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Project Management Drives Success into Large Automotive Company's Process Integration Effort

A large automotive manufacturer refocused its efforts and consolidated its car groups into a single operation. This would enable the company to increase throughput, increase profitability, and enable first time quality. Using this unique growth strategy would facilitate expansion into growing markets, while allowing them enough local control to satisfy local market needs as well.

Immediately, the company’s executives recognized that consolidating its car groups would be a major undertaking, requiring organizational restructuring and corporate cultural changes.

Executive leadership realized they would need assistance integrating and managing the business processes across the company’s car group operations. They turned to Robbins Gioia for help. "We knew from past experience that Robbins Gioia would bring the kind of processes and methodologies to the table needed for success in this effort," said the executive director of the company. "We needed professionals who understood the industry and our infrastructure. Robbins Gioia was already automotive savvy, and we knew they would be able to hit the ground running."

DRIVING PROCESS INTEGRATION ACROSS THE COMPANY

Robbins Gioia was asked to begin work on the company’s process integration effort. RG began by conducting an assessment consisting of discovery, analysis, documentation, and process timing of key process enabler initiatives currently in place. Robbins Gioia then helped them establish a process leadership board (PLB) made up of executive directors from the various functions throughout the company. The PLB’s vision was to ensure consistent integration of common cross-functional processes that produced the manufacturing process deliverables. This provided program templates that offer a step-by-step outline of what needs to be achieved on a new vehicle, by which functions, and when each deliverable should be completed. In addition, the board needed to put more emphasis and priority on their business processes (This included process integrity, usefulness, commonality and results.)

Robbins Gioia then assisted the board members in framing their own roles and responsibilities. It was determined that PLB members would serve as "functional process guardians" who would lead the process integration activities and be the single voice for their functional area on process and process issues. PLB guiding principles were established, some of which are:

· Establishing common business processes ranks as one of the highest business priorities

· Integration across processes and across functions is a key success factor

· Process responsibility and resource capability belong to the functional organizations

· Re-invent as little as possible – utilize a best practices approach to capitalize on existing efforts

· Process efforts must be compatible with the company’s global directions.

Next, the Robbins Gioia team and the PLB assessed the processes that directly supported manufacturing deliverables to identify any problems or issues that existed through creative brainstorming. The resulting set of processes were put up on a wall, whittled down to only the most important and managed from there. "This session forced us to list functional problem areas off the top of our heads," said one customer. "It really helped us identify and focus on the major areas that needed improvement, rather than getting bogged down with all of the redundancies and process gaps."

FACING THE FACTS

Early on in the project, the company realized it faced some overwhelming challenges in consolidating its car processes. Through the brainstorming session, company executives learned that existing cross-functional processes did not outline appropriate ownership, lacked adequate documentation, and caused problems in organizational performance. However, the company’s biggest challenge revolved around changing employees’ mindsets. Even though the process integration effort had senior management support, there was some resistance to change from the various functions. RG site Sr. Operations Manager Andrea Sarotte commented "Whenever a company goes through consolidation of this magnitude, it’s hard to get people to look at the project from an enterprise focus. We had to be sensitive to cultural issues as we integrated the various functions – all of which had multiple ways of doing similar things."

The company was also in the midst of substantial structural cost reduction initiatives and the future merging of its car and truck divisions, which presented some mismatches within the organization. As these cross-functional issues arose, functional managers had no support or central point to turn to for assistance. No one person or group had ownership of process management, which led to confusion and tension.

THE "PROCESS FOR THE PROCESS"

Once the company’s problems and issues were identified, the Robbins Gioia team helped the PLB move into the next phase of the initiative, known as the "process for the process." This phase involved developing the steps for initiating and sponsoring cross-functional processes that supported manufacturing process into the board, and determining how those processes were going to be implemented, managed, and effectively resolved within the company.

Initially, each cross-functional process issue that arose was assigned a board member who would serve as its owner. This process owner would pull together a project team to further define the issue. The project team then generated a time line; including milestones and target dates for issue resolution; and a RASIC chart, or responsibility matrix, for the process issue. The team would use the following criteria to verify the cross-functional process was implemented effectively:

· Documentation –Was documentation for the process regularly reviewed and updated, with feedback from key stakeholders?

· Communication – Was the process formally communicated, with a formal method for recommending changes?

· Training – Is a uniform structured training program in place?

· Validation – Has the process successfully completed a test run, met intended requirements, and established metrics?

· Capability – Are the desired results of the processes achievable on a regular basis?

The PLB would ensure the project teams success by making timely decisions on process issues and removing any roadblocks. Once all issues were resolved, and the process had been successfully implemented, the PLB would then vote and issue a Notice of Action (NOA), which would be published documenting their decision.

REAPING THE BENEFITS

The company almost immediately saw measurable results and improvements in its cross- functional processes. Using its program management methodology, Robbins Gioia has enabled the company to:

· Successfully integrate common processes across its global divisions

· Improve communications between functions

· Organize training and roll out of new processes

· Improve throughput of processes, from priority setting to resource allocation to conflict resolution

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