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Small changes can make a big difference

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

It’s a common misconception that continuous improvement and change management will be extremely complex processes with huge cost implications in terms of both time and money. However, this isn’t always the case.

Yes, for some projects, it is necessary to overhaul the entire operation and retrain teams, but this doesn’t have to be done all at once. In fact, trying to implement big changes too rapidly can actually be detrimental. Making incremental changes and improvements over time is far more likely to ensure sustainability.

The whole concept of continuous improvement is just that – it’s continuous. It doesn’t happen overnight. You need to plan, implement, embed and evaluate on an ongoing basis.

We recently worked with a light engineering firm who wanted to improve their production flow. One of the issues we found was a lack of workstation organisation which meant too much production time was being wasted looking for tools and equipment.

To eliminate this excessive waste of time, we used the 5S methodology (sort, set, shine, standardise, sustain) to create a more organised working environment. As a result, productivity sped up.

When you think about it, it seems pretty obvious that if you have a clean, tidy, organised workspace, you’ll find it easier to spot hazards and find the tools you need. It makes perfect sense. But, when you’re in the thick of it, tidying and cleaning always seems like a task that can wait – the focus is usually on productivity. Only when you take a step back to assess the situation does it become clear that the time spent organising will be repaid multiple times over through time saved.

5S is a relatively simple approach that can make a significant difference when it is the appropriate tool for the situation.  The key is finding the right tool for the job, and then applying the methodology correctly.  And there are many similar examples of tools and methodologies that are straightforward to implement and are proven to deliver results when the situation is right.

The key is in training teams to apply these tools and approaches with confidence and consistency. It’s no good implementing a fantastic new way of working and then gradually letting it fizzle out or only applying a systematic approach to some areas and not others. And everyone has to be on board. A new process will only be sustainable if all the relevant people are following it.

Continuous improvement should be approached as a long term measure, not a quick fix, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated. Give your teams the skills and tools to make practical, sustainable changes on a small scale, and you’ll see a significant impact on a larger scale as a result.

If you’d like to find out where to focus your efforts first, our FMCG Academy is a great place to start. Using our OPEN (observe, plan, engage, nurture) approach, it allows you and your teams to assess each area to provide greater insight into where the inefficiencies are in your FMCG organisation.

Sign up for our free version to find out how it works and whether it is right for you. 

Testimonials

Over the past three months I have been concentrating mainly on changeover reduction, waste reduction and increased throughput. There has also been a challenge to behavioural patterns. All of these efforts have been using the knowledge that you gave me and I am delighted to say that all have been successful, culminating in increased throughput, less waste and an increase in OEE from an average of 78% to around 90%. There has also been a marked improvement with people issues.

Alwin Waterhouse, Improvement Manager, British Bakeries

The course has helped me to understand that there are lots of different types of people but you need a good mix to be an effective team and to get the best results.

Front Line Manager on Aspire Programme