You never stop learning

A successful corporate culture is not something that is specified but something that is lived by employees. In the new Leading Lights section we present ­employees who fill our culture values with life. Like Isaac Kiplagat who embodies the ability to change and is therefore a driving force for continual improvement.

Whenever Isaac Kiplagat is asked what he does at work at OSRAM’s Schwabmünchen plant, he finds it difficult to come up with an answer straight away. Because actually he has two jobs. He has a PhD in chemistry and conducts research into phosphors for new UV lamps destined for treating skin diseases or for use in solariums, for example. And he is also a Lean Leader. Within the framework of the OSRAM Excellence strategy, he coordinates activities to ensure continual improvement in the production processes in the Chemistry department. “By preventing waiting times caused by shortages, defective material or lengthy approval processes, we save on costs. And customers receive their orders promptly, and are pleased with the service,” says Isaac. “We always have to ask ourselves: what does the customer want – and what are they ­willing to pay for?”

“If we want to shape change, we should not be clinging anxiously to old, familiar ways.”

Isaac Kiplagat,
Chemist at OSRAM’s Schwabmünchen plant

“The explorer spirit, the willingness to learn and to improve skills: these are the characteristics that I think are really important,” he adds. And he has embodied those characteristics, right from a young age. The 43-year-old grew up in a small village in western Kenya. As the second oldest of eight siblings, he had to work hard on the farm but was not allowed to neglect his school work. His parents were very keen to ensure their children had a good education – and every one of them is a college graduate. A scholarship took the budding chemist from Kenya to the Czech Republic in 2006. In 2011 he completed his doctorate in Brno. He has been able to speak Czech for some time now, and can also speak Slovak. “I married a Slovakian girl, and her family only speaks Slovak,” Isaac adds with a smile.

He speaks seven languages, and his German even has a slight Bavarian/­Swabian accent. “When I came to Augsburg with my wife at the end of 2011 because her relatives live here and job prospects were better, I didn’t know a word of German.” Once again he had to accustom himself to a new culture, a new environment and a new job. The fact that it all went so well so quickly was thanks in no small part to his colleagues at OSRAM, “who were friendly and ­welcoming right from the start.” In 2014, he was initially employed on a temporary basis at the Schwabmünchen plant. Since 2016 he has been a permanent member of his two teams – the chemical engineers and the OSRAM Excellence Lean Leaders.

“I am from the Kalenjin tribe in Kenya, famous for producing many famous long-distance runners. Perhaps that’s where I get my stamina from. It is never too late to learn, as the saying goes. So this is what I tell the colleagues I work with as a Lean Leader: If we want to shape change, we should not be clinging anxiously to old, familiar ways. We should be prepared to tread new paths.”

In his free time, Isaac is always on the go and welcomes new experiences. He plays and watches soccer – “even back in Kenya, I was a fan of Borussia Dortmund” – and loves long walks and city breaks together with his wife. And he buys laptops that have outlived their usefulness at OSRAM and elsewhere, and donates them to young people in Kenya. “That’s my way of giving something back to the community. Because it has helped me to be who I am today.”

Nationality: Kenyan
Origin/home: Kenya
Job: Chemical process engineer
At OSRAM since: 2014
Languages: English, German, Czech, Slovak, Swahili, Keiyo, Nandi
Hobbies: Hiking, city tours
Soccer club: Borussia Dortmund
Favorite food: Ugali porridge made from maize flour with tilapia fish

Lean management – a special kind of diet

As the name suggests, lean management is all about concentrating on the essentials – and therefore not wasting resources such as time, money and materials.

Harmonization and efficiency: these two aspects are the focus of lean management. For example, activities and processes are redefined, realigned and stripped of any unnecessary steps – this applies both within the company and in the company’s external dealings with customers and service providers. Realignment of responsibilities and communication paths is also part of this approach. This not only increases effectiveness but also relieves the pressure on day-to-day work and makes it easier to respond to difficult situations. Lean management is therefore always an attitude that the whole team has to adopt. It stands or falls with employee motivation.

Across all the sectors of the company and along the entire value chain, lean management can align the company even better to the needs of customers and reduce costs. OSRAM will therefore be fitter to meet the requirements of the market and better able to compete successfully with other companies.

The element of lean management dedicated specifically to optimizing production is referred to as Total Productive Management (TPM). As a lean leader in the Chemistry department at OSRAM’s Schwabmünchen plant, Isaac Kiplagat ensures that production runs efficiently. All the activities required for value creation have to be perfectly coordinated, and anything superfluous has to be avoided. For example, when processes are being documented checks are carried out to identify any unnecessary steps. One of Isaac’s daily tasks is to check for compliance with the 6S method, the cornerstone of OSRAM’s TPM system.


The 6S method used at OSRAM is derived from the 5S method, a workplace organization instrument used predominantly in the production industry.

The five Ss stand for the following:

S – Sort S – Set in order S – Shine S – Standardize S – Sustain (self-discipline)

These guiding principles are intended to help keep workplaces and their environment clean and organized. This in turn improves workplace safety. For this reason, OSRAM has added another S (= Safety).