These are volatile times and there's no industry more volatile than airlines. After all, airlines are used to handling volatility due to fluctuating fuel prices, a complex supply chain and external forces such as weather, economic shocks and pandemics.
The bright side: Airlines have a lot to teach other industries about managing through volatility.
Daniel Schönheim, Senior Director Lean Management, Digitalization & Processes at Eurowings, in an interview with Celonis, shared best practices about process mining and continuous improvement that would be relevant to other industries. Here's a look at some of the takeaways from our conversation.
Where does process mining and execution management fit with Lean Six Sigma, continuous improvement and other disciplines? Schönheim said in the future these different disciplines will be combined to complement each other. That future is one reason why Eurowings has combined continuous improvement, automation and process mining in one business unit.
"The way we are now working with process mining is new for a lot of companies so it's still not too organic. It needs to become as normal as when you open up Outlook. It needs to be a part of your daily routine and normal to have predictive information and automation helping you," said Schönheim. "Once process mining is organic then you can put your energy as a human being on the big system and the big picture instead of being stuck too much in details."
Educating the corporation about process mining. Schönheim said process mining and execution management needs to be evangelized and taught to workers at every level of the corporation.
"There's technical education needed, but also education about how we are cooperating and how we work together as a company. We need to explain very specifically what's in it for me as a leader and as an employee. We need to talk about how technology is supportive and we need to talk about a new style of making decisions of working together based on facts. Process mining will also become a topic for human resources, corporate development and multiple departments and become an accelerator in industries or in companies."
Schönheim added that this education about process mining must go beyond the airline industry and into other areas too.
What can other industries learn from airlines? Schönheim said the volatility that is the norm in airlines is now impacting other sectors. He said:
"What I observe is that industries that have been quite stable in the past are also becoming more volatile. These companies are just learning how to deal with volatile situations. Since the airline industry is one of the most volatile, we could exchange information with other industries about a sector with price pressure, a need for no major disruptions and an environment where safety has to be first over everything."
Leadership and continuous improvement. Schönheim said that building a continuous improvement culture requires a new perspective on leadership. He said:
"Continuous improvement from a leadership perspective is to provide platforms where trust and also the right amount of being brave is put together to help people to decide and to define processes best for the company. This will lead to the best result for the customers. It is about providing a platform. It is about providing the right tools and being out of the comfort zone. It is about changing habits. It's about changing the current environment. Human beings sometimes do not have the natural tendency to leave their comfort zone, but they do have the natural tendency to improve. We need to provide a platform to foster that natural tendency. We need to help people improve step by step. The sum of all those thousands over thousands of improvements are much bigger than the huge initiatives.
I see a lot of large companies only trying for big jumps and then falling back because they don't have constant improvement."
Challenges ahead. Schönheim said data integrity, input and transparency will be a challenge in the future. He said:
"The animal we are creating gets more and more intelligent, but we will need to understand the input and food we are feeding that animal. I think that's getting more and more complicated in the future. We want to understand the transparency of information, the quality, and the right understanding of new technologies. We will need the inputs to be of good quality so I can do bigger things with the combination of predictive data and automation."