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Interview with Mrs. Maria Ma, Director of Siemens Production System-3i/EHS, Siemens Mechanical Drive Systems, Tianjin

Indirect areas (purchasing, controlling, HR, finance, sales, IT, customer service, and more) need to be optimized in the same way as the manufacturing areas. Increasing productivity, reducing lead times, improving quality and developing high performance teams are goals which can be reached in any department of your company.

Mrs. Ma - Director of Siemens Production System-3i/EHS of Siemens Mechanical Drive Systems - has guided the Lean transformation at the Tianjin plant.

We interviewed Mrs. Ma to find out more about her experience, challenges and achievements.

1. Mrs. Ma, would you please tell us about your personal and business background?

First thanks very much for the interview invitation. I started my career in Siemens in 1998 as Assistant to General Manager. Then in 2005, I was assigned to the head of HR & Adm. Center. In 2010, I was chosen to set up a brand new department called SPS-3i / EHS* department to promote Lean activities and culture in SMDT (Siemens Mechanical Drives Systems Tianjin) . 

2. Tell us about your company and activities in China

SMDT, former Flender Tianjin Company, was established in 1996 in Tianjin, China. It’s 100% wholly owned by Siemens. The main products are all kinds of gear units like FZG**, KMP, Simogear, Winergy, railcar gear units etc. It’s widely used in all industries like Power Generation, Cement, Crane, Coal Mine, Automotive Factory, Paper, Railway, Wind Power etc. Our famous brand Flender Gear Units is one of the top leaders in the gear unit fields worldwide. 

3. When and how was the Lean transformation started at Siemens Tianjin? How did you select pilot areas and in what way were the indirect areas considered?

In 2010, Siemens Group started the strategy of “SPS Goes Global”. In SMDT a brand new organization of SPS was set up. We started with SPS awareness training at the management level. It’s a 5-day workshop with SPS Screening --- a kind of lean maturity level evaluation. During this workshop, the top management worked out our SPS strategy and 6 action areas to be implemented in the following 2 years. This gave us a direction to start our Lean journey. 

To implement a Lean project starting from zero is very difficult. There is a Chinese saying that goes “There are only two most difficult things in the world. One is to get money from the other people’s pocket; the other is to implant your ideas into other people’s mind.” 

Implementation of Lean is the process of CHANGE, is the process to let other people accept your ideas, make them their own and implement them into actions. 

We selected the easiest group to start Lean projects with quick win result. With this pilot good example and best practice sharing activities, we invited the other departments to learn from each other. Step by step, Lean projects are everywhere and Lean culture is established now. 

Every two years, SMDT will do SPS screening again to find out new action areas. In 2014, we decided that our next focus was going to be Lean in indirect areas (administration). Very soon the office/administration wastes were seen everywhere. 5S, Process Mapping, CIP, Hoshin Kanri, end to end process improvement, etc were executed systematically. Material flow is important, but so is information flow. When we shorten the material flow processes, the lead time can only be reduced by some days. But when we optimized the information flow, we found that the lead time could be reduced by some months! Could you believe it? 

4. What do you think were the main challenges you have encountered during your Lean Transformation?

The challenges are always how to make continuous improvement and change. Currently Industry 4.0 and China 2025 are driving us to a digitalized world. How to implement digitalization in our mechanical manufacturing factory is a new challenge in front of us. But Lean is a good base to go there.

5. What benefits did the application of Lean practices in indirect areas bring to Siemens? (if you can mention measurable results would be appreciated)

Office 5S helped office people not to waste time in searching documents, tools etc. And they work in a more standardized, efficient, accurate and easy way. Process mapping helped office people to be clear about the cross-functional processes and to find out pain points to shorten lead time and to reduce double work etc. For example, last year we implemented a project called E2E project. This was to fine tuning the information flow starting from customer inquiry until goods delivered to customer. Finally our total lead time was reduced by 30%. Isn’t it marvelous?

6. What was the biggest “lesson learnt” from this experience?

Never give up!

7. If you were to do something different, what would that be?

Some projects we only considered small parts, but not seeing the whole processes and the future forecast were not sure. Under this situation, if I do it again, I may do something differently.


*SPS stands for Siemens Production System
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