Improving in practice: Fred Waij

Fred Waij is a man of practice. With 25 years of experience in operational jobs at Heineken and MSD, he really knows how to improve on the workplace. Now he’s an operational manager at You Improve.

What do you do at You Improve?

“I’m the operational manager of the You Improve consultants. And I help customers with their improvement process. My workplace experience really is an advantage: everyone basically knows the theory, but you do approach work you’ve done yourself quite differently.”

What kinds of companies do you visit?

“We’re mainly active in the manufacturing industry, the real product companies, but also work for logistics providers. We’re involved in companies from 50 to about 300 employees: there’s enough mass there to improve.”

How do you enter the improvement process?

“A customer contacts us when he knows waste or loss occurs. But where is it? We start our scan by asking three questions: where can we improve, where can we speed up, and where can we save costs? We then chart total waste, which leads to in an improvement process. This targeted elimination of waste can take anywhere from three months to a two to five-year process.”

"Our target: the savings must exceed 3 times the cost incurred."

What can companies expect about the costs of these processes?

“In our business case, we start with the Result Axis: what will we do, what will it cost and what will be delivered? Our goal is that savings outclass costs threefold. So the costs will definitely be recouped.
To do it, we work with the Autonomy Axis. Our goal is not to maximize our employment, but to make sure the customer can hold his own as soon as possible. We coach and work toward the transfer of knowledge and means.”

How does Cierpa Software fit in the picture?

“Cierpa appears where data is missing. The software uniformly shows where waste is located. We use Cierpa software for different purposes: Cierpa OEE to measure the production lines, Cierpa Kaizen to document improvements and Cierpa Competence to safeguard knowledge and standards.”

What are great examples of successes?

"I’ll give you two great examples. The first one was at a French Fries producer. The packaging line filled French Fries in bags at 48 units per minute. However, units were missed, so in reality, only 46 or 47 bags were filled each minute. Which means you lose a lot of filled bags every day. Once you identify the issue and address it, profit really goes up!

The other example was at a courier service. Only a limited amount of time was available to sort packages in the sorting center and to fill the vans. To address the increasing demand for package delivery, capacity had to be increased by 20%, without raising the cost per package. And we did it: capacity was raised 20%, and costs went down €200K in three months!”

How would you rate Dutch companies, when it comes to process improvement?

“Honestly? I was shocked. I had hoped the Dutch industry had evolved more, but many companies haven’t even started yet. Base conditions have not been met. Team leaders don’t get around to it. KPIs? Don’t use them. The objectives are there, but they’re not complied to. Such a shame!”

“Clear your management schedule and visit the workplace. Talk to the people!”

Why do you think that is?

“Well, as long as you keep growing, the focus of companies is not on improvement, but on doing more of the same. Despite the 2008/2009 crisis, many companies have not been stirred, they still make their money too easily. But you need to fix the roof when it’s sunny, not when it’s about to rain!”

What tip would you give a company that wants to start with process improvement?

“Clear your management schedule, visit the workplace, and see what happens there. Management often doesn’t visit the workplace or make contact. Talk to the people. Once you’re back in the office, you can think about what to do next.”

Can you start with internal improvement teams or do you need an external improvement consultant

“Internal improvement teams can work quite well. However, it does require a certain amount of distance to implement significant changes. When a manager asks his own department for improvements, he’ll start by explaining why things are the way they are, all waste is being glossed over. It’s hard to step away from it because it sometimes feels like you are doing something wrong.  An external improvement consultant has more, which is a real advantage.”

“Be transparent, and improve the company together.”

What’s a good way to convey to your people that the company will start with process improvement?

“Be transparent: the goal is company improvement. It’s not about making people redundant. When people can free up time from their activities, they will not be laid off, but the time will be spent on more improving. That puts the company in an upward circle, and that’s good for the company. It’s essential to convey this at the start. People can have a fear of becoming redundant, especially when you investigate which activities have an added value and which don’t. Answer that question at an early stage and take that step towards improving together!”

Fred Waij is one of the driven consultants Cierpa likes to work with. Fred can be contacted at You Improve.

Want to know more about Cierpa Software? Great! Contact us for advice, or an online demo of our software modules.


Cierpa Software enables you to improve your organization continuously. LEAN manufacturing changes your work floor processes towards better and faster results and ultimately reduces any waste. With our LEAN software for companies, it’s possible to manage this ongoing process quickly and easily. Our Cierpa improvement consultants can also offer help.

Techniques and methods like 5S audit, Kaizen, OEE and the underlying LEAN thought principles are at the very core of our software suite. With Cierpa OEE, Cierpa Kaizen, Cierpa Quality, Cierpa Competence and Cierpa Assessment, Cierpa Software really speeds up all your improvement processes!

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Improving in practice: Fred Waij