Roberto Priolo is editor at the Lean Global Network and Planet Lean
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Supergasbras belongs to SHV Energy, a global distributor of off-grid energy, which supplies 140,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per month to about 11,000 dealers, 10 million households and more than 50,000 industrial and commercial customers throughout Brazil. In total, SHV Energy has 20 business units, with 17 filling plants, more than 40 warehouses and a cylinder production and recalibration plant.
With the various changes the gas market has undergone in recent years, Supergasbras felt challenged to strive for excellence in its operations to deliver more and better value to its customers. To this end, they embarked on a lean journey in 2017.
The transformation began in a pilot unit with a Brazil-wide implementation model that measured lean progress by maturity levels. Implementation in each business unit began with the operational and logistics areas and later expanded to support areas, such as sales, industrial facilities, finance and HR.
Supergasbras' improvement work is based on the application of six basic elements of a "lean" management system:
1) Performance Management (DM): a system of interlocking meetings to evaluate performance and prioritize key problems to be solved.
2) Problem solving: it structures the treatment of problems uncovered by daily management using an 8-step scientific method known as A3.
3) Standardization: it ensures that the results resulting from the solutions highlighted in the A3 are maintained and extended.
4) 5S: helps create standards in the work environment or process, making abnormalities safer, easier and faster to detect, and helps train the team in eliminating waste.
5) Gemba: It develops the leader and teaches him to go to the place of work to confirm that standards are being followed and/or develop people's capacity for continuous improvement using open-ended questions.
6) The leader's standardized work: it helps leaders structure and standardize their daily activities and saves them time in performing those activities that are essential to maintain and develop a culture of continuous improvement.
To assess the progress of their journey, Supergasbras created a maturity scale from 0 to 5, with level 1 corresponding to the beginning of implementation in a pilot area of the unit and level 5 corresponding to the implementation of lean in all areas of the business unit and with full maturity.
Today, all business units have started their lean-trajectory, although they are at different levels of maturity.
DM AS THE BASIS FOR STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION
At Supergasbras, daily management begins with the deployment of the strategy shown in the figure below:
By breaking down the business objectives, each area can clearly define its objectives at each level. It then identifies the control variables (metrics) that the area must measure to achieve its goals. It is important that these variables are highly visual, directly related to the goal, and can indicate whether or not the team is achieving its goal (see example below).
These variables are included in the performance review that is monitored during daily management.
Another important point in setting up the day-to-day management structure is to think about how the meetings at each level of the organization interact.
So, how does it work at Supergasbras?
Supergasbras has established four level meetings in its daily management, each attended by the team members involved.
The line sideboard is filled hourly and by the operators themselves, who rely on the auxiliary chain to escalate problems when needed.
The other boards are filled daily, and the meeting is attended by the regional manager and his direct staff. Together they analyze the problems that have occurred in the last 24 hours and/or that have escalated from the level below.
Meetings are short and always take place at the board, usually with people standing around it. They should have a clear agenda, discussing the last 24 hours and the next 24 hours of work. They are not designed to solve the problem, but to assess the performance gaps in the control variables, address actions to restore desired performance, and/or determine the actions that will be escalated to the next level (actions that the team cannot perform autonomously).
SOLVING PROBLEMS THAT INVOLVE EVERYONE ON A DAILY BASIS
Daily management meetings always reveal new problems that, depending on the degree of complexity, are addressed with different approaches. For example, simple problems (called "Just do it"), which do not require root cause analysis, can usually be solved with a simple action. More complex problems, however, require a more scientific approach to their solution, through a tool that lean thinkers know as A3.
Following are some of Supergasbras' findings on the executive board.
WHAT WE LEARNED AND SOME TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
After several years, Supergasbras has learned a lot. In the image below, the team highlights the key factors that, in their experience, have helped create a successful system for daily management.
What the company emphasizes is that lean tools and practices, while essential to success, are only 20% of the story. The other 80% lies in people development, engagement and culture building.
To create the desired new behaviors that ensure that problems are exposed and solved by everyone at all levels, it is necessary to create a psychologically safe environment in which people feel free and encouraged to express their opinions and ideas, take risks, admit failures, learn from those failures, and have honest and open discussions.
Psychological safety and the constant fight against fear to flap and tackle problems is something that needs to be worked on purposefully, involving leaders and their teams in all value streams of an organization.
Supergasbras understands that the road is long and that if they want to help people do their jobs better, achieve excellent results, deliver more value to customers and make a positive contribution to society, they have to do it with people on the front lines, constantly learning from each other. If the results below are any indication, you could say they are on the right track!