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Gastev Cup as the mirror of Russian innovation

Interview with Olga Skorobogatova, Executive Director of Autonomous Non-Profit Organization “Orgprom Institute”, coordinator of inter-regional public movement “Lean Forum. Lean Production Professionals, a member of the Steering Committee of the contest of productivity leaders named after A. Gastev.

- Olga, what’s new in your dynamic market of cutting-edge management techniques?

- Orgprom Group has recently celebrated 8 years of working on the market under this brand. Within this time “Lean Production” turned from hardly understandable gizmo with a weird sectarian name “Lean” into a powerful nation-wide trend. Lean staff is among the highest paid personnel on the labor market. Special departments on production system development are being created in large companies and corporations. The main topic of in-house universities is teaching Lean Production to employees. Lean services are requested by bids on state procurement. Whole subjects of the Russian Federation are implementing federal target programs.

- So you fitted in fine…

- Well, I wouldn’t say “fitted”. Rather, this stream is our doing. We are working purposefully, implementing the strategy, promoting this topic for many years, conducting largest forums for experience-sharing, achieving serious financial results at our customers’ locations, involving best specialists. Last year, for instance, we were one of the organizers and sponsors of productivity leaders’ competition for the Cup named after A. Gastev. The auditing method developed by our specialists was acknowledged by many experts – production people and consultants – to be very professional, reliable, valid and created on the level of best foreign counterparts. This year we are working on improving a number of its parameters that were discussed at the meeting of the Board of the public movement “Lean Forum. Lean Production Professionals” and the Cup’s Supervisory Board last November.

- What are the results of the first Gastev Cup?

- The main result is involving broadest spheres of business, state offices and professionals into this initiative. Participants were really advanced companies with developed production systems, from largest corporations to medium-size and small businesses: divisions of Oboronprom [defense industry], Russian Railways, Russian Paints, Paker Research and Production Firm, Elsib Research and Production Association, Spartak, and GrandGift. TMS Group from the Republic of Tatarstan became the absolute winner in the fair battle. Russian Railways OJSC were awarded in the “Production System of an Industry” nomination; administration of the Republic of Tatarstan was awarded in the “Lean Region” nomination, being the only subject of the Russian Federation to successfully implement a Lean target program of supporting businesses on its territory. General Partner of the Cup was PSR OJSC (Rosatom); TGK-1 energy company; Priozyornoye, a major agricultural complex near Tymen, as well as Tekora and Easy Lean, service providers for Production System Development became partners. The VI Russian Lean Forum where winners of the companies gave speeches and the award ceremony was held, gathered 250 people – representatives of businesses, state offices and providers. A special atmosphere of drive, success and like-mindedness set in. Many attendees indicated that. All this confirms the huge significance of this initiative and the topic of Production Systems Development for current Russian economy focusing on innovative management, cost-cutting and increasing productivity.

- Why do you think the Cup was so popular?

- Such a contest and such an award as a tool to recognize leadership in operational excellence has long been awaited. Similar contests are very popular and prestigious abroad. This is Deming Prize, Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, International Team Excellence Award by ASQ (American Society for Quality), Industry Week’s Best Plant Award, IQPC Process Excellence Award, etc. Foreign companies view participation in these contests as a way to estimate their level of production system objectively and the chance to become a leader. We are very glad that now, thanks to the “Lean Forum” public movement, Russian companies have the opportunity of assessing themselves and getting recognition with the help of independent professionals in Production Systems Development. After we started the Cup in Russia several similar initiatives appeared. But they are either based on self-assessment (filling in a form) or have contests conditions that are not clearly determined.

- Who does company audits – and how?

- The audit is done by a group consisting of three independent experts using a special method, making subjective approach to assessment impossible. It takes two work days. After that the experts sign the materials and present them to the Steering Committee for comparison, also giving the audited company a report.

The expert group was selected by strict criteria among the most competent managers and leading specialists in scientific management and production system development. They are: Yuriy Adler, Professor of Moscow Institute of Steels and Alloys, Academician of the Russian Academy of Quality Problems, Ph.D. in Technical Science; Aleksey Kolotov, Head of Administration for Quality and Marketing at October Railways; Marina Antyufeyeva, Head of Lean Department at Sibur LLC; Sergey Litty, Director for Quality, MaVR Managing Company; Tatyana Bertova, Director for Production System Development, TechnoNIKOL; other respected managers and specialists from different companies and corporations including Oboronprom, Rosatom, GOLAZ, Kazan Helicopter Plant, OZNA, ChKPZ, Energomera Concern, Steel, Baltica Brewery, and Orgprom Group of Companies. I would like to use this opportunity and thank all experts on behalf of the Steering Committee. A huge part of work was done practically for free. In 2012 we will broaden our range of experts – judging by the participation and sponsorship applications the Steering Committee is getting now, everyone will have lots to do.

- I wonder if the government is supporting your initiative.

- The Cup 2012 was supported by the Administration of Moscow, Yaroslavl region, and Perm region, as well as by the Union of Russian Machine-Builders. Machine-building has been always advanced in production system development in our country. There are several subjects of the Russian Federation that are ready to support the Cup and the Russian Lean Forum. They are mainly the ones where target Lean programs are implemented and planned. Now we are engaged in talks with the government of the Republic of Tatarstan about conducting the Russian Lean Forum in Kazan. We would like to set the tradition of conducting every forum with an award ceremony in the region or republic where the previous year’s winner is located. We are also planning to search official support in the federal government – political battles over the elections are over, it’s time for everyone to work together on increasing efficiency of our economy. And no better way than Lean Production has been found.

- And how will Orgprom Institute surprise the market in 2012?

- We have lots of news, as usual. Our division within Orgprom group of companies is mostly concerned with public training format. We do 3 – 5 practical trainings and workshops a month in different regions of our country. We are trying to plan according to pull method – we actively collect wishes regarding the topics at previous events. This year new topics were presented: “Features of Motivation While Implementing Lean Production” (by Yuriy Adler), “Built-In Quality. Calculating Financial Efficiency from Implementing Events. Tools of Problem Solving” (Dmitriy Vysochiy), “Preparing Lean Trainers” (Michael Wader), “Organizing Efficient Product Development” (Askhat Yagofarov), “Managing the Program of Increasing Efficiency” (Sergey Litty). Our product range traditionally includes Lean study tours to Japan, Europe and China as well as tours to best Russian companies to look at their experience of Production System Development. For instance, we did a very successful tour of Volgograd Aluminum Plant (Rusal) in the first quarter. We are planning to go to new companies.

We are going to do a “Gathering of Eagles” in the end of summer – a VIP Lean Immersion master class abroad by Michael Wader.

This year we are also launching a new project of remote & on-campus education. It will include all Orgprom’s multi-year methodological and practical experience, and besides this electronic training book has unique material on the most successful foreign and Russian companies; the project group is also developing a lot of multi-media materials, case studies, games and tasks.

- What about large companies?

- We are planning to hold VII Russian Lean Forum in Kazan in November; the XII session of the Russian Lean School will be conducted in St. Petersburg in June. Most master classes will as usually be conducted at St. Petersburg plants so that the students can practice new skills. The specialty of this School is seminars by Lawrence Miller, a popular American expert, author of “Lean Culture”: “Designing and Developing a Highly Efficient Organization and Culture” and “Lean Leadership and Lean Management”. After the training a group of School participants is going straight across the Gulf of Finland on a Lean study tour of Scandinavian countries. They will visit Tikkurila, Valio, Volvo, Nokian Tyres, Avant Techno, AGCO SISU plants and will attend a seminar by our foreign partners.

- Is competition strong in the market? What are you advantages?

- Competition exists but real professionals are not so numerous, and everyone knows them. We try to sustain partnership relations with all super-professionals in production system development and Lean production. We invite them to our forums, organize seminars by best experts, and suggest in-house programs with their participation to customers.

- Promoting competitors is bold…

- We are sympathetic: it’s necessary to develop the market offering high quality service. Today Orgprom experts are objectively among the strongest on the market, which is proved by many ratings and customer feedback as well as by projects yielding sustainable results. No one now has the experience Orgprom has – management, industry, methodological and practical experience. So developing quality market is not being bold – it’s leaders’ responsibility.

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