Zeitlauf, from the small town of Lauf near Nuremberg, is considered one of the world’s leading producers of drive technology solutions and developers of drive engines, placing it amongst the league of successful, rapidly expanding medium-sized enterprises. But with so much stiff competition in the drive technology market, will this be enough for the company to hold its own in the future? By drawing on the experience of development and design (D&D) consultants and using a series of systematic analysis techniques, plus tried-and-trusted software, the Steinbeis Transfer Institute of Development and Management took an objective snapshot of the development department at Zeitlauf.
Though the managers at Zeitlauf are aware that their company is well placed to deal with today’s demands, they also know they will have to look more closely at some important changes, and think carefully about development processes and product complexities as the business grows. Acting as a system supplier is increasingly becoming the rule, not the exception.
To address the situation, the medium-sized enterprise turned to the Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Transfer Institute which carried out an ekm-PotenzialCheck project to assess the current standing of the development department. “The ekm-PotenzialCheck tool was designed to be different from conventional industry benchmarking instrument. It draws on the experience of the D&D consultants, so each evaluation is individualized,” explains D&D expert Georg Villinger.
The analysis focuses on D&D factors most relevant to engineering: processes, products, projects, personnel, technological strategy and management. The Steinbeis experts also looked at important crossover points, such as technical sales and work preparation. The ekm software provided documentation for interviews and the auditing process itself. This was given to the company for free to provide the head of development with a tool to steer internal changes himself. The ekm-PotenzialCheck project identified key strengths and weaknesses in development and design processes within a matter of days, and also highlighted root causes. It also provided a roadmap with a detailed action plan for the next 12 months.
The key to success is to ensure people understand the six D&D factors properly and to make sure these feed into IT systems: “It was only when they carried out the ekm check that we really comprehended how it all fits together,” explains Friedrich Obermeyer, head of development. “Even if the IT systems are in good shape, heterogeneous IT structures and stand-alone solutions still creep in as time goes on. The task, then, is to systematically eradicate redundant data and the long-winded processes such data leads to,” continues Oliver Brehm, the IT expert on the ekm team. Steinbeis evaluated all six key D&D factors and showed staff how to optimize these factors properly and use the ekm software themselves. This done, Zeitlauf is able to continually assess and improve its own performance. The results of its actions will be transparent, making success “measurable.” As a result, Zeitlauf will now also be an important step ahead of its competitors in the future.
Prof. asoc. univ. PhDr. Arno A. Voegele
Steinbeis Transfer Institute Development and Management Steinbeis University Berlin (SHB, Stuttgart/Berlin)