The Contern S.A. factory spans 14ha and employs some 150 employees, generating an annual turnover of 30 million euros.
Despite its strong position in the local market, the company still faces strong foreign competition and its activity is still very sensitive to weather-related risks. “This being the case, manufacturers achieve low margins and have to make every effort to improve their organisation and set themselves apart with new products offering added value”, Contern MD Eric Kluckers explains.
One of the problems that was identified with regards to the overall running of the company was a certain element of ‘under-performance’ on the part of the Precast division, with a turnover that was slightly down, a poorly controlled activity management process and a decline in production team efficiency as a result of spending a lot of time (30-40%) performing tasks that brought no added value (cleaning machines, starting up, etc.).
“Our company has always been open to change and innovation”, Eric Kluckers explains. “The operational aspect, however, often prevents us from investing in innovation, research and improvement projects for any sustained length of time, which is why we had chosen a department that produced interesting products that were also some way behind others in economic terms”.
Good internal collaboration – the key to success
Having joined the Fit 4 Innovation programme in spring 2016, Contern S.A. was able to give structure to and indeed develop certain ideas that it already had in the pipeline thanks to the help of an external consultant. A five-step action plan was drawn up, including the introduction of an operational management system, effective planning and an activity management process, but the configuration of the workshop also needed reviewing, all whilst continuing to look out for any innovative new initiatives that might be of interest to the department.
The objectives of increasing activity levels in this division and improving its operational efficiency were eventually met. “We managed to significantly and sustainably improve the contribution margin generated by this department”, Eric Kluckers is delighted to announce, “whilst the teams also became more motivated and more independent as a result. Our experience was a great success, thanks also to the effective collaboration between the internal teams and the consultant, who adopted a very pragmatic approach”.
The process obviously didn’t stop when the Fit 4 Innovation programme ended; indeed, Contern S.A. has since introduced a series of research and innovation projects under the ‘Cross Roads’ banner. “We had to choose between following the other players in the market as they faced tighter and tighter margins or innovating, launching new products and leading by example in pursuit of new markets. We chose the latter option and have made a success of it. The Fit 4 Innovation programme is clearly the perfect tool for any SME looking to make organisational changes or reposition itself moving forward”.