The Advanced Analytics Coaching Journey of Umicore’s Yannick Van Thillo
And one unexpected outcome of it all
Most of us are familiar with sports coaches, but there are definitely other types of coaches such as acting coaches, life coaches, singing coaches, etc. So, let’s start with the general definition of a coach. According to the Cambridge dictionary, “A coach is an expert who trains someone to learn or improve a skill, especially one related to performing.” However, in this story, it means much more: “A coach is an expert who helps, guides, and supports another person by being present and available, motivating this person to achieve a higher level of knowledge, skill, ability, and performance. The emphasis here is placed on learning rather than on teaching”.
A few months ago, we had a great conversation with Yannick Van Thillo, Health & Safety Supervisor and TrendMiner coach at Umicore’s plant in Hoboken, Antwerp. Yannick is a dedicated, hard-working operations engineer who supports and guides his teammates in learning self-service analytics and is making a difference in his team, department, and company.
When you talk to Yannick, you see and feel his energy and enthusiasm about his work and about being a coach. You understand how important it is for him to connect with his team and to be present and available to bring out the best in them.
Read on to discover what it means for Yannick to be a coach, and about the unexpected outcome of his self-service analytics journey.
On Being a Coach
What do you see as your main responsibility (responsibilities) of being a coach?
To help my team to truly make use out of our production data, so they/we can make data-driven decisions. And this comes about by getting started with self-service analytics. I show them the ropes about how to use the software. Basically, I guide the engineers and operators, so they understand how to use TrendMiner and what to expect.
What are the benefits of being a coach?
The sneak previews of the new software versions are nice; I get to see what’s coming. And once I see these, I’m already thinking, “How can we translate these to something useful?” The training is useful as well because it helps me to be a bit of a thinker. Generally, I can easily get software packages up and running to do what I want them to do. But with the coaching training, we could right away kick start into what we needed to be able to do – to do all the fun stuff you can do with it. That was good. It also helped me to visualize our processes. We got to build up certain dashboards and certain views, so we were able to get more out of TrendMiner.
How have the dynamics of your teams changed since you became a coach?
That’s a tricky one. Some process experts expect me to solve their problems without first trying to solve these themselves. But I try to show them how to do it in the hopes that it will stick. I try to motivate them to figure it out themselves instead of me doing it from the top. So basically, I let it grow from the bottom up, instead of pushing it from top down.
What kind of activities have you done for instruction, collaboration, and team building?
I brought the manager and all the other TrendMiner coaches together and explained the software and showed them the applications. Basically, I said, “If this happening, you need to do this and you need to use it this way”. I also made a video of an actual demo and shared it with my operators. In it, I showed them how to use TrendMiner and how to achieve certain outcomes. The purpose was to let them know how to use the software and specially to fill in the little holes they have in their knowledge. I wanted to find these and to see what they were doing, so I could adapt my instruction to get them to where I want them to be when using TrendMiner. It was more of an ad hoc instruction that was designed to be in tuned with the specific operators.
What kind of advice would you give to other coaches or potential coaches?
The thing that helps me the most is knowing what I want and how I want it to go, then I have a story to fall back on. That’s the best way to describe it. You need to have a plan before the startup because if you’re on the floor, and you see the engineers and operators doing things with TrendMiner, you can ask them, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it this way? Have you tried this? Do you know that you can do this in this way?” Okay, good. Basically, you just need to know what you want and to be available, approachable, and flexible. And you need to have a plan.
What lessons have you learned to being a coach?
Most importantly, it’s just to be available, and you need to listen. You can try to push through what you want, but at a certain point, you need to realize, okay, this will not work. This is not what the operators can or will do, so you need to adapt to something that will work for you and for the operators. Also, it’s important to follow up with all the people in the team to be sure that they are aware of what TrendMiner can do and to help them formulate the right operator sheets and the right dashboards. This way your people get interested and keep interested because you followed up and because you were indeed available and always there to help. I think that’s something we should not underestimate in this discussion
What has your impact been on your organization’s and team’s adoption of TrendMiner?
I think the biggest impact I’ve had was to show how TrendMiner can be used to visualize our processes more easily and more efficiently and how it can be used to actually see where there is a problem. Basically though, I helped with the adoption of TrendMiner within my team and within my department.
What is your overall impression of the coach program?
It is good. The three-day training was technically very good. And we got to toy around in an experiment using the training server, which was good to have as well. Personally, it’s very important for me to play with the software, so I can feel what does it do, how it moves, and how it reacts to what I do. And that helps me to translate it to other people. So, the first part of the program was very strong. The second part with the updates is something fun to look forward to. The engagement is also something interesting to see. There are also a lot of resources to get help from and to talk to the right people for help.
What are you looking forward to in the next step of the coaching journey?
The teaching and to see what my team come up with, what they bounce against, and how we can solve those problems on the TrendMiner journey. To see where we end up and what it can do. But for the coaching journey, it’s more like, “How can I help my team, how can I help our operators help us?” I think that’s the best way to say.
Do you have anything else to add?
Yeah, it’s just I’m sometimes amazed about the response I get for the “Make a Wish button” or as we call it here “the Heart Button” *. I’ve dropped in requests. And actually, within the hour, I got a response from a TrendMiner engineer to say, “Yeah, good to get some input from you. Have you looked into this? Because you can bypass it like this. And this and this.” If I make a help call, I actually get a real person within the hour. As far as I know, in some industries, that’s not really the standard. I’ve noticed that TrendMiner is still growing together with us and all the other companies, and features are added as we need them and as we request them. I’m curious where it will end up and how it can help us further improve because I think we’re just at the basic level now, and the sky’s the limit at the moment.
*The in-application support chat button that can be found inside the platform’s Help Center. It opens a direct chat line with TrendMiner Customer Success engineers so you can get your question answered and get back to work as quickly as possible.
An Unexpected Outcome of Yannick’s Coaching Journey
During our conversation, Yannick mentioned that there were two obvious groups within the process experts: the tech-savvy group and the not-so-tech-savvy group. I replied by asking if he was hearing things like “Well, we’ve always done it this way” or “We’ve managed. Do we really need to use this new tool?”
“They know the tool can be useful, but they don’t always understand how that extra input of data can provide an extra benefit or an extra layer of understanding of the process. They have their own way of doing things, their own way of working. Many of these people are also just less tech-savvy. I have one operator who really believes that if he touches a computer, it will explode. He doesn’t even have a smartphone and doesn’t know how to operate it although for us more tech-savvy people, it is rather easy.
For some of them, new technology doesn’t interest them . They just want the bare minimum in order to do their jobs, to do the inputs. That’s all they want. For us more tech-savvy people, we are very interested in new technology and are very eager to jump into it. My less tech-savvy colleagues just need to be pushed a bit further to try TrendMiner.
But on a positive note, having knowledge of self-service analytics and how to use it has brought these two groups together. The older and more experienced process experts come to me for answers, ideas, and guidance, which is cool. I don’t think this would have happened so easily before, so this was an unexpected outcome of my coaching journey.”
An Advanced Analytics Adventure to Better Team Collaboration & Spirit
Besides the obvious business benefits of TrendMiner self-service analytics, there is the not so obvious one: bringing teammates/colleagues together for an exchange of knowledge, experience, and ideas, bringing people together for a real human connection. No matter the age or experience of the process expert, there is respect and appreciation of people who have knowledge and who are willing to use this to help others do their jobs better and easier.
This is the case of Yannick van Thillo. With the help of TrendMiner, he was able to bring the tech-savvy and the not so tech-savvy process experts together on an analytics adventure to better team collaboration and spirit.
Are you ready for your advanced analytics adventure?
Yannick was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium and has been a Umicore Health and Safety Operations Supervisor for the last 10 years. In his free time, he likes to tinker with computers and make some attempts at programming. He is also active as an organizer for LAN-parties.
In the summer, you will most likely find him grilling behind the barbecue rather than eating at the table, spending time with his daughter and wife.
Get a Refresher on the TrendMiner Coach Program
What is a TrendMiner coach? You can read about it in this blog : “TrendMiner’s Coach Program – A Change Management Approach for Supporting Its Users” but for a fast recap: In 2019, we established our coach program to accelerate and ease uptake of user knowledge and share user experiences. Most importantly, the program establishes a support system, so users within a company can help other users in that same company.