philippe liscia HE-Arc engineering Neuchâtel

Philippe Liscia was born in Paris and spent the first 20 years of his life in the city. After attempting to study at the faculty of medicine in France, he finally enrolled in engineering at Le Locle ETS in 1989. On completing his engineering degree in microtechnology, he spent several months working in his native country before returning to the Canton of Neuchâtel where he worked at Laser Automation, then ATEC-CYL. He was soon recruited by HE-Arc Ingénierie, initially on a 50% basis and then full time in 2000, as Head of Industrial Projects. Discovering LEAN philosophy was a revelation. Imported from Japan, it fascinated him because it places the emphasis on humans and gives meaning to change, while also valuing teamwork. An approach in line with the times and especially pertinent for younger generations. For Philippe Liscia, LEAN has taken on added significance in recent years, with the emergence of Industry 4.0. Interview.

How would you summarise LEAN Management ?

LEAN originated in Japan and was imposed rather assertively on the West, particularly in the automotive industry. LEAN Management supports change and uses observation to eliminate unnecessary delays, movement and actions. This improves productivity, without fundamentally changing a trade: superfluous non-value-added actions are eliminated, without affecting a business’s added value. When LEAN is applied correctly, the same operation can be carried out with fewer roles – but not fewer employees. Workers become more efficient and therefore have more time to observe and then improve processes.
The team must be autonomous enough to be able to manage the problem at its own level. If the team is unable to do so, only then does management intervene in a supporting role, providing the team with assistance. It is a complete paradigm shift compared to the top-down approach.

What appealed to you most about the LEAN philosophy ?

I found LEAN particularly interesting because this philosophy:

  • Teaches you to observe;
  • Helps you to identify problems as a team;
  • Encourages employees to take them to management;
  • Advocates collective solutions;
  • Involves everyone.

Because companies dislike problems, they tend to work with large margins (time, materials, stock). And so when the margin is reduced, the production chain encounters problems that were – up until then – masked by the margins. This is therefore an improvement opportunity. Instead of implementing emergency measures, the aim is to solve the problem at its source – with management if necessary – to ensure that it is not repeated.
I also like the LEAN action method that encourages faster, daily reactions. A positive routine of change management takes root. It is important to regularly assess how the team is doing. If a team is unsettled, it will be afraid of change. People need to feel secure if they are to not conceal problems. The LEAN approach in fact acknowledges that each of us has the ability to generate great ideas and therefore to be part of developing solutions. Everyone is valued, whatever their position in the hierarchy.
And finally, the LEAN approach is designed to help all employees develop, particularly through the sharing of best practices, by decreasing dispersion around average proficiency. This is where trust is key, enabling the best to share their skills and the methods that make their actions so effective.

Is the LEAN philosophy a pre-4.0 stage ?

To digitise processes, the progress indicators of the production chain need to be clearly defined. In 2018, companies should no longer sell what they produce, and instead produce what has already been sold. The customer can personalise their product. As a result, the production chain requires precise indicators to steer production of the product and satisfy the customer quickly. Without an overarching view of the chain, the employee will have trouble suggesting appropriate improvements. Furthermore, an employee will be more open to change if he or she understands how they can positively influence the next stage. Before going digital, the work being carried out by employees must be given meaning, and it is important to be able to steer their production using “traditional” methods.

In the end, this results in the equation LEAN + digital = collaboration + technology. This is an ideal way of appealing to a younger generation that feels lost in the type of hierarchy that is often still applied today, and the archaic processes and management used in some industries.

What has the Agile Academy, transferred by the Richemont group in November 2017, brought to HE-Arc Ingénierie ?

Because of this transfer, HE-Arc can offer students a practical approach to change and continuous improvement. Used for courses in industrial engineering and watchmaking, and in the new Engineering and Industrial Management pathway, we are meeting a genuine need by training future engineers who can apply the LEAN philosophy and help regional industries with their transformation plans. In watchmaking, unlike in the automotive industry, there is a genuine sense of collaboration between the brands and their sub-contractors. This collaborative spirit is found in the LEAN culture in which our engineers will be trained.
For the time being, the people training at the Agile Academy are employees of the Richemont Group and its sub-contractors. But word of mouth is gradually having an effect. Other companies are contacting us because they need to support their employees and help them find meaning in the changes imposed by the market.

Why do these workshops take the form of games ?

The workshops help people to see the consequences of change. The 14-strong teams are mixed groups drawn from HR, management and production. People need to experience a LEAN workshop to then understand how it is possible to improve performance while making their working lives easier. Each employee is involved, and the objectives are shared, transparent and understood by all. Experience also shows that this approach makes an employee’s acceptance of change more likely. Change is embraced calmly instead of being perceived as a threat.

Written by Victoria Barras