Interview with Andrey Rutman, Production Manager at Unomedical, Minsk, Belarus.
The anonymous production manager was responsible for the biggest performance improvement they had ever experienced at the plant in Minsk. He ended up being a charismatic manager with the courage to set extremely ambitious goals and achieve them. Among other things, he reduced the waste volume from 7.0 percent to 1.7 percent in the course of one year.
– I’m going use Race®concept in all matters for the rest of my life.
Andrey Rutman, production manager at Unomedical in Minsk, took a quantum leap in the discipline of courage and confidence. Years ago, no one at the plant would have staked their money on the fact that this quiet and sometimes self-effacing production manager came to be responsible for the biggest change which provided the Minsk department with a first place on the list of the 13 Unomedical plants.
For several years the Minsk plant had generated poor figures and results and the situation only seemed to go in one direction – downwards. Such a development must have been negative in the eyes of a production manager and it must have given him cause for annoyance and concern for the future. The solutions weren’t apparent and Andrey Rutman doesn’t resemble a man who has put his foot down and pushed or forced the employees to work harder. The production spiked and with such a force that it increased the work efficiency by 102 percent compared to the previous known standard hours.
– The quality is the same as before. It can’t be otherwise in an industry that manufactures critical care products and where a deterioration of the quality will be reprimanded immediately. In return, we thoroughly changed the work process. In cooperation with ResultPartner, we scrutinized every work process. And I had to prepare myself on not being invisible anymore. Everything was turned upside down and I had to make up my mind about every step of the production process and confront the individual employees who were responsible for the different parts of the production, says Andrey Rutman.
Andrey Rutman is 47 years old, married and has a 25-year-old son and a 24-year-old daughter. His wife is a self-employed engineer with her own small company. He was born in the former Soviet Union now known as Russia. His father was an officer in the Soviet army. The family moved to Belarus when Andrey Rutman was 15. He studied engineering for five years in Leningrad, now know as St. Petersburg. The quiet, sympathetic and well-dressed engineer admits that he “doesn’t love major changes.”
– A lot of us probably feel that way. I was also skeptical about having an outside consultant being given the task of improving our results here at the plant in Minsk. It wasn’t going well at our workplace so we had to work hard alongside the coaching and the implementation of the new philosophy. It was very inconvenient. I had to work, prepare, think and change myself all at the same time.
The production manager had already tried to improve the production and performance. He didn’t feel that it was difficult for him to set goals for himself and follow them, but it was a great challenge that he now had to involve the entire team, the 300 employees in the production department. They all had to be on the same page and understand that they had to pursue a big common goal.
– Through the ages, we have held a lot of meetings and set many goals, but we have found it difficult to stick to our plans. Some of the plans have been alright, but all of them only worked for a short period. Then it all fell to the ground and we went back to doing what we usually did. It could seem like our goals weren’t defined clearly enough. When Lars Moeller started working with us, we were forced to stick to the goals. I’m sure that we succeeded so well because there was no way around it. We came to pursue the goals and plans week by week. It was a much more long-termed work process than the ones we had approached before.
The goals had to be obvious to all employees, both those at the assembly lines, the technical staff and the supervisors. The goals also had to be obvious to the other management colleagues and especially this part has made the shy Andrey Rutman squirm.
– The worst thing was standing in front of all the other managers at the weekly Race Meeting. It wasn’t always comfortable to be coached, but after a while it seemed fine and safe to talk. It was still better than standing in front of all the others and having to talk about your results.
Andrey Rutman had actually never personally doubted the fact that Unomedical in Minsk had so much potential that the department could be number one out of the entire group. But he had never dared to say it out loud.
– It is hard to admit, but today I’m convinced that it is necessary to follow the development week by week and talk about new ways to implement the plan and what you intend to do if results fail to appear. It can be difficult to recognize mistakes that need to be adjusted, but it is also a challenge to stand up and say: In my department we have a good plan and some good results and we must do this and that get be even better. But I have learned how to and am doing it now. Race®concept has made me so much stronger.
Previously, the production manager was the conflict-averse type.
– I was afraid of all sorts of problems that could arise. Now, I suddenly had to pay attention to the smallest detail involving every single employee. Did we for example need to produce 1000, 1100 or 1200 units per day? These were necessary questions to address.
Andrey Rutman, the production manager at Unomedical in Belarus, involved 300 employees in the department in decisive changes to the production. Work efficiency was increased by 102 percent.
The fine-tooth comb
The plant had a three-shift operation from Monday to Friday and a two-shift operation on Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend shifts didn’t pay off and were scrapped. The plant cut down on power, canteen management and the free bus to and from work which is normal practice in many companies in Belarus. The radical change resulted in greater efficiency during the other days. 15 jobs were cut. All in all, the changes occurred without loss of efficiency. On the contrary, the turnover was increased significantly.
– Everything was minutely examined. It was the biggest advantage of using Race®concept. Our supervisors made calculations at every step of the production and then it became easy to spot opportunities for savings. We were all forced to question every step of the work process. The entire processing was examined and everything superfluous was taken out of the process. We go through significantly fewer processing steps than we did before. We also reduced the transportation of certain components from our plant to the plant in Slovakia.
The instructions the employees had to follow were adjusted or changed in order to get the exact message across on the tasks to be performed. All documentation was also critically examined along with its execution if necessary.
– Race®concept has helped us managers to make employees to function better and achieve better results – even in a way that has made them happier and more committed to their work. Now, it has become an issue of image for people to perform better and better. They are eagerly awaiting the figures from week to week. After all, it becomes a bit like an exciting competition from week to week, at least within the plant. I show the figures at the Race Meetings every Monday so all the other departments can see everything. And we also get the desire to do better next week. Before, we weren’t accustomed to compete and measure ourselves in that way. Nor were we accustomed to – or good at – giving praise. We compete and measure ourselves now as it is part of the concept. And after a while we also got the desire to give praise. Furthermore, we have a special bonus system. It works equally well in a socialist as in a capitalist system.
Andrey Rutman remembers that not all was pretty and pink to begin with.
– Of course there were some problems. The employees accepted that things needed to be changed and that the entire workplace performance had to be improved. It was especially okay that the others had to change something. But it became more dangerous when the changes were to be made by themselves. Their biggest concern was that the changes would lead to layoffs. Now, everybody is happy about the process and we even managed to do it without cutting a lot of jobs.
Andrey Rutman’s personal life also gained from the encounter with Race®concept.
– I became capable of setting much higher goals than I had done previously. I’m a cautious type and probably have a tendency to have too low a level of ambition compared to the level that I actually would be able to reach easily. This is the first time in my life that I have worked so intensely on my own ambitions and looked into the things that I realized I really wanted to do when thinking it over a second time.
Impossible to forget Race®concept
The production manager had also felt the change on a personal level.
– My family tells me that they also felt the change. It feels as if it opened my eyes to everything. I’m much more aware of doing the things I have wanted to do for a long time. I’m a lot more curious now. Previously, I would be happy with a family trip to the country. Now, I want to go on vacation in Europe and travel to other more distant countries. The possibilities really are greater than I always thought.
Andrey Rutman has already recommended several of his friends and colleagues in other companies to undergo Race®concept process.
– It has been extremely useful to us. We will never forget it as the people from ResultPartner continue to show up and make sure we reached the goals we had set out to achieve. They were here for such a long time that it was impossible for us to simply leave the new knowledge on a shelf somewhere. Earlier, we did that a few times and got away with it when consultants paid us a visit. We just kept on working in the same way as before because the new skills didn’t manage to sink in, says Andrey Rutman.
Lars Moeller from ResultPartner immediately saw that Andrey Rutman was a person who had to be “set free.”
– He was very bound by the behavior he had always used in his work and probably in every aspect of his life. Andrey Rutman is a very modest and played-down man. Luckily, we managed to change those characteristics and got him to radiate self-confidence. After all, he had a good reason to be. There was a lot of potential in him. His outstanding achievements during the eight months speak for themselves. In this case, a person really managed to set goals and identify some activities that he intends to stick to, says Lars Moeller.
– At a plant, the production manager has the biggest responsibility. Andrey Rutman is the manager who has achieved the best results in Minsk and who is most valuable to the company. The efficiency has increased dramatically – by approximately 20 percent. And he has reduced the waste volume from 7.0 percent to 1.7 percent in one year. This is unique. These are the most significant and valuable results at the plant in Minsk so he is undoubtedly the one who has succeeded the most.
The production manager at Unomedical in Minsk reduced the waste volume from 7.0 percent to 1.7 percent in one year.
After several years of poor results, the production manager at Unomedical in Minsk turned all the figures around.
From day one, the challenge with Andrey Rutman was that he didn’t really dare to make promises to himself or others as he didn’t believe that it could be done.
– Therefore, the first step was to get him to believe in it just a little bit. This was a matter of proceeding cautiously and making him decide on achieving a few results at a time. In this case, we most certainly were dealing with personal confidence. The challenge was to do it bit by bit. Among other things, we commenced by going into details with some other themes and talking to Andrey Rutman about the other contexts in which he had been successful.
– He didn’t like to talk about what he was good at. And he is good. He has managed to get an education as an engineer at a fine university in St. Petersburg. But he didn’t give himself enough recognition. It was our experience that he had a tendency to stand in the shadow of the other managers who had more charisma and strength than him.
– He was so played down and anonymous that the people who should have faith in him questioned him. Naturally, they began to doubt whether he had what it took to implement the necessary changes in the production. The transformation came gradually, but Andrey Rutman still faces challenges when there is a need to set new goals on a quarterly basis. He still has a tendency to be cautious. In return, he does in fact dare to join the fight when he is challenged to do so.
– Andrey Rutman is not a person who approaches things “head-on”, but he is a prime example. You see, being accountable was a key part of the strategy that we wanted to implement in Minsk. And Andrey Rutman was most certainly a person you could count on. He was always accountable when it came to implementing the hard work and deliver results, says Lars Moeller.
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