Reorientation of the documentation department of SCHOTTEL, a manufacturer of ship propulsion systems

Challenge

SCHOTTEL’s technical documentation team uses technical input from the engineering staff to produce operating manuals for ships. Mounting order volumes and increasingly demanding requirements imposed by the relevant standards had intensified the workload until it became too much for the team to handle, resulting in a backlog. The objective was to structure the department in such a way that it could deal with the large volume of orders on hand.

Success

Globalise restructured the team, developing it into a highly effective unit capable of reliably meeting its deadlines and avoiding backlogs. This also had the effect of ensuring the technical documentation department’s long-term viability within the company.

Interview with
Stefan Kaul
SCHOTTEL’s Chief Technical Officer

Stefan Kaul, SCHOTTEL’s Chief Technical Officer

Stefan Kaul, SCHOTTEL’s Chief Technical Officer

Stefan Kaul is Chief Technical Officer at SCHOTTEL GmbH. Soon after joining the company in 1989, he focused on research and finance. He is now head of the innovation and research group and is responsible for forming and developing the new department for hydrodynamics and propulsion.

“The team was so busy dealing with day-to-day business that there was no time left for developing our documentation further, never mind adapting or enhancing our processes for the future.”

What prompted you to bring Globalise on board?

Our continuing success depends on everything being right and our products would simply not be complete without technical documentation. The demands on technical documentation have increased in recent years. At the same time, we have seen a continuous rise in the volume of our orders. These factors increased our technical documentation team’s workload to an unmanageable level, resulting in backlogs. When our company delivered propulsion systems to shipyards, we were unable to deliver the corresponding operating manuals. This led to a high level of dissatisfaction among our customers and ultimately to conflicts within the documentation team.

When did you approach Globalise?

A decision had been made to reorient our technical documentation team, so we turned to Globalise to find a manager suitable for running a project with this objective. Globalise soon presented an expert who, in addition being qualified to act as an interim manager, also brought along team-building and process-engineering skills.

“The Globalise manager played a major role in helping us to refocus our processes and build a highly motivated, effective team.”

Reorientation of SCHOTTEL, a manufacturer of ship propulsion systems

What other abilities did the interim manager have?

As an engineer, the Globalise manager was rapidly able to acquire a basic technical understanding of our propulsion systems, as well as familiarize herself with the relevant standards. What really convinced us, however, was how quickly she succeeded in gaining the trust of our staff. Using moderating and mediating techniques, she helped the team develop shared objectives.

How did the Globalise manager proceed?

She discovered previously hitherto unrecognized talents and put them to use in achieving corporate and team objectives: formulating guidelines, making documents clearer, illustrating and simplifying processes. She involved external service providers that helped us process our backlogs, but cost considerations ruled this out as a long-term solution, which is why we have hired new editors and technicians.

“Thanks to the reorganization, the team has been able to meet its deadlines reliably and eliminate its backlogs. What is more, we have perceived a distinct surge in motivation.”

Did the Globalise manager also provide new ideas outside the technical documentation department?

She analyzed the interfaces to other departments and advocated that the technical documentation department be subsumed under the technical design department, simplifying communications between them. Since then, technical input to the documentation department has flowed more rapidly and thus better enabled the team to meet its deadlines. Within half a year, the team has managed to reduce the time needed to produce technical documentation sets by more than 30 percent, while simultaneously improving their quality.

What do you think enabled the interim manager to be so successful?

While one initially associates interim management with hard measures, it was more the “soft factors” that were decisive in this case. Coaching the team had the result of settling conflicts and staff members resolutely set about solving the problems. Because the team members were involved in all decisions and implementation measures, this know-how will remain available within the SCHOTTEL Group even after the interim management mandate comes to an end.

SCHOTTEL is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ship propulsion systems, particularly azimuthing propulsion and maneuvering systems. Founded in Spay am Rhein, Germany, in 1921 by Josef Becker, the SCHOTTEL Group is an independent, family-owned company that now has additional production sites in Wismar, Germany and Suzhou, China.

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