Lean-improvement: when you reach one goal, the next one appears immediately. Interview with Nadiya Rodionova, CEO of Adler Lacke Ukraine

And in the conditions of quarantine restrictions, Adler Lacke Ukraine managed to keep sales of paints and other finishing and protective materials for wood almost at the pre-quarantine level, which could boast units of companies united in the Ukrainian Association of Furniture Manufacturers: a decline in production, and hence profitability affected almost everyone.

     – We are constantly improving our operational efficiency, – the head of the company Nadiya Rodionova told us, – knowing that the consistency, continuity of improvement processes is a determining condition for their effectiveness. These are the basics for those who focus on such well-known tools of efficiency and economy as kaizen, lean, TOC.

     – But it is no less known that you will not achieve the desired result when you start to improve everything at once. You need consistency, step by step. Usually, the first steps are taken to bring order – reform, optimization – in the weakest links.

      – We have identified as one of the urgent tasks of improvement the reduction to zero of shortages in customer service, the number of complaints. And this despite the fact that in this sense the situation in the company was not threatening: the percentage of defects did not exceed one percent. And still I wanted to get rid of it, because complaints are not only certain material and financial losses, but also image. And for us, the company’s reputation is determined by the high prestige of the Adler brand. We simply do not have the right, as they say, to wet it.

We took the advice of consultants of the relevant profile, whose names are known to furniture, especially members of UAFM. Already this year, this stage of improvement, achieving the required level of operational efficiency in terms of customer service quality has been completed.

      – What kind of defects was it? I don’t think there were any complaints about the quality of Adler products.

      – There have been no complaints about Adler products during the entire time we have been supplying them to Ukraine. I name some of our mistakes, omissions, etc. in the disposal of paints and varnishes: in the preparation of individual colors on the basis of paints, technological advice on the correct use of certain materials. There were also warehouse problems: delays in sending orders, poor packaging, erroneous addressing, and so on. The result of improvements in this sense is, as a leader, I see it. Now it is important not to stop there – not only to support it, but also to further develop, because the process of improvement, as you know, has no limits.

As for our project to minimize the defects, the main result we hoped for and achieved was that the defects did not reach the client. No matter how we improve, mistakes in work cannot be avoided in the end – the human factor will always be noticeable. Everyone is wrong, especially with a heavy workload or urgent execution of the order. Given this, it is important to identify errors, defects within the company, so that it does not get to the client.

By the way, the Austrian parent company is a model for us. She is eighty years old, during which time she has improved so much in everything, including the organization of business processes, that, in our opinion, has long been at the peak of excellence, but still continues these processes, effectively responding to the challenges of time.

      – Quarantine – admit entrepreneurs, owners and managers of companies with whom we have had to communicate recently – has certain advantages: he is a good teacher. And what did he teach you?

      – To work out an effective algorithm of work, for example, the warehouse, which, I think, we managed, is easier than to achieve high efficiency in sales, in communication with people, with customers with a high level of requests and requirements.

Some things that were forced to resort to quarantine restrictions can and should be used with no less benefit after leaving the quarantine. First of all, it is working online. Work not only as an expansion and diversification of opportunities for online promotion, product promotion, its benefits, applications, but also as a relationship with customers in a practical sense. Of course, even outside of quarantine, it will be more convenient for the client to resolve all issues with us without visiting our office or warehouse. This applies to the visual selection of the desired colors and application systems for certain materials, and obtaining advice from our experts. This also applies to the preparation of generalized video consultations, seminars, workshops for our site, which would be conveniently available for customers, especially potential ones. The more we offer such eloquent, intelligible, literate video messages, the more valuable and useful the feedback will be for us to respond quickly and adequately to specific requests, general market trends, seasonal fluctuations in furniture fashion and finishing tastes.

This will be a significant addition to what we have already acquired for better and comprehensive customer service. I mean the customer base created over the years, which includes not only contact information. We store the content of each customer order in a special file: when, for what and what material the customer ordered, what is its exact color characteristics. If after some time our client, for example, damaged furniture or other equipment, then we, knowing exactly what was the coating (painting), we can provide it again for renovation or restoration of the product.

      – It is unlikely that there are furniture companies that, like yours, would be able to keep in quarantine pre-crisis production and sales. Most cut them in half. How did you manage to sell them as much as in the pre-crisis period, providing them with finishing materials?

      – Probably due to the fact that we supply finishing materials not only to furniture, but also to carpentry manufacturers, builders – including those who are engaged in wooden house-building. And our furniture clients are somewhat special: mostly not manufacturers of serial furniture, but those who implement projects, make high-quality furniture individually, to order, often using high-end finishing materials. Some of them did not reduce the production rate even in quarantine conditions. Some of those whose export quarantine was restricted were able to skillfully refocus on the national market.

       – Probably, it would not be a mistake to assume that one of the components of your company’s success is that Adler Lacke Ukraine actively and willingly enters into business alliances with colleagues from the Ukrainian Association of Furniture Manufacturers.

      – One of the advantages of participating in UAFM is the ability to cooperate with other members to implement joint projects or activities. This expands for each of the participants of such cooperation its customer base, expands its market horizons, reveals new niches for its products and opportunities. And also reduces costs and time of project implementation. Of course, it would be unwise for us not to take advantage of this. Our cooperation, for example, with such companies as “RD Wood”, “Eskada-M”, in particular for joint participation in exhibitions and for the implementation of certain commercial projects, proved to be especially effective, mutually beneficial and good.

We are aware that the members of the Association have the right not only to count on its assistance and receive them, but also to give something in return. Realizing this, our company, when conducting consulting activities to implement lean-methods in the field of sales, offered to join them and the management of UAFM, so that it also received effective tools to improve its activities. This is an example of mutual help, concern for the effectiveness of the Association, which is also important for its strengthening, the establishment of the principles of associate partnership. Often our company joins the sponsorship partnership when the Association holds various mass and corporate events.

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