Recognising Anglo-Plat's continuous improvement efforts

Kaizen Institute South Africa recently co-hosted the Anglo American Platinum Smelting Operations’ awards event in Rustenburg, a gala occasion at the which the best performing employee teams across its various operations were recognised. 

"The purpose of the annual awards is to reward and encourage outstanding work performance and innovation at the smelters as part of the company’s drive to position itself as a leader in the industry, promote best industry practice and ensure cost-effective operations," said Bayanda Mncwango, General Manager of Smelters.

During the year, site teams were reviewed monthly and coached on best practises and world class standards. They then showcased their performances together with other teams in a multi-Level meeting.  From this process, which is based on team coaching review scores and other criteria, each site selected its best team to represent it at the gala event in the following categories: best team, best Innovation, best 5S and best KAIZEN™ project.

The evening reached its climax when several teams and individuals from the Anglo Converting Process (ACP) plant, Mortimer and Waterval smelters proudly accepted trophies for their performance over the year in the various categories. 

Kaizen Institute South Africa managing director Mbuso Nkosi was delighted with his company’s involvement in the process.  "As the Kaizen Institute South Africa, we were excited and grateful to see how our principles and methodologies have been successfully embedded within Anglo Platinum’s smelting operations and how this has resulted in substantial gains in leadership effectiveness, employee engagement, elimination of waste and overall living-the-values in the organization."

The KAIZEN™ methodology provides a framework that utilises Continuous Improvement (CI), which is applied to critical processes that are integral to the goals of the business. This ensures that the business strategy can be implemented effectively.  From comments made by numerous people at the gala event, this methodology, as applied to Anglo American Platinum’s smelting operations, has been a resounding success.

Sam Ngaka (Mortimer Smelter Production Manager) said “The KAIZEN™ methodology is about three things: alignment of goals through collaboration; engagement of management through creating innovation using employees’ suggestions; and focussing on people development.

From a safety manager: “If we can improve as an organization I am confident that we will be able to reduce work-related injuries, which is of critical importance to us.”

The company’s asset manager commented, “It takes us back to basics.  We do it well, we do it better and we make it simple.  If workers take ownership we can save thousands of rands.  I believe we can achieve a 30 to 40 per cent improvement in efficiency through a clean environment if the people enjoy their work.”

It was interesting to note the varied responses elicited when the question “how do you see Operational Excellence in the context of your company?”  

One person said, “Operational excellence is about structure, how you run the business by focussing on your key performance indicators.”

Another commented, “Operational excellence means moving forward from average to world class.  It’s about the process and the people.  People are becoming engaged.  It is also important to adapt to local cultures: you cannot simply cut and paste what works elsewhere in the world.”

Then there was, “Operational excellence is a wholistic process, looking at all the needs of the people.  It forces management to become accountable by getting involved on the ground.”

And, “Having guys on the ground understand the big picture is a major benefit.  Normally operators just focus on what they have to do and don’t understand the big picture of the company.”

But perhaps the most important comment came from one respondent: “I believe we can go so much further in the future.  For me there is no limit.”

Mbuso Nkosi concluded, “The KAIZEN™ method should touch every area of the business and involve and empower all people within the organisation, not just management.  Nor can it be a short term solution - in fact it is a continuous, long-term strategy. This is why it is working so well at Anglo Plat.”

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