Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire at LI Europe.

The latest annual labour turnover figures from the Engineering Employer’s Federation (EEF) show that British labour turnover dropped from 16% to 14% last year. When it comes to manual workers the drop was more significant, from 17% down to 12%. Some believe that the reduction is due to uncertainty around Brexit and people wanting to hold on to their jobs. Particularly in the food industry, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the fate of our non-British EU workers.

We should see a reduction in labour turnover as a benefit but it does also present a real challenge. How do you keep a stable team motivated, engaged and performing at their best?

The key to success lies with the leadership team. Having a vision and cascading relevant targets and objectives aligned with that vision is a great start. But to really motivate and challenge employees at all levels requires both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills of all managers within an organisation; skills that are often not identified in the job description.

Too frequently managers are put into position with little or no training in leadership yet many will have been promoted from positions where they had no responsibility for others.

  • How many managers do you have in your organisation that are too busy to take a break or simply don’t’ get round to important tasks, like spending time with their team? Is this due to poor time management or ineffective delegation skills? Possibly both?
  • What impact is this having on the motivation of their team?
  • How frequently do your managers recognise and reward good performance? We all need positive encouragement, some more than others, to keep us motivated to achieve our best.
  • How many great results are you missing out on because your people are not fully motivated?

Don’t let your low labour turnover develop into a stagnant labour pool – get in touch to find out how we can support you to deliver sustainable improvement through your people.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

Once the spotlight is taken away from an area of focused improvement, many Manufacturing Managers are concerned about the sustainability of these improvements. We would all like to live in an ideal world where individuals continue to own and drive improvement activity but the truth is, people often get bogged down in the daily grind of operations.

If this sounds familiar, it’s worth knowing the answers to these 3 questions before starting an improvement programme:

  1. Who will act as the conscience for the improvement initiatives to ensure they are on track?
  2. After the period of focused improvement, who will continue to engage the shop floor in the
    improvement, celebrate and share success, and help remove roadblocks along the way?
  3. Is anyone on your site trained in delivering and coaching key improvement and sustainability tools which will drive the right focus, engagement, behaviours and ultimately improvement?

As a key part of our sustainability improvement model (SIM), we advocate each site trains an Improvement Champion. Typically, we find candidates for the role already exist on site, either as part of the management team or the shop floor.

We execute a See-Try-Do approach when training client’s CI champions, the same as we do with our own practitioners.  With each iteration of the training, our support reduces until they are fully signed off to deliver training themselves.

I recently went back to visit a factory where I had previously trained several Improvement Champions in our improvement and sustainability tools. By using the See-Try-Do approach across a series of improvement workshops, each targeting >£100k of annualised savings, the CI Champions had become self-sufficient to deliver their site improvement targets without any external support.

The site has since delivered year on year savings in efficiency and waste and has continued to make progress in the SIM which now incorporates improvement workshops in their annual strategic plan.

For more on the See-Try-Do approach and the benefits it can deliver, download the full case study.

And if you are disappointed with your current improvement programme or worried about its sustainability, get in touch.


Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Ever had the misfortune of cracking your mobile phone screen? If you have, perhaps you have also suffered the same frustration as myself!

Not wanting to be without the phone for more than the 45 minutes it should take to change the screen – I opted for an on-site repair appointment. I was slightly disappointed to find the next available slot was a week away but it was an early appointment, so I could get the job done and get on with the day and at least I could continue to use the phone in the meantime. I filled out all the details including the make / model of the phone, the damage and the likely resolution: a new screen required.

On the day of the appointment I dutifully backed up my phone, removed all the key pad locks and arrived with 10 minutes to spare. I was immediately greeted with ‘Can I help you?’ quickly followed by ‘I’m afraid there will be a short wait’ but if you see the lady over there she will book you in. About 15 minutes later a gentleman came to see the damage, filled in more details then explained another person would be along soon to deal with me. I’ve now seen 3 different people, awaiting my 4th, why couldn’t the first person relieve me of my phone? The 4th person did arrive a little later to complete paperwork for me to sign and to again check the damage I was reporting. He then announced that it would take at least 2 ½ hours to fix due to the queue of work ahead of my repair!

So let’s recap:

  • I’ve pre-booked the phone in describing the fault and the probable resolution
  • The job should take no more than 45 minutes to complete
  • You can only get a repair appointment by pre-booking
  • I met with 4 different people before I was relieved of my phone
  • The wait time is nearly 4 times the time it would take to complete the repair

As all appointments have been pre-booked, their likely workload would have been known a week in advance.

A little process mapping here would highlight the potential improvement opportunities. Add some scheduling tools and any likely constraint issues could be highlighted a week in advance allowing time to put in place corrective actions.

Apart from the frustration, how much cost has this inefficiency added to the price of the job, not to mention the cost to me, the customer, due to waiting time?

If your factory is struggling with delays due to peaks in demand, and the resulting poor customer satisfaction, why not give us a call to discuss how you could improve the efficiency of your process.







Written by Adrian Oliver, Practitioner at LI Europe

At the Manufacturing Management Show recently, LI Europe ran a competition to see who could carry out a pit stop on a Formula 1 racing car the quickest (unfortunately we were only able to fit a small replica on the stand!). Each competitor was allowed to select one improvement methodology from 3 different options that reflect lean improvement tools used during our workshops:

  • Problem Cause Solution – a high speed gun to speed up wheel nut removal and tightening
  • Workplace Organisation – tools and spares laid out near machine
  • Cycle Time Reduction – allow two tasks to be conducted concurrently

Many of the competitors asked us: Which one is the best one to choose? Which will have the biggest impact on performance?

Do you find yourself asking similar questions in your workplace? If you do then you are not alone, many of our clients talk about this when we first meet them. You may even be concerned that you are spending a lot of time and effort working on improvements but not seeing the benefit to the bottom line.

Choosing the right tool at the right time and working on the correct piece of equipment or process is vital if you want to optimise the return on your investment. It can make the difference between an improvement programme breaking even in 3 to 6 months or taking over a year to do so.

Understanding the key drivers of financial performance for a particular manufacturing sector is crucial and knowing which techniques will have the greatest impact often make the difference between success and failure. Ask yourself how important waste is when making products where materials contribute 60% of the cost of goods sold, versus another industry where they only contribute 5%. Do you know where your business sits?

Which machine or process should you work on first? Do you know which machine controls the output of your line? If you are working on the wrong machine then you are unlikely to see much impact on overall performance.

If you have successfully worked through the above then you at the decision point about which improvement technique you should choose… All the techniques are important and can have a significant impact on your overall performance, but some may take years to deliver this impact whilst others will be more immediate. Work place organisation may have great success in a fabrication environment but will it have the same impact in a business that meets GMP standards? When is the right time to start a Reliable Maintenance programme? Is this going to deliver significant results now or a steady impact over a number of years?

Having achieved all of this, then how sustainable has the process been? Do you find yourself having to cover the same old ground once the CI Manager has moved his focus elsewhere? Engaging your people and getting ownership early in the programme will provide strong foundations for ongoing success. As leaders we need to give people skills and knowledge, let them apply this in the workplace and be successful and then recognise and coach them to deliver more. How well do you and your management team deliver on this?

If you find yourself scratching your head worrying that your existing programme is stalling and not delivering the improvements expected – make a change in 2017 – give us a call.

Oh and I should disclose the best technique on the F1 pit stop challenge…Cycle Time Reduction won the day.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

As I was reading Erica’s latest blog on Cycle Time Reduction, it got me thinking about bottlenecks and the importance of correctly identifying them in your production process.

Why is this important?

I have worked with many organisations that have been disillusioned by previous improvement initiatives. There are a variety of reasons for this but one of the most common is a lack of results despite investing time, effort and money to improve a specific asset in order to increase its throughput.  It takes me to an example I saw within a business recently…

A lot of focus had gone into improving casepacker reliability and whilst successful in improving its availability, the work yielded no overall improvement to the line’s output.

The casepacker had the lowest maximum output of all processes on the line. It was the capacity bottleneck.   Having a process of this nature at the end of the line is not a good example of a balanced line and investing in this is certainly something that should be done. However, should it have been the priority focus?

Not when, on closer inspection, the casepacker was being starved by upstream processes. Namely, bagging machines which incurred a large amount of short stops. These 5 to 10 second stops happened so many times that they were going unnoticed by both operators and managers and were seen as the norm. Yet the baggers were the process with the lowest average output – the throughput bottleneck – causing starvation at the case packer and the lack of output. No attempt to improve the reliability and cycle time of the casepacker would improve line output if it wasn’t being fed with product consistently.

Focusing on the baggers to eliminate the most frequent short stops and ensure the casepacker was consistently fed with product and the line’s output improved by 10%.

A simple observational study of a line to capture process speeds, accumulation points and downtime can point you towards the throughput bottleneck.

Want to know more about the Debottlenecking Method? Get in touch directly to request a Tip Card >



Written by James Hayward, Practitioner at LI Europe.

marmite-puzzleTesco and Unilever had a disagreement not so long ago which led, when Tesco refused to accept a price increase, to Marmite being unavailable on Tesco’s website and a Marmite drought on Tesco supermarket shelves.  The Tesco-Unilever dispute was quickly resolved, but it was a sign of things to come and, love it or hate it, a few weeks later Marmite was making headlines again.  This time it was due to Morrisons raising their Marmite price by 12.5%.  But that wasn’t the end.  Later on the same day, Typhoo announced that they were in discussions with supermarkets about price rises.  This is a pattern that is set to continue.

We had been warned that this would happen.  The British Retail Consortium told us that the impact of the falling pound would eventually result in higher prices.  The International Trade Minister, Mark Garnier, has said that this is a ‘well predicted effect’.  Of course, it’s all to do with Brexit and isn’t going to end any time soon.

So the falling pound is bad news for Marmite lovers and tea drinkers, but what does it mean to food manufacturing businesses?  Is it a threat or is it an opportunity?  If prices of raw materials go up, then how will inefficient factories, with high levels of waste, fare against more efficient factories with low levels of waste?  If all else stays the same, any gap in the financial performance of the two factories will grow.  As time goes on, pressure will rise and things could get….difficult.  Now, more than ever, factory managers need to boost their improvement programs.

If you’re concerned about how you’re factory is performing in the post-referendum Britain, then please get in touch for a free no-obligation discussion.