The Enthusiast – Katja Berghahn, Kiekert AG

Operational Excellence

The Enthusiast

Interview with Katja Berghahn

Katja Berghahn works as Global Lean Manufacturing Manager at Kiekert, technology leader for automotive locking systems. The 36-year-old industrial engineer is responsible for the implementation and further development of Lean Management. She leads a team of seven employees worldwide.

Kiekert AG is a global market and technology leader for automotive locking systems. The company, headquartered in Heiligenhaus in North Rhine-Westphalia, employs 6,500 people worldwide and is part of the Chinese Lingyun Group.

I do not want to be a Lean heroine, but rather a coach who inspires people for Lean.

When you talk about Lean, your eyes light up. There seems to be more to it than just having fun working at a successful company.

Yes, there certainly is. Whether in my professional or private life, I am always interested in the question: “How can I make something more efficient so that I have more time for the essentials?”

My fascination for Lean did not emerge once I started my career, but rather during my studies. At that time, I worked at a management consultancy and became familiar with the basics of Lean. The saying “The eye controls the factory” made a real impression on me then and continues to accompany me to this day. After all, it not only holds true for classic production processes, but it can be transferred to any type of process. When we make something visible, we can measure it and thereby prevent waste at the right place.

What is your workday at Kiekert like?

First thing in the morning, I consult with Lean colleagues at the Chinese factories, because due to the time difference, their working day is coming to an end. We focus on specific questions, such as how we can expand Lean expertise in certain areas. The morning usually involves working on strategic topics such as developing internal procedures and processes or how we can adapt Lean methods to the needs of Kiekert. I also then have time to coordinate projects and workshops with my colleagues at the headquarters in Heiligenhaus. In the afternoon, I am in contact with our European and American colleagues to provide support there as well.

That sounds like a lot of exchange – with people all over the world…
That it is. My main job is communicating. The team work and cultural exchange between our locations in Mexico, USA, China, Czech Republic, Russia and Germany are very important to me. Every week, we hold audio conferences with the factories. 

Some as classic, personal one-on-one talks and others as global team conferences. I also frequently visit the factories to check Lean progress or for joint workshops. On average, I visit the major factories in Mexico, China and the Czech Republic every two months. Moreover, we meet annually for a global Lean meeting to determine a common orientation. All factories take part in this.

How are you seen within the group – as the global “Lean Heroine?”

I do not want to be a Lean heroine, but rather a coach who inspires people for Lean. That is my role and it is a lot of fun, especially when I see others starting to optimize themselves and their processes.

Is your work as a Lean coach complete once the processes are lean and running perfectly?
No, right now Industry 4.0 offers many new opportunities to develop Lean even further. Accordingly, further education is an important pillar for me and my team when it comes to successfully implementing Lean.

At a recent seminar, for example, I learned how traditional value stream management can be combined with Industry 4.0. At our factory in Mexico, we are now taking our first steps. For me and the entire team, it was surprising to see the amount of potential that could be leveraged. This is just a quick example of how Industry 4.0 forms the basis for the further development of Lean. Together, they offer immense opportunities to expand our position in an increasingly competitive environment. 

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