Drawing on Pirellli’s more than 100 years’ experience in delivering an entire range of products and services to the automotive market, Prometeon Tyre Group has firmly established itself as a market leader. With a licencing agreement with Pirelli Tyre S.p.A to produce Pirelli branded tyres, Prometeon has a commercial presence in over 160 countries. Looking ahead to the next 100 years, continuous improvement and evolution will be the key to building on this success.
Hervé Ghesquières heads the group’s global industrial engineering operations. With experience in industrial engineering and manufacturing in a number of European Tier 1 companies, Ghesquières’ career has been built around creating and improving the operational efficiency of organisations. “I also work on the industrial footprint of companies that have production facilities in order to improve the competitiveness, considering the product lines, the capacity and capabilities of the processes,” he says.
This experience saw Pirelli headhunt Ghesquières back in 2011 to join the company’s Milan headquarters. His mission? To create an organisation of industrial efficiency and increase the competitiveness of the company. He feels his career has provided him with the right insight to drive the group forward.
“My experience fits perfectly with companies like Prometeon, which have an endless need to improve value generation for their customers and shareholders,” he explains. “The truth is, improvement has no end and neither does efficiency. In order to continue to deliver on this, we are involving all the operations functions to accelerate efficiency generation. Production, R&D, Purchasing, Logistics, Quality, Technical Engineering, Maintenance, Energy Specialists, HR– everyone is involved and contributes to the turnaround of the company.”
Ghesquières’ first task was recruit new people, create new teams in each region and establish factories across the company’s footprint. In each of the factories, he defined the standards, put training programmes in place and defined reporting and communication channels which all formed part of the Pirelli Lean System. The Pirelli Lean System saw the creation of a number of best practices including the Kaizen Weeks, Blue Collar Trainer system, the Pirelli Productions Control System and innovation projects and automation (Industry 4.0).
“In order to improve the competitiveness of the company, I also defined the optimal size of a tyre plant, jointly the Operations team, balancing the many different constraints. We defined the best global footprint of the company and increased the volume in low cost countries at the level of the optimal size of the plant, while implementing automation and working on efficiency increase at the plants in high cost countries.”
This proved successful enough that when Chemchina became Pirelli’s major shareholder and Prometeon Tyre Group was created, into which the previous Pirelli Industrial Business Units were converged, and some assistance agreements were defined, Ghesquières was asked to replicate the success he had achieved with Pirelli and create an efficiency organisation plan for the new nascent company.
Through his mission of creating a unique manufacturing system to be implemented in the Prometeon and Chemchina tyre factories, Ghesquières set out to improve and align the products and their quality without compromising efficiency. “We had to look at a way of aligning the quality and integrity standards of the products without incurring additional costs or loss of volume, and without increasing the headcount,” he says. “To achieve this, we created a number of systems and processes that will enable us to achieve seamless integration and greater efficiencies throughout all of the plants.”
Ghesquières created an Efficiency Improvement Team, which is also known as the company’s Industrial Engineering Team. By creating an efficiency and resources planning system from scratch, the team is defined by its ‘training by doing’ approach. This system allowed Ghesquières and his team to have a clear overview of plant capacities, identify bottlenecks and highlight priority areas that needed working on to de-bottleneck the plants and improve the efficiency of the operations while improving the quality of the products.
“At first we had to create the efficiency team, in order to have the workforce physically doing the job, training by doing,” he says. “Then, by creating Industrial Engineering systems in order to have visibility on the capacities, the bottlenecks and the headcounts of the plants, we were able work on and execute an efficiency improvement strategy.”
Also, creating mixed and interfunctional teams that go from “success stories” to “success stories” and celebrating the collective successes, is essential in the process of creating a unique company and a common culture.
In fact, celebrating collective successes generates an acceleration of team work, while celebrating individual successes generates bad competition and frustration. This saw Ghesquières implement a number of Kaizen (improvement) activities on the shop floor with all of the different teams in order to foster collaboration and tackle challenges together in order to grow and succeed together. “This level of collaboration ensures that we as an organisation win together,” he says. “Our most important asset and key to our success is our PEOPLE. The employees, each and every one of them, create true value and we need each of them to adopt and be involved in the change process”
As a testament to the success of this methodology and collaborative approach, during the first quarter of 2018, the Industrial Engineering team was recognised twice by ChemChina (the major shareholder of Prometeon Tyre Group) at the yearly awards ceremony for achieving outstanding results in efficiency and for implementing innovative methodologies. For Ghesquières, this recognition represents a solid foundation on which he and his teams can build as the company continues to grow.
While people are the most important resource to Prometeon’s efficiency journey, the impact of technology cannot be understated. Industry 4.0 has already played a key role in delivering efficiency and success for the group and Ghesquières firmly believes that it will only continue to unlock new opportunities in the future. The company has already significantly invested and implemented data analytics solutions, dynamic simulation technology designed for resource planning, and online tools and platforms that enable seamless operations management from top management right down to the shop floor.
“Take Virtual Reality (VR) as an example,” says Ghesquières. “We can now simulate the issues we usually encounter during the production process without entering the process at all. This is something that can only be done thanks to a simulator. No other technology, neither augmented or mixed reality, nor the real machine itself can guarantee the same result. Thanks to this, we have already reduced the training time of the operators on this type of process by 25%.”
Through the use of data analytics, Prometeon can automatically collate information and data that would historically have been collected by hand, transforming the non-value adding data-crushing time in problem solving and value-added improvements.
As Prometeon continues this journey of efficient transformation, Ghesquières recognises that the successes he and his teams have achieved so far would not have been possible without key partnerships. He sees these partnerships as a little different from traditional client-supplier relationships; rather, they are real partnerships that develop solutions together and share ideas in order to define a common solution to reach the goals.
Two key partners that have really contributed to Prometeon’s success are EFESO Consulting and virtual shop floor management company Staufen Italia. “EFESO has been working with us since the beginning of our adventure, supporting us in defining the roadmap and guidelines to design our manufacturing transformation roadmap,” he says. “They clearly understood our business needs and helped defining a vision, set priorities and support us in structuring a high-performance organisation.
With Reviathech, the company supported us on designing ad-hoc training systems, using virtual Reality. Their simulators were designed focusing on the right added value, enabling to have the maximum efficiency of the training, with the lowest possible design costs. They are certified as training company and their expertise on that field helped us a lot as well.”
This transformation has been centred around the quality of the product and the efficiency of the operations, but ultimately it is one that serves the end customer. Prometeon has a clear vision to be one of the leaders of the supplier for Tier 1 Original Equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the truck, bus, agriculture and off-road automotive industry. In order to get there, Ghesquières believes that it must continue to grow and evolve to be efficient, and to increase the quality of the products and services offered to the customers.
“Our team will continue to play a key role in achieving this,” he says. “We will prepare the industrial footprint, continue to adapt the processes and machines for more premium products, continuously increase the knowledge and expertise of the teams and always put our people at the core of our strategy, by always increase their involvement and motivation to deliver a higher standard for our company and our shareholders.”