The Networkers

The CI engineers is group of men and women who are constantly seeking ways to optimize processes at DMK. They’re proving resoundingly successful.

The members of the group know almost all there is to know about resistance. After all, DMK’s Continuous Improvement (CI) engineers often hear phrases from their colleagues like “We have always done it this way” or “Nothing will happen anyway.” Their job is to ­nd new ways and excite people about new things. CI engineers support managers and employees who come up with their own ideas and insights in order to optimize a process or workplace. This form of support works as it is enabling DMK’s culture to change gradually, step by step, making the company measurably more efficient. Last year alone, employees’ own ideas generated savings of 18 million euros. Furthermore, signi­cant improvements were made in the “buckets,” the areas that DMK is focusing on to ­nd potential for improvement, ranging from safety at work to complaints. When someone at a plant identi­es potential for improvement, the CI engineers come and help by sharing their knowledge of methods to identify sustainable solutions. Their success is clear to see. As experts, they provide employees with input, encouraging them move away from how things have always been done. The process is not only inspiring for both sides – it also leads to astonishing results.

The CI Community: Made up of people acting as coaches, organizers, mediators, psychologists and helpers.

Example PDCA

Project: CI Engineer Olga Pelz from BU Private Label heard that employees in Georgsmarienhütte, Germany, often complained about “giveaways,” referring to cheese whose weight minimally exceeds the weight indicated on the packaging, which is of course a losing proposition. Together with employees in the packaging department, Pelz got to the bottom of the problem – and applied the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) method.


  • Procedure:
    The team tried to reduce the amount of variation. “We tracked batches on the line, we did daily weight evaluations and measured the effect of each technical and organizational change,” says the dairy engineer, who had already supervised ice cream projects for DMK. Together, the team evaluated the results on the shop-floor board. “People will only accept changes if everyone understands the ­gures.”
  • Resistance:
    “The weight deviations were only minimal, so many colleagues didn’t initially see the bene­t of change and wanted to continue on as before,” she says. “But the different ideas were all brought to the table at the shop floor meetings, so it became clearer where the causes of our problems lay.” Gradually, more and more suggestions flowed in.
  • Drive:
    Initial evaluations showed the team that things were improving: “We were celebrating successes, the team was getting hungry.” More and more colleagues people to join in and get involved. Soon, people began to come up with ideas for technical changes, adjustments to the control system and better machine operation standards.
  • Result:
    “It’s a natural product, so we could not do much about the different characteristics of the cheese. So we made the machine settings more variable in order to be able to react better to the product.” The team kept on thinking about the issue and the variations became smaller. That process has saved 200,000 euros over the past year.
  • CI function:
    One team, lots of expert knowledge: “It is important that every employee can contribute and that I take every suggestion seriously, engage in a dialog, and ensure we keep the lines of communication open,” says Pelz. “I’m often in the role of a moderator, making sure the problem is addressed from all angles, and that others’ viewpoints are accepted. Everyone should have the opportunity to present his or her position.”

The Tiger buckets: The DMK Group wants to improve in these six areas.

Example 6S

Project: CI Engineer Pascal Hehmann heard from the quality manager at the Georgsmarienhütte plant that too much time was being spent looking for things, instead of productive work. Hehmann was familiar with the 6S method and introduced it to the team. Together they set about putting it into action, sparing no desk, cabinet or storage space in their desire to create order.


  • Procedure:
    Once every employee was familiar with the method, all set about implementing it. “At the beginning, there was a lot of hesitation about what could be eliminated,” says Hehmann. “As the day went on, the team gained momentum and decided faster what should be discarded and what needed to be organized, and how and where.”
  • Resistance:
    Hehmann said initially, people were fearful of change. “I think that’s something that affects everyone.” Often, things falter, particularly when everyone is still inexperienced. “But that settles d rienced. down in the course of the workshop.” If there are any questions, he is always available to provide answers and over time, he ­nds less and less input is needed. The team starts to work independently.
  • Drive:
    “New and exciting ideas always come up during the workshops,” says the CI engineer from Industry BU. “There are hardly any limits, because even solutions that appear to be perfect usually still have some optimization potential.”
  • Results:
    “There were loads!” he says. “We were able to minimize search times and so increase e‡ciency when a spare part is needed, in the event of a malfunction, for example.” It is also a relief for employees when people are ­nding a spare part, he says. “In the lab, we were able to free up space by sorting out items that were not needed.” Also, if shelves are now only being loaded up to head height, for example, that also makes the workplace safer – and everyone feels more comfortable when things are structured around them. “We’ve succeeded in that.”
  • CI function:
    Hehmann supports the teams, trains them in the method, talks about his experience and provides input. As a CI engineer, organizing work is part of his DNA. Without a good structure and the tools you need, you don’t stand a chance, he says. However, at the end of the day, the team itself decides how the workplace should look. “And that has worked out well so far,” he says, pleased with his colleagues’ success.