Supplier spotlight: How did the UAE's EGA save $9.8m in 2017?

Emirates Global Aluminium’s employee suggestion programme reaps major rewards for the firm, as chief executive officer Abdullah Kalban explains 

Abdullah Kalban, EGA.
Abdullah Kalban, EGA.

In January, Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) announced that in 2017, more than 34,400 ideas had been submitted by employees through the firm’s suggestion scheme.  The programme generated almost $10m (AED36.7m) in cost savings – the highest amount to have ever been accrued through the company’s suggestion scheme in a single year.

EGA launched its employee suggestion scheme in 1981, based on the belief that the staff carrying out the various processes were best-placed to spot necessary improvements.

Savings generated by the suggestions each year are shared with the employees that propose them. The best suggestions are also recognised each month by the company, which employs about 7,000 workers in the UAE.

Among EGA’s “people-driven schemes” is Tamayaz, through which mid-level managers and their teams conduct detailed analyses to find potential improvements, and implement suggested enhancements.

Managing director and chief executive officer of EGA, Abdullah Kalban, outlines the impact of employee feedback in 2017.

What were some of the top employee suggestions made in 2017?

We had 34,419 suggestions put forward by employees in 2017, and there were many that served to create value and resulted in significant time and cost savings. Two in particular stood out last year.

A sea-water leak was discovered in our supply and return lines, which necessitated repairs. Originally, the solution was to isolate, identify, and repair the leak over 15 days, and the process involved deep excavation, as well as displacing a large amount of sea-water from the pipe work. This would have resulted in a huge loss of free power – about 60 megawatts – and almost $400,000 (AED1.5m) per week.

A suggestion came through to instead carry out inspection and repair works by using a diving team. Upon implementation, the [systems’] outage time was drastically cut down to only three days. In addition, we avoided the costs of dewatering and excavation, and combined with reduced outage time, savings were estimated at $724,200 (AED2.6m).

Another suggestion, which came from our Al Taweelah site, was based on the observation that the existing pump system was not efficient in generating steam. The solution involved introducing a second pump, where originally only one pump was used.

This had the effect of creating more steam – up to 10 tonnes per hour – without any additional fuel being required, [and without] compromising on standard parameters for the operation. In total, this solution generated $496,210 (AED1.82m) in savings.

Which employee suggestion generated the most savings last year?

It was the suggestion to carry out the inspection and repair works using a diving team to fix a leak that actually generated [the most savings].

Was there any financial cost to EGA to implement the employee suggestions?

There are costs involved in implementing the ideas, and these differ based on the nature of each suggestion. However, the returns on investment that we achieve through [the suggestions] are very high. For every $1 (AED3.67) that we invest in implementing an employee suggestion, our return is $11 (AED40).

How do the savings made by EGA last year compare to those made in 2016?

EGA employees submitted more than 24,957 suggestions in 2016 for operational and technical improvements, which contributed to savings of $8.5m (AED31.5m). In comparison, in 2017, a record 34,419 ideas were submitted by individual employees through the EGA suggestion scheme, generating $9.8m (AED36m) [in savings]. Last year saw an increase of $1.2m (AED4.5m).

What are EGA’s employee development plans for 2018?

Currently, we are in the process of introducing a new innovation management solution to generate, analyse, and implement ideas that have a positive impact on the business in a more streamlined manner. Additionally, we aim to improve the turnaround time of suggestions, so that ideas submitted by employees are implemented within 90 days.

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