Munters is one of the world’s leading suppliers of air treatment solutions. The company was founded in 1955 and has since expanded from Stockholm, Sweden to more than 30 countries and employs around 2600 people. Munters AgHort develops and manufactures energy-efficient climate control systems for the growth and development of agriculture and horticulture applications.
The company started its lean product development journey in 2011 when it was acquired by Nordic Capital Fund VII. A consulting company carried out an initial performance analysis across different departments and identified gaps in R&D effectiveness, efficiency and use of resources. Munters also identified challenges in the time-to-market and agreed to the consultants’ proposed solution to implement lean thinking to R&D.
A long-term focus and short-term goals were agreed upon and the lean implementation main phases were defined. Munters decided to implement lean thinking to seven phases: 1. Assessment, 2. Improvement program definition, 3. Kick-off and training, 4. Implementation with intensive coaching, 5. Monitoring, 6. Implementation with occasional coaching and 7. Program restart.
An objective to spend 70% of the available time on strategic projects focusing on research and development activities was set.
To start implementing and achieving the desired outcome, the Hoshin Kanri methodology and its “catchball” approach was implemented to help people at all levels to follow the same vision. KPIs were selected to track achievement and a measurement method was defined.
To ensure the persons involved were adequately skilled, lean training sessions were delivered to R&D members at the beginning of the implementation. In addition to the training sessions, a key item in the process was the so-called “Mid-Term Review”, initially performed by consultants together with Management and then, by Management alone, covering several topics.
Knowledge Intensive Innovative Work/Visible Planning (KI/VP) tools were successfully deployed in Munters R&D in all European offices during the first year of implementation. Teams applied the culture of fact-based decisions and conducted meetings in “situation rooms” twice a week. Munters launched a special project to enable cross-functional collaboration called Project Barashi, which encourages working in a project development team from the beginning to identify potential problems and help eliminate them.
The PMO function, a change-management office function was created within Munters in order to manage change. This function played a key role during the early implementation phase when communication of the lean implementation and changes required from top Management to Operation was of extreme importance.
Munters reported great benefits obtained from the lean implementation. KPIs show success in the time spent on new product development. In addition, a reduction in the development cost and the time-to-market was identified, as well as a decreased number of development projects and an increased number of pre-studies with the criterion “Fail soon, fail cheap”. The company culture and job atmosphere have improved and most importantly, employees in the Munters R&D team have accepted the tools and are convinced that lean thinking is beneficial to the company.
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