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Creating ADMA transformation plans for European manufacturing SMEs: ADMA advisors share their experiences

The ADMA Initiative, performed on behalf of the European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME), strongly builds on a holistic approach.  Next to addressing technology oriented transformation areas (T1 – Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, T2 – Digital Factory, T4 – End-To-End Customer Focussed Engineering and T6 – Smart Manufacturing), it also explicitly includes non-technological transformations (T3 – ECO Factory, T5 – Human-Centred Organisation and T9 – Value Chain Oriented Open Factory)

Factories of the Future not only need to embrace industry 4.0 technologies, but also need to become 4.0 organisations. These organisations consist of well-trained people able to engage with many different stakeholders in 4.0 collaboration projects.”

Mark Nicklas, Head of Unit Industrial Strategy & Value Chains at the European Commission

Annemarie Mulder (FME – Association of the Dutch technology industry, Netherlands), Roberta Curiazzi (AFIL – Associazione Fabbrica Intelligente Lombardia – Italy) and Krzysztof Lipiec (Łukasiewicz Institute PIAP – Poland) share their experiences in creating ADMA transformation plans along the lines of the ADMA short term pilot process map:

How difficult was it to find manufacturing SME’s willing to join the ADMA pilot?

Annemarie Mulder : “In the Netherlands we started inviting companies to the pilot of which we (or some of our sister associations ) knew they already have a certain maturity level on Industry 4.0./LEAN (‘push’-strategy). Inviting personally works very well.  For companies that filled out the online scan via internet (‘pull’-strategy), we sometimes noticed – after a call or visit – that the company was not at a basic LEAN level yet. We then advised the SME to try to get to this basic LEAN level first before starting the ADMA pilot. ”

“If you just check a company’s website it might look like a certain LEAN level is already reached, but make sure you ask the right questions and take a closer look when visiting the company’s shopfloor.

Roberta Curiazzi: “Based on our experience, the presentation of the ADMA initiative to targeted meetings and events has been the most successful way to gather the interest of SMEs. Of course, after this preliminary presentation we always followed-up interested companies with an on-site introductory visit. These sessions have really been fundamental for us, as advisor, to get in contact with the companies and acquire more information on their exact needs and objectives. Thus, allowing us to identify the right candidates for the ADMA long scan.”

Krzysztof Lipiec: “In Poland we quickly noticed we needed a large network of SME-focused supporting organisations to find enough companies ticking all the ‘eligibility criteria’ boxes . We therefore started training and engaging a few carefully chosen external partner organisations in the SME acquisition process. To date, these supporting organisations have brought in about 50% of all scan assessments.”

Any advise on how to successfully introduce the long version ADMA scan at the manufacturing SME?

Roberta Curiazzi : “In Lombardy there are already several  assessment systems ongoing, so a lot of companies are already engaged in other projects. Therefore, it was of high importance to inform companies about the specific particularities of ADMA vs the other assessments offered to them. The ADMA approach being recognized and supported by the European Commission as a common & proven pan-European SME approach turned out to be a key feature towards the companies.”

“The language used in the ADMA online long version scan was a barrier for many Italian manufacturing SMEs to become really engaged. We therefore translated the scan tool in Italian. As a result, a lot of scans have been taken off-line in Italian, and after the sessions with companies we transferred the results to the online English scan tool.  We will need to keep being flexible with respect to the different instruments we provide to the companies.”

Annemarie Mulder: “ I always start by checking the company’s website and their social media, and asking around at colleagues who know the company well. Next step is to already send information upfront. The one pager What’s in it for me as an SME is a perfect tool for this. Getting in touch on strategic level (CEO) can help to highlight the holistic approach and the pro’s of joining in the ADMA network. And make sure you speak the same ‘language’ as the company. Which means: what is crucial for them at the moment and even literally speak the same ‘language’. Like Roberta already mentioned, we also launched a local version of the long version scan. We even made it into a local Dutch online tool.”

Krzysztof Lipiec: “ You only have very little time to get the SME’s attention. The first seconds of the conversation many times turns out to be very decisive in getting them engaged. A good ADMA elevator pitch clearly proved to be instrumental in positioning and benchmarking the ADMA methodology vs other initiatives”

“As you want to give the SME enough time to digest the results of the ADMA scan and at the same time want to keep some ‘pressure on’, we typically plan the scan feedback session one month after the introductory visit.”

Preparing for the ADMA scan feedback session, what are the main advantages of the ADMA scan analysis Excel file?

Annemarie Mulder: “ The long version scan typically was filled out by 4 to 5 different key SME-people. The ADMA scan Analysis Excel file is an easy way to integrate all these scores and present them on one A4, clearly highlighting the differences in scoring between different colleagues. I always bring this A4 – colour copy – to the feedback session, and share it with the participants. They then can see the deltas in their scores and we will together discuss several high delta questions.”

Roberta Curiazzi: “The ADMA shadow scan (the scan of the SME the advisor takes based on his/her in-depth knowledge of the company) turned out to be important extra input for having an effective scan feedback discussion and prevent misunderstanding while filling the scan. Moreover, sometimes ‘new to the company’-perspectives are discovered by the ADMA advisor. These insights then can be brought into the discussion”

Which elements do you consider having the highest company value during the scan feedback session?

Krzysztof Lipiec: “ Many Polish manufacturers do know a lot about manufacturing technology themes, but not too much about the other ADMA domains. In other words, the questions themselves were the real added value as the SME-executives really started thinking differently, more holistic I would call it, about their company. It’s very important to let the company people talk, and not push them too hard into a tight ADMA frame; just let the discussion go on, you can use this input very nicely in the writing of the transformation plan afterwards. Besides, very often new, unexpected input will come on the table.”

“Companies in the Netherlands like being challenged. We ask a lot of questions, reflect upon our observations during the tour on the shopfloor and during the discussion. To have a wider perspective, we always go with the two of us. It is about details, facts & figures. Tip: write down many notes, observations and quotes of the meeting. This helps you a lot in writing the transformation plan afterwards.”

Annemarie Mulder: “The guided tour with the manager/CEO along the shopfloor has proven to be most helpful in the discussion. Asking open questions and bringing on the table (historical) KPI’s, amounts, numbers for further reflection was also very helpful. Last but not least, during the discussion people hear each other’s argumentations for giving certain scores, and through these discussions, determining transformation priorities gets a lot easier.”

“I always start by showing  the anonymized scan feedback A4-page. The company people proved always to be very open towards each other, so they often asked me to also show them every individual’s answer to the different questions in order to get a better, more focussed discussion. For those questions where a lot of individual differences had shown up, I also provide them the Polish translation. This definitely speeded up the scan feedback  process and facilitated a lot the creation on-site of one consolidated company score.”

“Which learnings about the creation of an ADMA transformation plans could you share with us?”

Krzysztof Lipiec : “T5 – Human Centred Organisation is a lot of times a real eye opener for the manufacturing SME. Although working on this particular transformation might not cost a lot of money, a lot of time will be needed from the whole management team to get sustainable results.”

Annemarie Mulder : “The questions on T4 – End-to-end Customer Focussed Engineering might be difficult to understand for some SME’s, especially those that mainly assemble parts and don’t have their own design/engineering department. In that case you have to ‘translate’ T4 to their situation. Explain to them with examples they recognize. Finally, T3 – ECO Factory is not something companies think about quickly and in many cases does not have the highest management priority. But by just asking the questions during the on-site feedback session many people get inspired. We have several examples of companies investing in solar panels. LED lightning etc. after the ADMA process.”

“Companies expect a lot of examples, best practice cases, etc. Preferably these cases are as close to their businesses as possible. Although a lot of good ADMA movie cases already exist about specific transformation breakthroughs, finding best practices for the SME’s specific manufacturing sector still was a challenge for us… but we managed 😉”

The 3-year ADMA pilot project started June, 2018. As per today, the Advanced Manufacturing Support Centre (ADMA) already has

  • certified >50 ADMA advisors through train-the-trainer sessions;
  • deployed one, uniform European transformation methodology for manufacturing SMEs;
  • engaged more than 100 Supporting Organisations in 22 different European countries;
  • performed >300 ADMA maturity scans;
  • sent >40 ADMA transformation plans to manufacturing SMEs in 11 different countries.
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