Ypatia Limniati

"Each transition project is an investment opportunity. So this is one of the key high-level operations initiatives running at Meggitt at the moment."

Ypatia Limniati is learning about optimised manufacturing in the best possible way: by making it happen at the cutting edge.

Warm-up techniques, kinesio tape for boosting muscle elasticity, joint protection, video performance review … as the vice-captain of the Greek U20 basketball team, I had to look everywhere for incremental improvement. We had tricks and tools for improving every aspect of individual and team performance.

It’s very similar, in fact, to my first assignment on the International Leadership Programme (ILP). Based at the Meggitt Sensing Systems facility in Fribourg, Switzerland, my brief was to deepen and widen the practice of Daily Layered Accountability (DLA)—the series of tiered meetings that kicks off each working day.

DLA ensures that any operational issues are identified and addressed immediately—at the right level by the right people. As problems get solved, employees gain confidence that their skills and experience give them the authority to own their team’s performance: it’s their knowledge that shape the tools and processes we need to succeed.

Closer collaboration, more competitive bids

During my stay in Fribourg I helped teams beyond the factory floor implement DLA, driving process improvements with daily standard work.

The sales team, for example, were finding that lack of coordination and clear role definition in the bid process was putting bid quality at risk. By integrating key deliverables and milestones into their DLA, the team ensured that all stakeholders—inside and outside sales—were clear on their responsibilities. Any issues that might compromise a deliverable are now escalated and solved more quickly. Closer collaboration between sales and engineering means more accurate cost and price estimates which in turn means more competitive bids.

Observing the evolution of DLA first-hand was the best introduction to corporate change management I could have had. Working with site leadership, I supported the establishment of a standard assessment process, which we then used to coach the leader of each DLA and share best practice. We also helped bring the total number of employees participating in DLA to more than 70% of the total.

New machining produces complex parts, faster and at low volumes

One of the strategic goals at Fribourg last year was to reduce inventory. Our ‘planning for every part’ process corroborated what many of our operators were saying: old turning and milling machines were taking too long to set up—several hours in some cases.

Working with the plant’s manufacturing director and two in-house experts, I was tasked with putting together the business case for an investment in new machinery. By sourcing a second-hand machine, we estimated savings of more than $400,000, inventory savings of more than $80,000 and return on investment within two years. It’s now installed and producing parts with an average reduction in machining and set up time of 75%.

High-altitude operations strategy

My second placement took me to Coventry in the UK where I worked on a footprint rationalisation initiative looking at how we can maximise the use of our existing factory network globally. In 2016, we announced the closure of four sites and we plan to reduce our manufacturing footprint by a further 20% by 2021 as part of a continuous effort to improve our efficiency.

Working with the manufacturing strategy and integration team, I initiated a new approach, creating a consolidated view of all the potential factory transition projects. I developed an analytical tool to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each one in financial, operational and risk terms through a standard process to support overall decision making at Group level.

I also worked on the business case for a large-scale transition project, exploring potential synergies in blended factories which combine various capabilities and technologies to manufacture multiple product lines from different divisions, ultimately reducing overall footprint.

It was a great contrast to the work I did at Fribourg where I was focusing on operations excellence at the factory and production line level. Here we were exploring ways of improving productivity, maximising return on assets and boosting technical synergies at the strategic level.

Division focus

Right now, I’m just beginning my third placement which will give me the experience I need to understand operations excellence at the division level, filling in the gap between the factory level work in my first placement and the group-level work in my second.

I’m based at Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems (MABS) in Akron, Ohio and I’m working on a Lean initiative to identify, measure and reduce the cost of poor quality through the whole lifecycle of a product. Known as a cost of poor quality (COPQ) programme, it will help drive down costs in areas such as rework, scrap, re-design, warranties and concessions.

My brief is firstly to develop a standard system for data collection, tracking and reporting to consolidate COPQ impacts and then work with relevant teams across the functions to lead some process improvement projects.

Aircraft braking systems are a great contrast to sensing systems in terms of size, volume and manufacturing or supporting processes. In some cases, products are 10-20 times bigger in MABS and volumes 5-10 times smaller. In Fribourg, it was exciting to see how our piezoelectric discs are manufactured whereas in MABS, I’m learning about their unique carbon heat treatment manufacturing process.

Talking to others on the programme, it’s clear that these kind of opportunities are the standard—and so is working closely with Meggitt leaders. It’s that combination that drives our rapid growth and development as well as our understanding of all levels of the business.

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