process of change of the Grundfos organisation and the interaction between the TWI programs.

A visit to Jyske Bank made the difference

“It was a TWI visit to Jyske Bank that made the difference. That visit tipped us over to: “This is probably a good idea.” Jyske Bank has a lot of administrative commitments and so do we and they were just very good at explaining what the basics of TWI are”, Ole begins. Susanne continues: “Like at Jyske Bank, the administration is also important for us. As a matter of principle, we never pass on errors.

However, it happens that an employee at the electronics factory discovers a flaw in a component, which means that someone else has to do something before the component is passed on and then it is really important that our red post-inspection form is filled out correctly with the right information from the beginning.

If the note is not filled out correctly our Head of Quality will have to use a lot of extra time and the error response time might be up to 24 hours longer.”

The employees have to understand the importance

The employees at the electronics factory have not only been taught to do the installation work to make it follow the standards in detail. They have also been taught to fill out the inspection form correctly. “The peer-to-peer training of the past is not enough. When we train our employees to fill out the inspection form 100% correctly a part of the concept of TWI is that they understand why it is important that a post-inspection form is filled out correctly. “If I don’t do it right my co-workers have to use a lot of unnecessary and annoying time subsequently.”

It makes sense for the employees - and it works. The forms are filled out properly and TWI has made our quality control more efficient”, Susanne says. Ole Rasmussen continues: “A coach from the first class of TWI discovered that the quality of the red inspection forms increased in the night shifts at the factory despite the fact that they had not been coached yet.” Ole cheerfully adds: “If the job coaching of the day shift is good enough to affect the other shifts, this is the real deal. Of course all the shifts will be coached but this fact says something about the strength of the TWI programs.”

TWI creates results through people at Grundfos

The TWI training started in week 12 at Grundfos this year and it is already bearing fruit. Both leaders and selected employees (Job Trainers) are trained in Job Instruction and Job Relation. 

Job Instruction (JI) is about learning a proven TWI method to train employees in specific job tasks.

Job Relation (JR) is about creating and maintaining good relations between the co-workers, which are necessary to be able to train the employees in a respectful manner.

Susanne Thorup explains: “In Job Relation you learn to make the employees follow you. An ability that is both necessary for leaders and job trainers.” And Ole Rasmussen expands: “Job Relation is the very source that holds the PDCA cycle in place, so it doesn’t roll backwards. For me Job Relation is the fundamental building block. JR inspires us to communicate in a proper way and makes the leaders have a common language. If there is a discrepancy that makes the relations vulnerable, then the leaders now have a structured method to discuss and give feedback on the challenge. That gives a greater incitement for thorough reflection before acting, so you don’t pull the trigger on something too fast. JR helps us handle conflicts based on facts.

Added to this comes the enhanced reflection like “was your action beneficiary for the production?”, which makes sure that we stay focused on production. We see that TWI contributes to make our Lean work at Grundfos. Focus is still on standardized work, but with TWI we make our employees grow. Furthermore, it secures that we are constantly compliant.

In the long term Steffan will be trained to be able to do the things that John Vellema can. Steffan will be educated to become “Train the Trainer” for new leaders and job trainers and with JI and JR we are building a learning organization here at Grundfos”, says Ole Rasmussen confident. I can clearly feel a notion of both Ole, Steffan and Susanne going all-in on this. “The human side of Lean” thrives in Bjerringbro.

TWI at Grundfos makes leaders efficient

It is not only employees who is being trained at Grundfos. Susanne tells: “John has trained 8 leaders in JI and JR. All in all, 18 leaders will be trained. We are training our new nightshift leader Tommy and it has been great for him as it can be hard to start as a new leader at Grundfos. There are many abbreviations and there are many administrative tasks that you need to be good at. As an example, when there needs to be pulled holiday lists in SAP. Before TWI you would get an hour peer training in SAP with a colleague and that was it.

Now we train after the JI principles. We also look into the leader’s toolbox on our intranet so we know how the tools should be used and we find Lean templates on Sharepoint. But that is not worth much if you – as a new leader – don’t know where to find it and how the templates should be used. Therefore we make click guides and we train in the ability to use templates and tools. It is obvious that it is nice for a new leader to feel efficient as fast as possible.”

The Culture of Improvement at Grundfos

One thing is being competent and motivated to work after a standard with JI and JR as a lever, so you can secure that there is a high level of quality, productivity and turnaround. Another thing is to secure that there is progress in the work with improvements. I ask if there has been made plans to start on TWI Job Methods (JM) where you train to improve the way the job is being performed.

Steffan explains: “At Grundfos we wish to start the work with TWI to build a strong and stable foundation. In all simplicity it is necessary to secure a stable and standardized process which is a huge improvement in itself. Hereafter there is created a room for the work with systematic improvement with JM, SMED, Kaizen workshops etc.

As of yet there are no plans to test JM, but JM would be able to contribute in a positive way to the culture of improvement at Grundfos in collaboration with the existing effort. I don’t know if JM is necessarily the next step after JI and JR for Grundfos. It depends on the need the organization has. We are moving away from “90s Lean” where tools got implemented before there was a clear need. We wish to find the need before we select the tool.”

Ole Rasmussen backs this up: “I envision that we are going to prioritize the start up of Toyota Kata higher or along with JM – depending on the need.”

Grundfos production China

TWI training throughout the global Grundfos group

“During the last 10 years, a change has been made in the individual Grundfos factories. Earlier we worked more strategic, now we work more operational. Furthermore, the focus on standardization across factories and borders is a way larger area of focus than earlier. This is where TWI comes into the picture as it supports the operational focus and creates standardization across borders. At Grundfos we want to spread out TWI throughout the global organization, which means that several hundreds must be trained in TWI before the year is over.

A landmark activity for TWI’s tailwind in the Danish production companies was when the Danish Head of Production experienced the method on his own body. A JI and JR trained job trainer from the first TWI team at Grundfos trained the Danish Head of Production in an assembly job which gave an understanding for a method you cannot learn only through theory.

In addition, the Head of Production for the French production company got trained in an administrative task by Susanne, which supplemented with an understanding of the method’s broad potential of application. We run standard TWI which means that we didn’t have to introduce a new concept. When we run standard TWI, it means that we can use John Vellema’s global network, which all has TWI Train the Trainers. John Vellema trains us in Danish and leaders and Job Trainers in different countries can now also get trained in their local language by a certified TWI Trainer”, Ole Rasmussen states as a final remark.

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No matter what you do, it all starts with you daring to take the lead. 

About the author

Lars Jensen (Lean) is Lean Manager at PostNord and a board member at