Process Management Drives Detroit Diesel

By Aaron Troschinetz  |  Posted 07-31-2009

Process Management Drives Detroit Diesel

The speed and flexibility with which an organization improves its business processes can be the difference between success or failure. At Detroit Diesel, we believe that process management will enable us to exploit tremendous market opportunities with our strong products, even in light of aggressive competition and ongoing concerns about the economy.

Detroit Diesel is a heavy-duty engine manufacturer and direct subsidiary of Daimler AG, having been owned previously by GM and then Roger Penske. We manage a 3-million square-foot facility, which includes a total of a dozen machining or assembly manufacturing lines and supports five unique engine products, primarily for the Class 8 truck market. We have delivered more than 5 million engines to date, and we are always looking to realize greater efficiencies within our overall business model.

As part of Daimler Truck Group Powertrain/Engine (TGP/E), we received a mandate roughly two years ago to upgrade our internal quality management system (QMS) to the certification requirements of ISO/TS 16949:2002. This mandate represented a serious challenge for us, since the certification emphasizes a process-based approach, and while we had enjoyed some success with that methodology under the previous ISO 9001:2000 requirements, we were not prepared with an overall IT solution that offered us speed and flexibility to adapt the system accordingly.

As we surveyed the landscape for an IT solution to help us accomplish this certification target, we considered many options. Although all these options would allow us to capture the processes in electronic formats, none of them presented a total range of database features and, consequently, ease of updates throughout the system. As we began to exhaust our options, we found a solution that met these requirements and also drew us closer to our Daimler AG colleagues in Germany, the ARIS Business Architect software platform.

ARIS encompassed the total package we were looking for, and as we grew more competent with the system, made us aware of a variety of business process management (BPM) possibilities. As we continued to check off required QMS items on our desired software deliverables list, we began to put a direct alignment of this software platform against many of the process-oriented discussions we were having simultaneously within the organization. They included the required capacities of this process, whether there were opportunities to streamline and optimize the process features, and how well we could leverage the process to improve key performance indicators (KPIs).

Our facility survived our ISO/TS 16949 certification audit, and on July 30, 2008, we became an officially certified organization by our external registry group. As we completed the final steps of this effort, we were all impressed with the software's ability to adapt to this specification's rigorous requirements.

Targeting Improvement Initiatives

Nonetheless, we felt there was still more we could accomplish with the software. As our official certification came to pass, we began to target other improvement initiatives within the organization that would help us realize even more value with this software tool.

We have enjoyed many successes with our lean initiatives in the last several years and have even been recognized within the larger Daimler AG company on several occasions for projects that brought about significant change and impact to the bottom line. Still, as lean initiatives continue to evolve, we have seen many opportunities in our indirect office areas and support processes that fail to reach their full potential and have left us asking, "Is there a better solution?"

In the past, with process mapping being the predominant initial step in most of these indirect office areas or support process workshop efforts, we had widely adopted what I affectionately call "the brown paper approach." A group would assemble and then begin to place sticky notes across a large piece of brown construction paper in an attempt to resemble the actual target processes. 

Although this approach offered its own challenges (sticky notes sliding off, unclear cryptic notes or missing information after the workshop completion, etc.), we all felt that we were left with something that we would inevitably have to come back to and re-map. 

As second and third maps began to evolve that were either reiterations or similarities of something somewhere on one of these brown pieces of paper, we knew that we had to take action, or we would succumb to our documentation systems.  In recognition of this dilemma, beginning late last year, we began to ramp-up our attempts to integrate the ARIS solution into this workshop format. 

While we were initially bringing new process mapping symbols or objects/connectors (as we call them in ARIS) that were met with skepticism, we were finally beginning to see a common possibility with our internal lean initiative colleagues, and as such, have taken further steps to bring in a more customer-driven approach with tools such as the process turtle and enhanced waste analysis tools, including the "muda (waste) analysis." These tools build on each other and, in the end, we believe they center on a stable foundation as provided by the ARIS Business Architect software platform.

Looking ahead to the continued maturation of our now total business management system solution--which includes our QMS and all of these continuous improvement tools--we see an endless array of possibilities. As we continue to grow rich with process understanding and as a more comprehensive package of intertwined tools is available to departments or groups needing assistance, we are realizing that the next evolution of improvements we intend to implement: will include process optimization and resource capacity reporting. These next steps will allow us to take our strong product portfolio and maximize our resource allocations toward more value-added activities.

Aaron Troschinetz is the quality systems supervisor at the Detroit Diesel Redford facility where he is responsible for all quality-related ISO-certification matters. He also contributes to quality discussions across the Daimler Truck Group Powertrain/Engine and is a certified quality auditor and certified manager of quality/organizational excellence through the American Society of Quality.