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How does lean management work at one of Germany’s leading printed circuit board manufacturers?

Frau Anne Heinig an einem Whiteboard mit Dokumenten

Lean management remains in tune with the times: Efficient processes and less waste of materials are not only economically sensible. In conjunction with employees who know what they are doing, it also has a lasting effect on the working atmosphere. Anne Heinig is responsible for this at KSG: Lean management is a cross-cutting issue, which is why she is very well networked with all areas. In this way, it ensures smooth processes and the further development of the production organization. In an interview with, she gives insights into her everyday life and explains why KATA is not a knife.

Hello Ms. Heinig, nice of you to take the time to answer our questions. Why don’t you start by giving us an insight into your day-to-day work: What exactly do you do as a lean manager?

Together with my colleague, I look at the workflows in individual departments to eliminate anything unnecessary. We do not clarify technological aspects, but take care of the organization and implementation of improvements. Together, we try to question issues with the team leaders and look for suitable solutions. These can be, for example: Analyze material flows to improve staging and pickup around the machine and its operations. For example, the layout design of the machine park plays an important role.

In addition, we try to introduce the 🖱️ KATA method to our division managers so that the trained knowledge can be used in the respective departments. This term comes from the sport of karate, where athletes also fight according to a very specific pattern and these steps run as if on autopilot after a long period of application. It is a structured approach to working through a problem.

Another typical task is the morning tours of the plant. I accompany the area managers so that I am “up to date” on a daily basis, so that I can see obstacles and solve them quickly. In addition, we process employee suggestions in which our employees reflect on their experienced and observed difficulties and propose a suitable solution to us. Projects that have already been implemented are also controlled. We in Lean Management often interface with many areas when it comes to fixing issues.

Lean Management: From KATA, "5 S" and other methods

You have already mentioned KATA. What specific methods do you use in lean management?

We do not use one method, as we incorporate many aspects of different methods in our work. We are trying to give lean management our own philosophy in order to simplify work processes so that we can work even more efficiently as KSG. Of course, we have certain tools by which we act.

All tools consistently address waste elimination and strive for continuous improvement. For example, we are working on integrating the 🖱️ “5 S” method more strongly into our everyday work and thus gradually optimizing workplaces and processes so that we and our colleagues can work even more efficiently. In addition, we like to use the 🖱️ PDCA method.

You’ve been with KSG for a little while now. What successes are you particularly proud of in lean management?

I started in 2019 and was warmly welcomed from day one. Very quickly, I was called in by the day foremen to help find solutions to problems that arose in the daily production routine. Over the past few years, my colleague and I have trained more than 80 KSG employees according to the KATA principle and thus helped shape the thinking of middle management.

A current example from production that I am particularly proud of was our project on material flow in the X-ray drilling area. To do this, we analyzed old data to understand even better how the value stream of our printed circuit boards works. Finally, we were able to achieve remarkable improvements by rearranging some of the machines, for example. through shorter walking distances and fewer stops in between. This not only reduces time and costs, but also reduces risks in the value stream.

Portrait photo of Mrs. Anne Heinig. She has reddish-blond, medium-length hair, brown eye and wears a gray-blue polo shirt. In the background you can see a whiteboard with writing and documents.

Interview: Anne Heinig - Lean Manager

Anne Heinig, born in 1988, joined KSG in Gornsdorf in 2019. The mother of one son lives with her husband in Chemnitz and has played volleyball in the regional league. Today, she still loves to exercise and is out in the fresh air a lot biking and hiking.

At KSG, I simply felt accepted after only a short time.

What is your self-image as a lean manager? Do you have a philosophy on this?

I see myself as an interface between the areas to ensure quality, increase efficiency and reduce costs, as well as to take new technologies into account.. I am always in contact with many managers and production employees and therefore know at an early stage where the shoe pinches. This also makes me and my colleague a bit of “advocates” for production employees and their learning processes. The goal is always to make all processes and tools as standardized and transparent as possible. This not only ensures greater efficiency, which pleases the management; but also more safety in the workplace and confident working – and this also makes everyday life easier for colleagues at the machines and ensures a good working atmosphere.

The beauty of my job is that no two days are the same - every day is new.

Lean management meets sustainability - does that go together?

Definition: What is Lean Management?

Lean management is an umbrella term that encompasses all methods and principles of thought for efficiently designing a value chain. Central to this are customer orientation and cost reduction, so that value is created without waste.

What does Lean Management mean in German?

The literal translation is “lean management”.

After all, lean management also means reducing overproduction and making efficient use of available resources such as materials and time. Fit Sustainability and “lean” together?

Of course, we also try to think sustainably in our lean improvements, as it has become an issue for society as a whole. For example, we look at whether we can save resources or energy. The classic wastes such as overproduction and rejects lead to higher resource consumption and thus to higher costs. In addition, we make all necessary resources such as materials, machines and employees transparently visible within the framework of value stream analyses. Only in this way are concrete improvements possible. For example, reducing cycle time also reduces machine time and thus saves energy.

What trends are you still concerned with in lean management? What are you planning for the near future?

Digitization is certainly one of the biggest topics, also due to the approach in lean management. In fact, we often start analog, recording with pen and paper so that all employees can understand the approach. However, digital tools can simplify many processes over time. For example, digital shift planning and handover are just tools that are being concretely planned at our company.

However, the priority is the conversion to SAP in our company. The many hundreds of colleagues in production have to learn a new system, which means that they first have to get used to it and need accompaniment until everything works as routinely as before. This is a lot of effort, but it is worth it to become more efficient and transparent.

Our last question! We now understand that you are fully immersed in your topic and live Lean Management. But how did you actually come to it and to KSG?

To be honest, when I graduated from Chemnitz University of Technology in 2014 with a degree in industrial engineering, I didn’t expect to work in this field myself. I came to lean management rather by chance.

After university, I worked as a research assistant. However, I was not happy with it because it was too theoretical. I quickly realized that I preferred to work in a team and in a more practical way. I was first introduced to it by my previous employer. There, I actually worked in purchasing and gradually started to adapt lean management principles. At some point, after my maternity leave, I wanted to take on new challenges: That’s when I came across KSG by chance. Now I lead Lean Management and look forward every day to working hands-on and tackling problems as a team.

And it really all works so smoothly? Anne Heinig’s supervisor can only confirm this:

Portrait photo of Mr. Robert Jungk, Head of Operations. Mr. Jungk wears a full beard and a rather short hairstyle, he has dark hair and fair skin. He is wearing a dark blue shirt with a light blue jacket over it. The background is blurred and not visible.

"Successful lean management means developing good solutions for complex contexts using accessible methods. The structured and patient approach of our colleague Anne Heinig makes a lasting contribution to performance improvements at KSG."

Conclusion: For KSG, Lean is a "boss thing

Lean Manager Anne Heinig demonstrates how lean management works: As a modern cross-cutting issue that requires close networking of all employees – whether in management responsibility or production. In addition to theory, this requires stamina and an eye for the needs of colleagues. Only in this way can the concept of lean management really be put into practice and – as at KSG – ensure continuous improvements.

Is your company also “lean”? Exchange ideas with us! We look forward to your comments.

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