Questioning the way things are done, thinking outside the box, daring to step off the beaten track – Continental values and fosters these abilities because they lead to suggestions that help us become even better.
To ensure that good ideas don’t just happen by accident and important suggestions don’t drown in a flood of everyday concerns, Continental has established various internal steering mechanisms. These foster discussion and creativity among our employees and make sure that everyone’s ideas are heard. After all, the ingenuity of our employees plays a major part in safeguarding Continental’s capacity for innovation and competitiveness, and ultimately the success of our Company.
Back in 1930, Continental already had a system in place for submitting suggestions, allowing employees to contribute ideas for improving products and processes. Today our employees can use the Continental Idea Management (CIM) program to submit ideas for optimizing and streamlining work processes, supported and encouraged by idea managers around the globe.
The results are impressive. In the last four years, our employees’ good ideas not only made our workflows better, more efficient and safer, but also saved the Company around €550 million. One idea submitted in Germany was even named the “Best employee idea of 2016” by the German Institute for Idea and Innovation Management.
In Waltershausen (Germany), employees have developed a simple yet efficient solution for optimizing combustion within the production process. In the past, cold air was drawn in at floor level and heated for use in the thermal and steam process.
Rather than using this cold air from floor level, the new idea was to use the much warmer air that collects directly beneath the ceiling of the warehouse building on warm days. And the solution was to use a regular rubber hose, fastened with brackets, to bring the warm air down from ceiling level.
This simple trick has made the combustion process shorter and less expensive because the air is warmer to begin with – and only required a very small investment. Plus this solution can be 100 percent carried over to other locations, because the processes are identical at many production sites.
In Changshu (China), employees came up with a creative and highly effective solution for improving the materials flow and logistics processes at their plant – by redesigning the warehouse. This was the result of a location-wide campaign in which our Chinese colleagues collected ideas from the workforce.
The overall concept shows how easy it can be to improve working conditions on the ground when everyone works together. Not only did the renovation of the warehouse lead to a significant optimization of the materials flow, but the working environment was also made much more attractive and comfortable.
The changes also brought about a better utilization of logistics capacities, a lower workload for the employees, an improvement in the storage locations, construction of a loading bay and repacking area, and closure of an external warehouse.
Creative, simple, efficient – in Waltershausen (Germany), employees are using a clever trick to make tightness testing much more efficient. A metal plate now protects the liquid components from the high heat levels that are generated at the forming station during the process. The heat shield not only shortens the cooling-off phase, but also cuts the machine’s cycle time by 14 percent – which means that tightness testing can start again without losing any time at all.
This creative and low-cost solution is now also being used in Continental locations including Somersworth (New Hampshire, USA), where heat shields have been installed in similar machines and processes.