Shining the Future – Papers of MDC Mexico: Plenary Sessions

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Honeycutshome

July 8, 2014 – From May 11 to 14, 2014, the Mints were meeting in Mexico. It was not only a gorgeous celebration and a magnificent opportunity to catch up with colleagues. First and foremost it was a busy meeting with many interesting contributions to listen to and discussions to lead. Here you find a summary of all papers given at the plenary sessions.
If you want to go directly to one of the paper summaries just follow these links:

Monday, May 12, 2014: Outlooks
The first contribution to MDC not only was a teaching lesson about the new conditions that will have a major influence on future global economy, Prof. Stephane Garelli’s presentation was a magnificent example for a rhetorical masterstroke causing the slightly tired audience (it was after all 8:30 in the morning) to break out in a virtual storm of enthusiasm. In a nutshell, Prof. Garelli warned against too great a self-satisfaction. He announced a fundamental change that has to be dealt with properly. The wealth had based on the middles classes in the Western world in the previous decades, but that stratum was saturated by now so that there was no new accumulation to be gained. In addition, this highly consumption-oriented middle tier was slumping. Prof. Garelli pointed out that the work that used to be done by well-educated and highly paid skilled manual workers only a couple of decades ago, is now being done by engine-powered robots. Even if a fraction of this class would manage to move upwards, thanks to university education that surely would be no adequate solution because qualified graduates could be put to good use only in limited numbers in a national economy.
The true emerging markets lay in Asia and Africa. There, millions of people were beginning to leave poverty behind. The number of people earning between 2 and 10 $ per day rose enormously. They all had the chance for the first time in their life to afford something more than just the bare necessities of life. And since they did not possess anything until then, there was a huge chance to sell them something. To create products for this tier and to distribute these products, that would be one of the future goals. Prof. Garelli said that until now, the traditional companies have not really cared about these new middle classes. On the other hand, gigantic new enterprises had emerged, particularly in Asia, the Western world not even knew the name of. The economic survival of the West therefore was depending on the attention and the innovation capacity which these fundamental structural changes were met with.

After this brilliant firework of rhetoric it was the turn of Sarun Thamrongrat, Bank of Thailand, and he spoke about the ideal currency denomination structure consisting of banknote and coin. He examined two factors: 1.) costs, with restriction to the direct costs of production and distribution, and 2.) payment efficiency, hence the possibility for every consumer to pay any given sum with as few denominations as possible. While the productions costs would call for a smaller range of denominations, it would be much more convenient for the customer to have a greater range of denominations available. Hence, as the speaker explained with many concrete examples, there would be different ‘ideal’ solutions and it was be the task of the policy makers to set priorities in this regard and to find a compromise.

It was a pity that the contribution of Dr. Robleda Francisco Javier de Jesús Solís of the Banco de México had to be cancelled. His material, however, was handed out to the conference participants all the same. We learn from it that cashless transactions are on the increase in Mexico, too.  It is clear to see that the numbers of payments conducted with credit cards are virtually exploding and there is a strong growth in electronic depository transfers as well, while the check as a medium of exchange loses more and more supporters over the years, and the direct debit payment, beginning at a quite low level, has risen steadily.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014: Corporate Culture
It is tradition with MDC to begin and conclude with a plenary session. For the closing a completely new key subject was found: Corporate Culture. All contributions revolved around the topic what could be done to make the staff identify with the company to a greater extent.
Ross MacDiarmid was the first speaker with his paper on improving health of all employees of the Royal Australian Mint.
Studies have shown that healthy employees are three times more productive than their chronically ill colleagues. Plus, the Royal Australian Mint’s risk factor is great due to a high number of employees being of advanced age. 51% of the staff undertakes repetitive manual tasks. It comes as no surprise then that 49% have back trouble or something similar when taking into account that 42% do not exercise at all. Hence, the management of the Royal Australian Mint faced a real challenge in trying to motivate their employees to a healthier lifestyle.
The answer is WellMint, a well communicated program that intends to encourage the staff to lead a more active and healthy life. A healthy workplace environment is at the center as well as the attempt to get the employees to exercise more and eat healthier food. And there are the activities to improve the workplace culture and morale.
The result: already in the pilot program 60% of the participants lost an average of 20kgs!

According to the contribution of Leighton John, the Royal Mint of Great Britain thinks about how to improve continuously. First of all, it was necessary for the management to rethink. It is not about micromanaging and controlling the employees if they had implemented the regulations. Instead, the goal is to support the employees at their workplace to give their best and to solve problems.
To that end, teams had been formed for seeing to that very task and to search for solutions on site, directly at the workplace, for systemic problems in cooperation with all parties involved. A procedure had been developed in order to make problems become visible and to characterize them. Apart from that, there would be a three-tiered approach to solve problems at exactly the level which they occur at, in the department or sometimes on the highest level, in the entire production site.
The parties involved accept solutions more willingly when standards are met. To that end, the main cause has to be found out and, to make sure it is avoided in the future, it has to be made sure that the managers and the staff work hand in hand.
As a matter of fact, much has been achieved in the previous years: 10 to 95% of the employees were engaged in the improvement process. There is a 71% reduction on accident rates, and a 88% reduction on waste. 95% feel safe at their workplace and are not afraid to voice concerns about safety.
Particularly remarkable is the improvement in regard to quality and delivery speed. A reduction in cost of poor quality of some 60% was achieved! And the average lead time of a container of product was reduced from 9 weeks to 9 days. Leighton John assures that there even are further cost-saving opportunities!

Sirpa Kuusirati of Mint of Finland spoke about responsibility, the responsibility a company has towards society and about how the accompanying sense of responsibility might be transferred upon its staff. It is not only about the product anymore but also about environment and society – as far as every single employer is concerned but also with consideration of the big picture. It starts with the big things: when the production facilities were being built, it was made sure that workflow was perfect; and it continues with the little things as Mint of Finland now is a non-smoking working place with a responsible waste management.
As employer, Mint of Finland ensures that no one is discriminated when applying for a job, and a healthy, well-ordered working environment is provided. It supports the joint engagement for society and offers every employee chances for personal growth and development.

Dr. Claus Fischer of the Austrian Mint presented a study as to the degree of satisfaction of the Austrian Mint’s employees with the conditions of their working place. He started with a definition of an ideal working place: such a place can be found where the people trust the one they work for, like the ones they work with and are proud at what they are doing.
This was what the employees had been asked to evaluate.  Hence the sample rated the management’s credibility with 65%, the mutual respect with 71%, fairness with 69%, pride with 83% and kameraderie with 68%.
The employees were particularly confident that their working place will be safe and they trusted it to be safe (which does not mean the same thing). They appreciated the equal job opportunities as well as the company’s productivity. Indeed 92 % would like to work at the Austrian Mint as long as possible.  
The reason given by Dr. Claus Fischer was the strong solidarity with the company culture which made it possible to create a strong identification of the individual with the broader scheme and to generate a powerful feeling of togetherness.

If you want to read about what was discussed in the Marketing Session please click here.
If you want to read about what was discussed in the Technical Session please click here.
If you want to read an article on the entire MDC in Mexico please click here.