Seeing the need to act, they sent the call out to experts not just in the engineering sector, but business and financial sectors too. The challenge was simple: We want a factory concept that meets the needs of this moment of change. Is it possible, and can you do it?
Amongst the responses they received, one hit the balance of engineering expertise, business and financial knowledge – as well as consultancy and project management experience. In appointing Royal HaskoningDHV, the manufacturers began a process that would question the way they had done things for decades – and push the boundaries to reach new heights.
Forget the straight line, let's take the diamond road
Patrick Ramakers is the Business Development and Associate Director of Global Manufacturing & Supply Chain Projects at Royal HaskoningDHV – it is a title worthy of the breadth of work he has undertaken in his decades of experience in the manufacturing sector. He led the team that created the winning proposal selected by the multinational manufacturer:
“We had done some work for them previously…” Patrick says over video call from his home where he, like millions of others, has worked in the year post-COVID-19, “and in their call for ideas, they had noted some work we had done on modular production plant design in South Africa, as well as our work with an international brewery – so that existing relationship gave us the confidence to take a bold approach to this disruptive factory concept.”
The proposal by Patrick and his team did not point towards, or promise, a perfect solution, but instead laid out an approach that might help them get there in a way that meets the needs of teams in local markets around the world, as well as the strategic aims of the company.
They called it ‘design thinking’ informed by a double diamond approach. It would be a new process for the manufacturer – asking them to step back and ask broader questions about what was driving the need for the concept:
I'm an engineer, and we're taught to solve problems, it's our job.More often than not the approach to solving a problem is how to get from A to B in a straight line – because a straight line is more efficient, more direct, and surely that’s a good thing? But our world is less rigid than that today and technology is only increasing that fact,” Patrick explains.
One of the benefits of working at a consultancy like Royal HaskoningDHV is the multi-discipline approach to projects. One that allows for collaboration and the ability for teams to combine different elements of expertise to produce the best approach to any given project. In Patrick’s team there were not just engineers, but economists, data analysts and engineers from other sectors.
The question behind the question
As the design thinking process began, Royal HaskoningDHV used research and market analytics they had conducted to inform conversations with the manufacturer’s teams around the world. In the early stages, the complexity of the road ahead was clear:
“It was difficult,” Patrick continues. “Each market had a completely different plan for growth and development, a different culture, a different idea. In one Western country, for example, they had plans for only a couple of additional factories in the next decade. Whereas another market in the East was huge and expanding; there they were facing pressures from local competition, changing consumer demands, and the need to move quickly.”
At the centre of everything was Patrick and his team: “At one point we weren’t 100% sure we could find the route to this disruptive concept – but we knew that if it were possible, the process would get us there.”
For the manufacturer’s teams who have taken a set approach to production plant design for decades, the ability to see another way was difficult – especially given how unique the demands were from each market.
It was through this exploratory process that the project team came to understand the question behind the question. This wasn’t just about creating any disruptive factory – after all disruptive can be interpreted in many ways; the real question that Patrick and his colleagues uncovered was: Can we create a factory concept that is adaptable to the needs of individual markets, while maintaining the ability to operate on a global scale? It was at this point that the team at Royal HaskoningDHV turned not only to their own experience – but to other industries.