Nigeria’s biggest container terminal operations company, A.P. Moller Apapa (APM Terminals), recently graduated 175 employees as Lean Practitioners since the start of the Lean Academy that commenced in 2019.

Lean thinking is a transformational framework that provides a new way to organising human activities to deliver more benefits to society and value to individuals while eliminating waste. Derived from Toyota’s 1930 operating model “The Toyota Way”, the philosophy is based on a Lean manufacturing method aimed primarily at reducing times within the production system as well as response times from suppliers and to customers.

Apapa’s Lean practitioners are expected to take the lead in introducing innovative solutions to terminal operations with the goal of improving efficiency and customer service. APM Terminals Apapa is transformed by re-tooling and re-educating employees to eliminate waste, boost productivity and promote innovation every day.

Martin Kjeldsen, Way of Working (WoW) Project Manager, says “Our employees play a central role in our transformation. They are the ones who will make Apapa a great place to work through involvement and engagement within our Way of Working, through high level of Lean education, a Lean mindset and Kaizens – for immediate, real results and long-term sustainable impact.”

In the past years, the terminal worked extensively on identification of talent at Apapa to support the future Lean journey and building relations within the Apapa team to ensure cross functional collaboration.

Looking back at 2021, Jan Jensen, Way of Working (WoW) Project Manager, reflects on the Apapa progress, “The end of 2021 showed that we are on the right Lean path in Apapa. Lean training and coaching are now showing more engagement and more willing to learn how to use the Lean tools to improve our daily work-life balance. We are beginning to see the result around the terminal where employees start and execute their own team Kaizens to improve their processes and the way they perform their daily work.”

Martin Kjeldsen adds, “Practicing Lean requires a changed mindset from running the business to improving the business, helping us preventing fire-fighting in our day-to-day job. It’s not easy, but it is manageable if we set our minds to it. If we invest heavily in WoW and celebrate our successes.”

A major milestone in the terminal’s Lean journey is the introduction of Practical WoW Coaches. This is a dedicated stand-alone role with the objective of strengthening APM Terminals Apapa’s Lean capabilities and knowledge of WoW tools. The introduction of Practical WoW Coaches has been a dream for Martin since he joined APM Terminals in 2018. “If you can dream it, you can do it,” says Martin.

A practical WoW Coach, Victor Enegide, describes Lean as a systematic way of eliminating waste while focusing on individual development. He says, “To us, as employees, it gives a better understanding of what we do on a day-to-day basis. It also makes us understand that we shouldn’t let good get in the way of better.

“Its benefit to operation is the elimination of waste, improvement of truck turnaround time and better customer satisfaction. It also reduces bottlenecks to enable the process flow easily.”

Operations Training Superintendent, Chigozie Mbanefo, describes consistency – and not intensity – as a key factor in Lean.  He says, “When thinking about improvements, you don’t have to start with big steps. Little steps, when taken consistently, can amount to so much over time. It doesn’t have to be big to make a difference.”

Jan Jensen adds, “It is a learning path, and it takes time to change Lean culture in an environment where we also need to run a business, once we learn how to plan, how to use Lean and execute Lean Kaizen we will experience that the Lean methodology will improve our business and our work-life balance. We see waste – and we remove it!”

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