No transformation without qualification


DB Fernverkehr wanted to ensure the quality of its own lean transformation and make it successful in the long term. This is achieved through broad qualification of lean experts and trainers as well as target-oriented training of managers. To this end, DB Fernverkehr launched a project called “lean abc – application, training, coaching” – together with Staufen AG.


DB Fernverkehr hat 2016 im Produktionsressort ein Unternehmensprogramm In 2016, DB Fernverkehr initiated a corporate program in the Production division to achieve operational excellence (OPEX) with the aim of enhancing the quality and efficiency of operational and administrative business processes. In essence, various external consultants carried out transformation projects together with internal resources. In some cases, remarkable results were achieved.

At the same time, there was a growing realization that there was insufficient evidence to support the effectiveness of the results across the board and in the long term. So, management of DB Fernverkehr AG decided to develop a longterm, implementation-oriented qualification concept. Staufen AG was selected as a partner for this, primarily due to its vast expertise in Lean Management/OPEX as well as in the design and implementation of customized in-house training programs. Together, they initiated the “Lean ABC – Application, Training, Coaching” program.


The 1st phase focused on qualifying up to 100 managers – 50 lean multipliers, 30 lean experts and 20 lean trainers. The project had three main goals:

  • To create a common understanding of Lean/OPEX as well as a standard valid for DB Fernverkehr. And this across all hierarchies, functions and departments.
  • Based on a triad of qualification, implementation of what was learned between the training blocks and needs-oriented coaching, managers and improvement experts were to be trained and prepared to ensure effective implementation of OPEX in day-to-day business.
  • Experienced lean experts from DB Fernverkehr were to be enabled as part of the project to then later train and pass on Lean ABC on their own.

DB Fernverkehr AG – a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn. It is responsi – ble for long-distance rail traffic and operates ICE, IC, ECE and EC train types nationally and throughout Europe.


In a joint target picture and concept workshop, learning objectives, didactic concept and initial training modules were defined and Lean ABC was aligned with DB Fernverkehr’s strategy and production system. Once scripts, agendas, and training materials were finalized, each training module was piloted. Feedback from the pilot groups, which consisted of real participants and representatives from HR and OPEX, was gathered and incorporated accordingly. In the subsequent roll-out, training courses were held in several maintenance plants nationwide. Involving the plants was important because practical or group exercises on the shop floor were integrated into each training module. The leadership training was designed as a mix across the entire leadership cascade as well as across sites and departments. The level of prior lean knowledge varied greatly, from “my first lean training” to “been on my personal lean journey for 15 years.” While such heterogeneous groups of participants are highly challenging from a teaching perspective, it was very important to the DB Fernverkehr management team to bring together a diverse group of people with different daily challenges to create a shared learning and exchange experience.

Lean ABC was designed as a “learning journey” with various learning formats to ensure that what was l earned is transferred into everyday business in the best possible manner:

Application of what has been learned in day-to-day operations, consolidation of knowledge and of new skills and abilities.

(B = Befähigung/German term for training) Qualification of participants during the training courses (3 modules for managers/1–3 modules for employees trained as lean multipliers/experts/trainers).

Selective coaching of managers between trainings to work through specific challenges and for joint reflection. Feedback is enormously important, especially for establishing new behaviors, since “old routines” become ingrained over years or even decades.

“With its expertise in custom design and implementation of training programs for lean experts and managers, Staufen has completely convinced us. This allowed us to transport the shop floor to the training room, and to simulate and optimize processes in a practical manner.”

COO DB Konzern
Deutsche Bahn AG


To increase the practical relevance, the training courses were held on site at various maintenance plants. As a result, it was possible to work on real processes in practical and group exercises and directly solve “real” problems. Directly putting theory into practice significantly increases teaching performance as well as the learning quality and result. In order to achieve this in the training room as well, Staufen relies, among other things, on simulations to “experience and grasp specific content and facts in a playful manner.”


For this, the project team developed custom training materials and a completely new simulation that depicts the customer-specific maintenance process in the production cycle. The ICE simulation was made available to all training sites. The fullscale model with a removable roof, complete interior and selected vehicle components was used to demonstrate the processes involved in maintenance and simulate important maintenance steps. The goal was to identify disruptions and inefficiencies. In a subsequent feedback discussion, participants were able to reflect on processes and consider improvements, which they implemented in the followup rounds.



  • A common lean understanding and a common “lean language” were established through Lean ABC.
  • Furthermore, the program helped change the mindset and behavior in the organization in addition to the targeted development of know-how and do-how. Uncertainty and resistance were widely reduced. In addition, managers were trained to establish a culture of change and learning in their own areas of responsibility.
  • Since the launch of Lean ABC, around 400 managers and more than 2,000 employees from lean/ OPEX transformation projects have been trained at DB Fernverkehr. After initial training sessions conducted by Staufen consultants, further training series were held internally by the approximately 40 newly trained lean trainers. In doing so, sustainability was ensured and the continuous improvement process was driven forward within the company.
  • Maintenance processes were also sustainably optimized and the OPEX implementation quality significantly increased.
  • Lean ABC has now established itself as a Group standard at Deutsche Bahn and is also successfully being used in other business areas (adapted to specific framework conditions and requirements).

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Header DB Fernverkehr
August 5, 2021

DB Fernverkehr

Staufen AG was the selected partner for developing a long-term, implementation-oriented qualification concept for DB Fernverkehr AG. Together, the “Lean ABC – Application, Training, Coaching” program was initiated.

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