The Drive to Zero Defects: Harnessing Real-Time Data to Make a More Reliable Product
There’s a poster that hangs on the wall in my office. It’s a simple poster, but it has a powerful message. It reads:
The most dangerous phrase in our language is: “We've always done it this way.”
I used to hear that saying often. But when I stopped to actually think about it, I started to question the processes we had and thought, “Why do we do it that way?” People get used to the way they're working and it often negatively affects how we operate. Everyone gets used to a certain routine and they learn to trust that way, or that methodology of working. At Terex Trucks, our processes had been the same for the six years I had been with the company and I could see many opportunities for improvement. One was the way we compiled vehicle inspection reports.
Fast forward to 2014 when Volvo Construction Equipment bought the business and an opportunity emerged. With the acquisition, systems started to change. One of our biggest shifts would be our move away from our Business Intelligence (BI) reporting environment which was owned by the previous parent company. This migration provided an opportunity to find a new platform that could better suit our needs.
We have a very small IT team here. I was responsible for the development of the BI development and spearheading the move away from the old system. This was taking up most of my time, so I needed a new BI tool that would lend itself to rapid development and empower the key users in our business to create their own visualizations without having to rely entirely on IT. I found those features in Qlik Sense. The software was powerful enough to meet our needs, but easy enough to use that it wouldn’t intimidate others.
Low Scores Mean High ROI
We implemented Qlik Sense in February 2015. The natural first process was to replicate the reports we had developed in the previous solution, and enhance those with Qlik Sense. Initially we implemented the desktop version of Qlik Sense just as a proof of concept. We then placed the full order for Qlik Sense Enterprise in April and had the entire environment up and running by June 2015. It was an extremely quick and successful implementation.
We started to look at some other areas of the business and implemented some automated reporting there as well. For example, our Planning Manager would spend much of a Monday filling supplier delivery performance reports from our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. With Qlik Sense, we were able to automate that task. The administrative savings for these initial applications alone paid for Qlik Sense. We got a full return on investment within our first three months.
Much of our reporting, like our inspection data, had traditionally been done using retrospective monthly reports. At the end of each month, the respective team members would go through a number of Excel spreadsheets to pull together the details of faults that were found during production. This information was initially collected to form one of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which measures the data gathered during truck inspections, at the end of the month, without us really doing anything constructive with the information. Our team members would also spend a significant amount of time each month completing these reports, mostly in Excel. So to improve this I created some bespoke applications to capture the data and built a few databases to support them.
Harnessing this data in a good way allowed us to automate how we reported our KPIs. Although we were achieving industry standard, we were focused on the success of our customers and we really wanted to drive improvements in this area. By using the Qlik Sense application we were able to visualise our Quality data on a daily basis. This had a direct impact on quality improvements in our trucks, and the numbers back this up. But this isn’t just about numbers on a screen for us. The changes we've made mean we’re living up to the standard that we’ve set for ourselves.
Qlik Sense also forces us to ensure the data in the reports not only matches what’s recorded in the source system, but also to clean up the source data if discrepancies are found. In the past, if an error was noticed, the data was only fixed in the report. But that did nothing to solve the cause of the problem and now our users are required to correct the source data. They are empowered to create their own sheets and visualisations in Qlik Sense based on accurate data and to tell the stories which bring the data to life and drive improvement in our business. They have the ability to manipulate their visualizations in Qlik Sense without the need to extract it to use in another application like Excel. It’s been a huge advantage in terms of time saved and convenience.
Background Data, Front and Center
We're using the data from Qlik Sense to prevent repeat failures, pinpointing any potential issues to the product line and even down to the model of the truck. These extra steps prevent the truck from leaving the factory with faults, enabling us to address any correct any issues long before they could ever affect our customers. Before Qlik, this data came from a number of different systems and databases which took time to collate and interpret. Now we have live information which we can action within an hour of an issue being recorded. It's as live as we need it to be. If we want it juiced up, we can speed it up to every 15 minutes or so. This background data is then used and published on the production lines the following day to ensure the next trucks down the line are checked and signed off to prevent a repeat.
We are at a stage where the right people in the right departments can drill through the data in Qlik Sense. I have also been able to extend Qlik using mashups to provide insights to a wider group within the business.
We have a system in place for digital information boards—essentially TV screens hooked up to PCs throughout the facility—where we can publish web-based content. The new setup takes information from Qlik Sense and displays it across the relevant screens, providing information to team members that is pertinent to their job.
These visualizations help identify trends or standout events. For example, past spikes in our trends have been attributed to vendor issues, an increase in production volume or a sharp increase in hiring temporary staff. The difference now is that we’re able to clearly identify these issues as they happen and make the necessary adjustments immediately to manage them going forward.
The new transparency project is now getting noticed by Volvo executives. The most senior team came by recently to do a site visit and noticed the screens. Our operations director explained it was updating live and they were considerably impressed with what they saw.
Convincing the Holdouts
With any innovative BI system, you’ll always get early adopters—people who quite like to see the new technology and want to be involved from the start. And that's great, those are the people we like. But, of course, there's always that push back or fear of change. When we first rolled it out, I approached one department manager about implementing Qlik Sense. He actually said, "No, we have our way of working: the way that we've always done things." I thought about my poster on the wall.
At the time, I decided to let it be as we continued to show other department managers specific ways Qlik Sense could help them, and gradually started getting more and more buy-in. Eventually, I had a curious staffer from that department ask me what I was working on. He was quickly sold on the benefits and promptly left to convince his manager to implement it. Within an hour, I had a meeting booked to analyze their department’s data. They've since experienced the benefits, and they're now coming to me to request we do something more in that area.
It's gone from people not wanting to use it to them seeing the benefit in other departments, and then asking to be involved. So we're managing these inbound requests using a roadmap and prioritizing the work that's being asked of us. We’re also managing our future vision through the very open dialogue we have with our contacts at Qlik. I'm in regular contact with our customer success manager, Elizabeth, and our Enterprise Account Manager, Pia. Anything that will require any assessments has generally been through their support teams. Qlik is very good at putting us in touch with the right people.
The Road Forward
We could not have achieved the high level of success without the open minds and readiness of our staff to accept the way we’ve “always done it” isn’t how we achieve new levels of innovation, creativity, and success. We want to continue providing the best possible trucks for our customers, so it’s clear this is just the beginning.
And when I look up at my wall and see the poster hanging there, I take some pleasure in knowing that I’ve broken through to a lot of our staff. “We’ve always done it that way” won’t fly anymore at Terex Trucks. But I still think I’ll leave it up, just in case.