Embracing change, driving innovation

Meet Ron Kool, who made a bold career transition to improve ASML’s business processes

3-minute read - , February 14, 2024

This story is part of our 2023 Annual Report. Read the full report.

“My new role will help us safeguard our innovation power as we evolve to support future growth..”

 

Ron Kool spent over 25 years in various product-related roles within ASML, most recently leading our deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography business. In 2023, he changed direction to use the experience he has gained to improve our technology to help us improve our business processes.

A strong track record

When I joined ASML in 1997, it had fewer than 2,000 employees. Today, it has over 42,400. We are shipping more products each year and supporting many more installed systems in the field. And we have plans to grow further to support future developments in the semiconductor industry.

 

ASML has always been driven by technology. We employ the best technical minds and let them focus on innovation. But with the massive growth, we have had to evolve how we work around the technology. At ASML, we have always seen ourselves as technology firefighters – ready to tackle any challenge that comes our way. But firefighters need to be organized or bad things can happen. So ASML has continually improved its processes for developing new products and running the business so that our innovators can continue to focus on what they do best: innovation.

Building on strong foundations

The challenge is to do that in a structured way. Business processes are, by nature, cross-sector – they govern how different parts of the company work together to deliver what customers and shareholders want. You need to make sure improvements in one area don’t cause problems in others. That means having insight from all affected groups while keeping the end goal clearly in focus.

 

In 2023, I stepped away from a career track in technical and business line management to start a Business Performance Improvement (BPI) group. The group aims to be a catalyst, to create a way of working that makes cross-sector business performance improvements more efficient.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my history, I am copying our product generation process (PGP) approach as a blueprint for BPI. In particular, we’ve adopted the PGP’s key decision process whereby we only move onto the next step if everyone agrees. It’s very much an ASML-tailored approach, but it works well in our product development, and I believe it will help on the BPI side too: if you actively say yes to something, you are more committed to it.

Evolving for the future

We currently have around ten ongoing BPI initiatives, covering areas such as reuse, supporting field operations, planning and IT. In each case, execution is handled mostly by the main sector involved. Our role is to help them communicate with the other sectors to understand the wider impact and know who to connect with to address issues. So, our planning department is responsible for improving planning, but they need input from our sourcing and customer-facing departments to make that happen.

 

Another example is an initiative to improve how we ship systems to customers. Any changes to shipping impact the whole work chain for many operational sectors. First, we need alignment with our customers, so sales and customer support must be involved. But we also need to consider the internal way of working for departments such as finance, because changes to shipping practices could affect our compliance with customs regulations and tax rules. Having the right people from all the necessary departments involved from the start allows us to discuss and solve those issues at an early stage, and not have to spend time fighting fires later.

 

Improving business processes is an ongoing challenge for any company. At ASML, we want to safeguard our innovation-driven way of working while we evolve. That was my motivation for making the change to BPI. It’s a step we need to take to prepare for further growth and the evolving needs of our customers.

This story comes from our 2023 Annual Report which features people at ASML and the impact they are having on the company and society.

 

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