How Barry Callebaut is fueling rapid innovation

How Barry Callebaut is fueling rapid innovation

How Barry Callebaut is fueling rapid innovation

Do you believe Agile frameworks – like Scrum – only work in IT? Think again! Our partnership with Barry Callebaut shows that Agile methodologies in manufacturing spheres can thrive too. Maaike Minnaert, heading Global Process Innovation & Technology, and Stijn Van Durme, Senior Global Process Innovation & Technology Engineer, constantly seek new ways to improve their operations.

Curious how iLean helped them reach new heights with measurable results?
Dive into the story below!

The hurdles of a complex manufacturing landscape

The process innovation projects at Barry Callebaut were facing long lead times to get to execution  and bring significant results. 

“This hindered our momentum and caused a slowdown in the implementation of new ideas,” Maaike Minnaert admits. “Especially since our various teams and disciplines were not collaborating close enough and working too much in silos. We were searching for support to accelerate the process from development to industrial solution and drive value delivery with less complexity.”

“We wanted to partner with a Scrum and agile-focused company, with a high dose of pragmatism required for our specific context,” Stijn Van Durme explains. “Having worked in a similar environment, Maarten from iLean seemed to truly understand the complex context of a manufacturing entity like ours, making iLean the perfect fit. “

Foto: Barry Callebaut/CC BY-SA 2:0
© Foto: Barry Callebaut/CC BY-SA 2:0

Could agile methods be the key to accelerating the innovation process at Barry Callebaut? Definitely. Yet, after a few attempts, we quickly realised that a manufacturing environment brings unique challenges not commonly found in IT companies.

Changing a button’s colour on a website—based on customer feedback—is easy. On the other hand, in a manufacturing setting, a small adjustment like shifting a camera support a few centimetres is much more complex. This requires the line to be down, paperwork & permitting needs to be managed, and probably a sanitisation step is necessary. Consequently, this makes reversing such a decision after it has been implemented costly and difficult. This is why iLean considered ‘Scrum’ to be less of a fit for the team.

From Assessment to Guiding Coalition

In simple terms, Barry Callebaut needed a holistic approach that enabled process improvement and rapid innovation.

The ultimate goal was to speed up the technical innovation process and become more agile in the fast-paced industry. In the initial assessment, I-lean found 3 major opportunities: leveraging managed processes, achieving more with less resources, and improving collaboration within the team and between teams. 

To support Barry Callebaut on their journey, iLean helped to establish a Guiding Coalition, where a small team of key stakeholders and leaders from both parties aligned on strategic priorities to implement a new way of working. Recognizing the limitations of a strict Scrum framework, we have chosen to move away from this traditional solution and we started from a framework called ‘Rapid Learning Cycles’. We adapted it to fit the specific environment we are working in, integrating ideas & practices from various agile methods, from Lean Six Sigma, from business process management and beyond. 

Remember, agility is no one-size-fits-all solution and must be customised to fit the context!

Rapid Learning Cycles explained

Rapid Learning Cycles is an Agile framework that centres around ‘key decisions’ that need to be made in environments with a high cost of change. In order to make better decisions, the team focuses on ‘closing knowledge gaps’ – gathering information (aka learning) in order to make a more informed decision.

A systematic and thorough implementation

Our first step involved incorporating the Stage Gate framework, a project management approach that breaks projects into phases. This methodology allowed us to establish clear evaluation points, systematically assess progress, reduce risks, and advance projects that are aligned with the organisational strategies and standards.

We also established various cadences: weekly meetings, retrospectives, learning sessions & stage-gate meetings. These create a rhythm for our work. The benefit is increased focus on delivering value, better collaboration, continuous improvement, accelerated learning & more transparency.

Is a stage gate process compatible with Agile?

Absolutely. While not as agile as software development, it helps manage risks and resources in environments with high costs of change. The objective is to become more agile, even when uncertainties exist.

Stage gate processes don’t follow the traditional waterfall model’s detailed planning followed by execution. Instead, each cycle examines the entire project and evaluates it from financial, technical, and operational perspectives. This reduces uncertainty over the project’s lifespan.

Viewed in this way, stage gate processes are compatible with Agile methodologies.

“A significant change we implemented was setting clear, measurable goals for each project, including return on investment,” Stijn notes. “By defining precise expectations and connecting them to the company’s overall goals, we aimed to help the team better understand their impact. This clarity would help us easily track progress and accomplish valuable outcomes down the line.”

Another key deliverable was that the team had to be able to take ownership of the new way of working, making changes sustainable and driving continuous improvement Therefore we defined key processes that incorporated our new way of working. We allowed people to experiment with facilitation & improve templates and we provided extra opportunities for learning.

A 360° transformation with measurable results

By integrating a Stage Gate Process, the concept of ‘key decisions & knowledge gaps’ (a foundational principle within Rapid Learning Cycles), establishing cadences, defining managed processes, and tools to estimate customer value, we developed a well-rounded methodology that combined structured process improvement with agile adaptability. Recognizing this as a cultural shift, Maaike and Stijn revealed that this new approach yielded remarkable results, validating the effectiveness of their integrated methodology.

“Today, we see significantly better collaboration across diverse technical teams. Also the collaboration within our own team has evolved remarkably,” Stijn observes. “Trusting the team to be more self-managing has been key to this success, and I appreciate Maaike’s role in fostering this culture of collaboration.” 

“Maarten has provided invaluable insights, transforming the way we work,” Maaike points out. “Instead of refining every detail before presenting our ideas externally, we now embrace an iterative approach. As a manager, I’ve also come to realise that some people excel in structuring, while others shine in ideation. We now leverage these unique strengths by letting people focus on what they do best. This successfully increased team enthusiasm and significantly accelerated value creation.”

Lessons learned from our collaboration with Barry Callebaut

  • Customization is key, as each organisation requires a tailored approach to address its unique challenges
  • Balancing structure and agility drives sustainable improvement
  • Continuous engagement with stakeholders ensures commitment and transformation success
  • Fostering a culture of embracing change, learning, and continuous improvement is crucial for a successful transformations
  • ‘Rapid Learning Cycles’ accelerates learning to make better decisions. This approach fits very well in an environment with a high cost of change
  • Delivering value incrementally creates momentum and demonstrates the impact of changes early on
  • The true power of Lean and Agile lies in their synergy, where Lean’s focus on efficiency complements Agile’s emphasis on flexibility

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