As one of the world’s leading companies in mechanical engineering and plant construction with significant experience in the fields of automation and digitalization, Dürr now leads the market in the provision of high-tech machines and robotic technology for the automotive industry. With facilities strategically located in Sao Paulo, the unit serves the entire South American market, and since it began its Lean Transformation journey, it has discovered that only it’s technology a major advantage to its success. Its people are as well.
BIETIGHEIM-BISSINGEN TECHNOLOGY CENTER
In Bietigheim-Bissingen, Dürr operates the world’s largest technology center for paint application systems in the automotive industry. This is where new products are developed and painting processes are tested prior to large-scale use.
We spoke with Roberto Tkatchuk, who has been president of Dürr Brasil for more than 10 years. With a degree in Engineering, he recalls that he resisted change in the culture at the Brazilian subsidiary for many years. However, four years ago, he made the decision to bring the changes that had been implemented in Germany to Brazil, and today he is one of the greatest advocates for Lean Transformation on Brazilian industry as a whole.
“I decided to make a commitment in people.”
Dürr Brasil Ltda
Roberto Tkatchuk, how was the transformation experience at Dürr and, above all, what was it like to lead this transformation? Did you always have confidence that it would work?
I spent many years of my life taking management courses. And the big problem in the corporate world is that you listen, but you don’t experience it, you don’t really feel it firsthand. I am a typical example of this. As an engineer, I realize that the flaw in my thinking was always to think that we can solve everything with procedures and rules, machines, devices and computer programs. Simply by telling people what to do. This was my mistake.
After more than 30 years working in this area, and incidentally I got hit hard for not being able to find a magic formula on how to increase my team’s efficiency, I finally made my latest commitment four years ago.
If I could go back in time, it should have been my first. I decided to commit to people. I came back from a meeting at headquarters very excited about what I had seen. They were starting to apply Lean Principles there. I thought to myself: This is easy, I can do this myself. I’ll just hang some posters on the wall. Obviously, that didn’t work. That’s when we met Staufen. We started working together, focused on management teams. To be honest, at this stage I was already convinced by the Lean Principles, but it needed a lot of patience from the entire Brazilian team to make this change. It’s a long process, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that is never finished.
We are always reviewing concepts and improving our processes. Over time, we were able to convince people. We had a reasonable initial take-up by senior management. Then, little by little, at operational level – particularly the engineers – the staff started to see the results and were willing to commit. It was a very natural process, but, no doubt, it has to be a top-down process.
In what ways has the implementation of Lean Principles had an impact at Dürr so far?
When we talk about Lean Principles, we always quote numbers, right? Today, here at Dürr, that days of “creating indicators that keep the boss happy” are over. The indicators now serve a useful purpose, and each person understands what they are doing and how they are doing. In the past, indicator management focused on pleasing me. Now each manager works based on their own indicators, focusing on the real needs of their area. The idea of how to bring about improvement was also something that came from the top. Now I don’t have to do that anymore. It has become ingrained in the culture. Each employee prepares their own improvement projections and takes responsibility for them.
We have been having positive results for several years. Yet there were a few Lean Principles that improved our results even more and created stability. We have been acquiring exclusive contracts in a highly competitive environment. We have created a transparent relationship with our clients based on Lean Principles, which has enabled us to have this trust and partnership. Now we bring our clients inside Dürr, so that they can become acquainted with our processes. In fact, we even ended up making this a marketing strategy for us. When they come here and experience how transparently we deal with information, handle mistakes and raise and resolve issues, their trust in us grows stronger.
“Beyond indicators, Lean Principles have become a marketing strategy that demonstrates our transparency and bring us closer to our client, creating a relationship of trust and partnership.”
MADE IN GERMANY FOR THE WHOLE WORLD
All of Dürr’s painting robots are assembled and programmed at the Bietigheim-Bissingen competence center. They then start their journey to automotive plants around the world
What are the expectations for post-crisis?
In relation to the Lean journey, our thinking today is to solidify and consolidate everything we have constructed up to now, and to work on what is coming up. We have our feet on the ground when it comes to current economy. The automotive industry is still undergoing a huge transformation, dealing not only with the issue of electric cars, but the crisis as well. In fact, this has been talked about for many years, but automakers and oil company lobby have taken steps to delay this process. Due to the pressure from global markets, this issue is now gaining momentum. Currently, no one anywhere around the globe is investing a single penny in the conventional auto industry.
Dürr is the world leader in factory construction. We currently have 70% of the market. In the United States, 80% of our current portfolio represents electric car startups – around 20 companies. In addition, 50% of our net sales come from China, where we have something like 50 clients that are electric car startups. It is a new market, and it will consolidate. What we do know is that the rules of the game have changed.
In global terms, Dürr currently invests from 5 to 8% in research and development, such as for example testing self-driving cars, battery manufacturing, etc. Nonetheless, Brazil is still a problem in this regard. We are falling further and further behind. Industries outside Brazil first have to amortize their current investments through exports and not until then, after around 10 years, can they start investing here. With a little bit of forward-looking thinking, I can see that our conventional automotive industry is going to slowly die over the next 10 to 15 years. Our big advantage here at Dürr is that we are familiar with the new technologies outside the country. I teach my clients in Brazil everything they need to know about technology.
My competitors are either broke or they are in very bad shape. Even though the market has declined considerably, the situation we currently face is one of reduced competition. Yet, I am not so arrogant as to think that now these clients will have no choice but to accept me. On the contrary, we set out to create win-win partnerships. And, thanks to Lean Principles, this has been strengthened a lot.