RERAILED – DB Station&Service

Leadership and Organizational Development

Shop Floor Management at the DB Station&Service AG

Every day, more than 20 million people arrive at, depart from or shop at train stations in Germany. The DB Station&Service staff are in charge of ensuring that everyone has a good visit. They are responsible for the operation, safety, and cleanliness of the train stations. Among other things, they are in control of the maintenance of 130,000 elevators, escalators, display boards, and public address systems. Together with Staufen AG, DB Station&Service AG (DB S&S) has now introduced Performance Management (internal name for Shop Floor Management) under the title “Operational Excellence” (OPEX).

After a relatively short time, we achieved a significant change in the leadership culture.


Like every morning, Christian Schulz makes his rounds at Leipzig Central Station. “I start my day by going from workstation to workstation and getting a picture of the current situation,” says the station manager. Later in the morning, we head to the performance board. Here, he leads discussions with the area managers and his core team. The heads of each area bring talking points from dialogues earlier that morning. If necessary, Station Manager Schulz can then react directly to the information reported and offer his assistance in solving problems.

When Schulz was asked by his Regional Area Manager Jeannette Winter whether Leipzig should become an OPEX pilot site for the southeast DB region, he did not have to think twice: “We were already very open with each other. So it was not even a question for my colleagues and myself of whether we wanted to join.” His expectations were also clear: away with the “we-should-have-mentality.”

However, there were concerns about the time required. After all, a meeting at the performance board can only be effective if all participants are well-prepared and all figures are up-to-date. “Meanwhile, our worries have been settled and we use performance boards in the areas of operations, system management, and station support,” says Schulz.

He also participates in the performance dialogue of the southeast region twice a week. In addition to the Station Managers, Regional Area Manager Winter also brings together the heads of the central departments in the region – from construction management to leasing. “In the performance dialogues, you can very easily pinpoint issues and determine, whether we are actually implementing what we promise our customers,” explains Winter. She is satisfican’ted with the initial success: “After a relatively short time, we achieved a signifi cant change in the leadership culture.”

The way people speak with each other has changed and employees have much more responsibility. “Colleagues no longer have to voice their concerns over and over again, but can instead achieve a solution much faster, increasing our customer satisfaction,” said the DB manager.

At the beginning we were skeptical.


Bärbel Aissen, Jeannette Winter’s counterpart for the northern region, also cannot imagine working without OPEX: “From the beginning, we said this program is for us.” In general, operations are more structured and they experience much fewer surprises. “We meet the management team twice a week in front of the performance board. Since all participants have already prioritized their topics through the performance dialogues with their departments or station managements, the meetings are usually short and to the point. This allows us to better master our very small-scale business,” says the regional area manager. This is reflected in the numbers: The availability of elevators, escalators, and display boards has now increased by 11 percent. At the same time, the number of safety-relevant defects has decreased by 20 percent.

Jürgen Kuschel, Chairman of the Works Council for the northern regional area, can still recall the OPEX opening event: “At the beginning we were skeptical, because in such a big company there are always programs that are initiated with a great deal of euphoria.” And even today colleagues tell him that they do not quite understand why the performance dialogues have to take place all the way down to the service teams on the platforms. “I always tell them that the problems that came up in the morning show up on Ms. Aissen’s performance board on the same day. Sure, the problem has not yet to be solved, but management can no longer ignore it,” said Unionist Kuschel.

Aissen agrees that success, such as availability of the escalators now being at 97 percent, must be better communicated to employees. She regularly participates in the performance dialogues of her customer service team to get an even better picture. And with success: As she was recently leading a group of politicians through the station, an escalator stopped just at that moment. Someone quickly made a negative remark. But even before Aissen could say anything, the escalator was already running again. The responsible customer service manager, who put the escalator back into motion, recognized her, exchanged two or three words and then went on smiling. Through the OPEX project, the topic of “availability of escalators” has been a particular focus among service employees.


Even in the arched structures 40 meters above Europe’s largest multi-level railway station, these successes are a good reason to smile. “I am very impressed with the amount of enthusiasm Ms. Aissen and her team have. The northern pilot region has now become something like our ‘OPEX Mecca’,” says Andreas Springer, who is responsible for human resources on the DB Station&Service AG executive board. Together with Jan Haug, Partner at Staufen AG, he is currently preparing the management board’s performance dialogue with top executives, which will take place in the evening as usual.

The fact that Performance Management actually comes from the manufacturing industry is not an issue for Springer: “Ultimately, regarding the process it makes no difference to me if I am looking to manufacture or operate elevators and escalators without any errors.” OPEX Manager Thomas Periša agrees, “In the service sector, you can easily establish a system and use the corresponding key figures to derive the necessary actions.”

The greatest challenge was making it clear to the approx. 400 leaders that OPEX is not just a temporary project. “No, this is about implementing a completely different way of working that will fundamentally change our way of thinking and acting,” says DB S&S Board Member Springer. Not specifying a fixed KPI set at the start, but instead developing the key figures from the bottom up with the managers and employees really established trust.

The goal of the performance dialogues – from the shop floor to the executive board – is clear for both DB Managers: In the future, transparency and criticism must be the norm. They should no longer be perceived as personal attacks, but rather valued as an expression of professional cooperation. 


Jan Henkel was responsible for OPEX at DB S&S until mid- 2018. Initially, as Head of the OPEX Team, he coordinated the implementation of Performance Management at DB S&S in the regions and helped to establish it at the headquarters. As station manager in Cottbus, he is now responsible not only for operations at Brandenburg’s largest passenger station, but also for approx. 140 different stops between Oderbruch and Lausitz.

He vividly recalls the effort needed to convince the complex regional organization with more than 5,000 employees of the new method. The breakthrough was ultimately based on two measures – greater involvement of top management as well as a deliberate expansion to a holistic change, in which key figures are only part of the solution,” says Henkel.

And which Cottbus construction area could be the subject of the performance dialogue at the headquarters? Quite possibly an elevator whose susceptibility to failure made it all the way to the Brandenburg State Parliament. Jan Henkel: “Thanks to OPEX, these problems have now been structured and are dealt with on-site with the right people (operator, maintenance and manufacturer specialists) instead of just blaming it on weather conditions and maintenance service providers.”

This is about implementing a completely different way of working that will fundamentally change our way of thinking and acting.


From the windows of the arched structures of Berlin Central Station you can watch the bustle on the platforms as DB S&S Board Member Springer begins the performance dialogue. All the heads of the central departments have gathered in front of the performance board right on time. The regional area managers join in by telephone. “Hamburg, Ms. Aissen are you there?” asks Springer. “Yes, this is Hamburg,” replies Bärbel Aissen. Jeannette Winter from the Southeast Regional Area in Leipzig is also connected, as well as her colleagues from the east, central, west, south, and southwest regional areas.

As the top executives discuss the individual topics and priorities in an objective and concentrated manner, Staufen consultant Haug stands two, three steps away and takes notes. In the first few dialogues he explained and consulted, but now he is only involved as a coach. Haug: “With OPEX, as it is now practiced here, not only the complexity has become manageable, but communication across all hierarchy levels has been raised to a new standard.” 

By Bernd Koch – Chairman, DB Station&Service AG

By introducing Performance Management, we have been able to integrate a method for deviation-oriented management and control into our day-to-day business. As a result, we as an organization are able to identify problems at all levels at an early stage and find appropriate solutions. I am very pleased that the entire management team could quickly identify itself with the new way of working and the associated management tools, and we are now addressing issues openly and moving to the next level when needed. By doing so, we are able to improve our efficiency and ability to react for the benefit of our customers. Our goal is to establish Performance Management nationwide in 2019 and reach final maturity by mid-2020.

In addition to Performance Management, we are still focusing on the pillars of qualification and process improvement in OPEX. With regard to qualification, our goal is to take all 5,600 DB Station&- Service employees on the OPEX journey. To ensure that this permeates the entire team in a sustainable manner, it will continue until 2023. In addition, we continue to invest in the development of OPEX experts and other multipliers who accompany the OPEX transformation at the various sites and at the headquarters.

Efficient end-to-end customer focus is the core of process improvement. Significant improvements have already been made through the first pilot projects, but this is just the beginning for us. In the future, process improvements will be systematically derived from the strategy and improvement of the overall system ensured. This is done in close cooperation with the other divisions of Deutsche Bahn. Through the DB Exzellenzsystem (excellence system), we ensure that the entire Group pursues a uniform orientation.

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