BMW turned to Executives Online to help introduce more team-working at their Oxford plant through a major change management programme.

To cope with the huge demand for the new MINI, BMW Group employed contract manufacturing professionals to transform the culture of its production plant in Oxford.

These manufacturing experts were engaged as performance enhancement coaches, and were supplied by Executives Online. They helped BMW introduce team-working into the state-of-the-art factory in a bid to get staff more involved in the decision-making process and working more effectively together.

Nine months on and the figures speak for themselves. Absenteeism and costs per car have fallen dramatically – and output has increased by 40%. This last figure is a critical one for BMW, which has seen demand for the MINI soar. Since its launch in July last year, BMW has sold over 100,000 MINI One, MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper S cars worldwide.

Over 76,000 of these cars were sold in the first seven months of this year, and it was in anticipation of this surge in demand that BMW's Change Management and CIP manager, Jeurgen Lubos, contacted Executives Online in September 2001.

Mr Lubos was already introducing more team-working at BMW Group's Oxford plant through a major change management programme called Working in Groups (WINGS). He was confident that the programme could deliver huge benefits in terms of staff morale and output. However, although BMW is acknowledged within the motor industry for its very strong management team, during the launch phase for the MINI the focus was on production. In order to implement the change programme the company needed extra support – and so it turned to Executives Online.

Norrie Johnston, Executive Chairman of Executives Online picks up the story: "The brief was the sort we excel at. Finding very good people at very short notice. In the case of BMW we found them three performance enhancement coaches in days."

These were Steve S, Greg S and Andy H. All three have held senior management positions in the manufacturing industry and all have particular experience of the change management process. For instance, Steve has worked with companies as diverse as GEC, Dowty, Albright & Wilson, ICI and Zeneca in a career spanning 20 years. His most recent appointment was as manufacturing manager of multi-disciplinary teams on the shop floor at Corning Cables.

BMW was so impressed with the calibre of the first team of managers provided that within two days it asked Executives Online to find two more, and within weeks there were eight experienced interim manufacturing managers in place at BMW Group's Oxford plant – working in the company's body-in-white, paint shop and assembly areas.

"These were incredibly challenging goals, and the guys performed brilliantly"

Steve S worked in the body-in-white area. This is where the car body shell is produced. Steve was assigned from September 2001 and over the next nine months helped coach the 81 supervisors working in this area. The focus of his work to help them gather, share and apply business information more effectively with their teams, and to help them create an environment where all staff feel able to put forward and apply their own ideas.

Steve outlines the task: "There were critical business issues such as equipment availability, output and costs per car which needed to be resolved if the anticipated huge demand for the MINI was going to be met. We coached the process area managers and worked with the production line staff – equipping them so that through working as a team, they could un-tap their real potential and help drive the business forward. This involved a huge change in the way the staff think and work together."

Andy H, a highly experienced director of a number of manufacturing companies and another of the interim managers appointed to the project, was working in the far more labour-intensive assembly area. He elaborates on the assignment: "Drawing on our experience we could quickly assess the situation and identify the tools that BMW staff needed. These ranged from continuous improvement and visual management techniques through to structured working."

According to interim appointee Greg S, a highly experienced general manager skilled in applying modern manufacturing management techniques gained in companies including TRW, GKN, Siemens Automotive, Jaguar Cars, and who was also working in the assembly area, the success of the project depended on the team of interims being able to work with all levels of management: "We worked right across the management structure, from Director to Process Area Management. This was to ensure that everyone was on board, equipped and moving in the same direction. But frankly the management team at BMW were quite clearly already extremely good – we were simply unlocking their experience and expertise."

Behind this cultural shift were real, measurable targets, set by BMW, which Steve, Andy, Greg and the other interim managers from Executives Online helped the BMW staff meet. Within five months, output was up by 40% and absenteeism had fallen.

Norrie Johnston of Executives Online is not surprised that the team met the deliverables: "These were incredibly challenging goals, and the guys performed brilliantly – but that is what companies turn to interim managers for. They want someone who is going to hit the ground running and by drawing on their wealth of experience and expertise, immediately start to make a difference. If you have carefully matched the interim managers to the job – and you are working with people of the calibre of BMW's employees – these results are achievable."