Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe

The world is full of information – more data has been created in the last 5 years than in the entire previous history of human existence. While this may seem like an excess of information, data is essential for the world economy and for business.

For example, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the typical yardstick to measure a country’s economic performance. But did you know that this wasn’t used as standard until after the Wall Street Crash of 1929? It was then decided that a country’s output and value would be a good measurement of economic performance and could help prevent future economic catastrophe.

In business, we must collect data so that we can measure performance. However, it is not enough to simply collect the data, we need to ensure it is clearly presented so that our teams understand when they are performing well.

Visual management is an excellent way of communicating information, and some of the best illustrations of this are in sport.

Take cricket for example – Jofra Archer is running in and bowling to the Aussie Batsmen at 90mph, and the ball hits the player on the leg pad.  Archer appeals to the umpire for leg before wicket. The umpire raises a single finger to give the batsman, the crowd and the viewers at home a clear visual signal that the player is out.

And while hand signals are used in cricket, other sports such as football use red and yellow cards as visual cues.

So how can we apply visual management to business? What simple cues can be used to let teams know whether they are meeting KPIs?

I was recently working with a steel manufacturer that wanted to improve their output following a move to a new factory. They knew at the end of the day how many products they had produced, but how useful is that information to them once the day is finished? How would they know where and when the performance was? Was it consistent on an hourly basis, or was it a day with peaks and troughs of productivity?

One of the first things we did was introduce an hourly performance tracker board (short interval control).  We asked the line crew to complete it every hour to visually demonstrate how many products that line had produced in that hour. They were given red and green pens to clearly show if this was at the pre-defined target or not.

Looking at the performance of the factory the following week, output improved by 20%. Nothing else had been changed apart from the introduction of visual boards.

I asked the operator how the line had improved. “I am showing everyone in the factory how we are performing; I want to make sure we perform well and have green on that board every hour,” she told me.

That simple visual tool had automatically improved the level of engagement as well as ownership for the improvement.

As well as the initial uplift in performance, it allowed us to understand the reasons for poor-performing hours and put plans in place to correct and improve. All with the input and engagement of the team who were providing the information in the first place. 

The initial level of engagement continued and unlocked some potential amongst the shop floor employees who wanted to learn focused improvement techniques.  We supported this with a course of FMCG Lean Sigma Yellow Belts. The factory continues to go from strength to strength on its improvement journey, and we are now supporting the completion of FMCG Green Belts.

What this example shows is that improvement can come through small steps. You don’t have to implement huge major changes across the entire organisation in one swoop. The true definition of engagement is people giving discretionary effort to improve performance.

If you’d like to learn more about how LI can help you improve performance, get in touch with one of our expert consultants. You might be surprised at how quickly you can get results with just a few simple changes.

Check out the different ways LI Europe can work with you to improve factory performance

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe at LI Europe.

Very rarely do we embark on a long car journey without doing some planning. The first step is usually planning which route will be most efficient. We take into consideration the time of day, the amount of traffic, the terrain and other factors, then select the most appropriate route for our needs and the capabilities of our vehicle.

We decide what time we want to arrive and what time we need to set off. We calculate how much fuel we’ll need, and check our vehicle – tyres, engine, oil, water – to ensure it is fit for purpose. Then, throughout our journey, we check we’re on track by consulting our dashboard.

Our vehicle dashboards provide us with lots of essential information. We can see how fast we are going, how far we have travelled, whether we have enough fuel to complete our journey, whether our vehicle is safe to drive.

Information from our odometer and speedometer allows us to calculate our expected time of arrival. Warning lights give us the opportunity to adapt our plans to ensure we can still complete our journey. If we are running low on fuel, we schedule a fuel stop.

Every instrument on our dashboard provides us with key information to ensure we complete our journey safely and successfully. We are so used to having this information to hand that we take it for granted and barely give a thought to how important it is.

If we think about it, our dashboard can teach us valuable lessons about how we track things in our business to ensure we meet our goals safely.

Planning an improvement strategy is like planning a long car journey. You need to plan how you will arrive at your desired destination and what you will measure along the way to ensure efficiency.

In the same way that a car tracks safety, speed, distance, fuel and RPM, manufacturers need to track safety, quality, delivery, cost and engagement.

Without tracking every area, we can’t tell if success in one area is compromising another. If we only measured the distance our car had travelled, we wouldn’t know if we were driving at a safe speed. In business, if we only tracked sales and not cost, we wouldn’t know if we were making a profit.

It sounds straightforward, and the theory behind it is. The problem is that businesses often become so focused on improvement in one area that they forget to pay attention to another. It’s like watching your speedometer so closely that you forget to check your fuel gauge.

Goal setting is all well and good, but there must be appropriate KPIs to measure along the way. Otherwise, it’s like just getting in your car, setting off and hoping that you’ll reach your destination at some point. You could quite easily end up driving around in circles or running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.

Rather than simply picking a destination out of thin air and hoping for the best, plan your improvement strategy. Then decide what your business dashboard will look like to keep you on track. Like a car dashboard, employees should become so used to having that information to refer to that they can interpret the data and adapt accordingly without a second thought.

If everyone understands the destination and how to get there, then the journey will be more enjoyable. 

Download our TIP Card to help you plan your Journey.

This blog is the fifth in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe. (To start at the beginning, click here.)

Lean-and-Green-webinar-Video15 years ago, LI developed an approach to making Lean work in FMCG.  It was entirely results focussed – the founders had and unstinting belief that if you followed the process, you would achieve rapid and sustained improvement. 

Those of you who have come across driver tree based problem solving will know what a wonderfully logical and concise approach it is.  That’s why 15 years ago, we applied our own problem solving method to the factors that drive sustainable improvement in a factory.   The result was the SIM – the Sustainable Improvement Model.

We’ve been putting this to use in the intervening period, and as with all good driver trees, as we get new knowledge and understanding, we can refine it time and again, to evolving it to ensure nothing is missed, and the relative importance of each of the elements is understood.  After a few years, and having tested it across many different sectors, we realised that as much as the structure was common across all sectors, each sector needed its own refinement.

In particular, we noticed that the asset value against operating cost has a significant impact on the rapidity and value that certain improvement techniques bring – thus to truly ensure we could get as close to the maximum rate of improvement possible, we needed a bespoke approach for FMCG v high asset intensity sectors.

A decade down the line, with instances where clients have used the SIM to drive their improvement and in so doing have won multiple awards, the precise understanding of ‘what to do, when’ to ensure rapid and sustained manufacturing profit improvement is better understood than ever.

Since every factory is starting from a different place, the one size fits all approach just isn’t going to deliver the maximum rate of improvement for a given site.   The SIM rates each element across a 5 point scale:

  1. Not Engaged
  2. Experimenting
  3. Effective
  4. Good Practice
  5. Best Practice.

An early learning was that it is vastly more important to identify the elements that have no or little focus, and are rated as Not Engaged or Experimenting, and turn them Effective.  Where there is a lot to do, there is clear path that can be mapped out as what to prioritise in year 1, and what can wait until year 2 or 3.  The rate of improvement of a site that has merely achieved “Effective” at every level of the SIM is impressive – and this doesn’t take anything more than doing the basics well.

The M&S Plan A audit framework has become the first retailer supplier audit to review against a Lean Framework.  The first version of this framework, developed in association with the people who coined the term Lean from an academic analysis (the reasons behind Toyota’s success) is true to Classic Lean, and has yet to be tailored for FMCG.

The purpose of a Lean Audit is simple – to drive improved value, and ultimately reduced manufacturing cost.  The Manufacturers who remember this when following a retailer Lean Framework will do best and maximise the value from lean auditing.

For more discussion on making Lean work in FMCG – register for  Food Manufacture’s Lean Audit webinar (11am, Tuesday 26th April).

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Lean-for-FMCGs-AuditThis blog is part of an editorial series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe.

This is now my fourth blog in the ‘Lean Audits for FMCGs’ series.  If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here.

Otherwise, lets look at two key tools that are missing from the ‘Classic Lean’ Toolkit that would deliver significant value to FMCGs, an area of focus that doesn’t belong, and one of the greatest benefits of the M&S Lean Audit Framework.

 

Debottlenecking is missing – yet has fastest impact on your bottom line
The major tool missing from Classic Lean that is of tremendous value within FMCG is debottlenecking theory – sometimes called the Theory of Constraints (TOC).  Pioneered by Eli Goldratt in the book “The Goal”, debottlenecking methodologies can be used to optimise line performance, and give a clear set of tactics to deliver improvement.

The average FMCG manufacturing line has approximately 9 processes.  This is many fewer than a car line – and this difference is the key reason why constraint theory doesn’t appear in the classic Lean Toolkit.  However, as a tool used to optimise speed, line control, and accumulation, it has one of the fastest impacts to the bottom line you can hope to achieve.

 

Improvement Systems is missing –  yet critical to sustain improvement
Good leadership and management processes are of course common across industries.  The M&S audit does a good job on most of these.  If there’s one thing the audit is light on though, it’s ensuring the right reporting is delivered easily from the right kind of measurement systems.  KPI’s are taken for granted within the audit – but all too often FMCG factories struggle with the accuracy of information.  Ensuring your measurement system is telling you to work on the right things, not the wrong things, is of critical importance and should be high on your priority list.

 

Supplier Relationships – not relevant for most FMCGs
Lean Audits often prioritise focus on Supplier Relationships.  For FMCG manufacturers, this requires leverage of the buyer on the supplier – and whilst this holds true in some supplier relationships, there are many where it does not.

The large enterprises have identified this, and in many instances are already trying to mimic the tactics used on them for so many years by the retailers. Whether the relationships being mimicked could be called compatible with “Lean” however is a different question.

The purpose of the Lean Audit framework should be to help you achieve a better cost to manufacture. If you are not a large enterprise, move Supplier Relations lower on list of priorities than other activity.

 

Improvement Champions – the real win for FMCGs
Finally, one of the greatest benefits the M&S Lean Framework will bring is the focus on having an improvement champion/manager.  The legacy of a half a century of quality audits is that the requirement for a quality department is no longer questioned. The real win will be if Lean Audits help businesses to understand that whilst continuous improvement, like quality, is everyone’s responsibility –  Improvement Champions are the key to  ensuring the processes are working, running CI workshops, and offering training and support With Improvement Champions in place, we can look forward to a continual improvement in manufacturing efficiencies, reduction in waste, and ever improving manufacturing cost per unit.

 

Next time I’ll be looking at how to make Lean work in FMCG. And to hear more on this subject from us, retailer M&S, and supplier Greencore – register for this Food Manufacture webinar.

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This blog is the third in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe.

In my first two blogs in this series, we looked at the benefits of CI audits, and why Lean Audits could drive improvement in FMCG. 

But not all of  the ‘Lean Toolkit’ is appropriate for FMCGs, and can in fact drive the wrong actions…
The purpose of any continuous improvement function is ultimately to provide a lower manufactured cost per unit.  Whilst all of ‘Lean’ can be said to achieve this, we can see that when applying the principles to FMCG, some assumptions from the car industry don’t translate across so well into fast moving consumer goods (see last blog), and other things taken for granted are of critical importance.

So lets look at what to focus on to drive rapid, sustainable improvement.

The standard tools in the M&S Lean audit are:

  • Workplace Organisation (5S)
  • Problem Solving (5 Whys and FMEA/Fish Bone Diagrams)
  • Value Stream Mapping and
  • Standard Work.

It also briefly touches on Kanban, quick changeovers, and TPM (total productive maintenance).

 

5S – Low Priority for FMCGs
Classic Lean tends to prioritise workplace organisation (5S).  However, unlike other industries, FMCG already has quality and hygiene standards embedded, which means that the early wins available from workplace organisation elsewhere simply aren’t available within most FMCG factories.  There are of course benefits to be had, but it is a much harder task to translate these to the bottom line,.

As such it is much more prudent to move 5S down the priority of implementation.  It looks good, and does have a moral boosting effect, but better to do this once you have cash in the bank from other tools to have offset the rather significant time investment required.

 

5 Whys and FMEA/Fish Bone Diagrams – FMCGs can do better
In Classic Lean, the problem solving methodologies promoted are generally 5 Why’s and FMEA / fish bone diagrams.  However, Six Sigma promotes  technically advanced statistical analysis methods that are more useful.

The advantage that FMCG has over other industries is that the processes and machinery simply aren’t that difficult. But this also means that most of the easy wins have already been achieved through experiential problem solving.  As such, FMCG is particularly well suited to the use of problem solving methodologies using Control Factors, or Driver Trees – that drive the simple application of logic and basic science.

 

Targeted VSM – high priority
Value Stream Mapping as a tool from first principles is best used in extremely targeted ways.  There are specific outcomes that can lead to quick bottom line benefit – changes to the planning process, distribution, warehousing, and stock holding for example – so having a firm view from the outset on the expected outcome and potential realisable benefit is a key step to ensuring maximum rate of return.

For instance, admin processing costs are not generally that high, and significant activity is normally required for even a small benefit.  It is of course a very good thing to do, but understand that other activity is going to deliver much greater benefit earlier for you.

Within FMCG, we can see that the value stream is essentially the order fulfilment process – and as such has traditionally been called the S&OP process.  The first draft of the M&S Lean Audit is quite light on detail in this area, so it ensuring you are using a bespoke S&OP audit process as well, most likely based on the work of Oliver Wight, would be a good way to accelerate the value return.

 

Quick Changeovers – Highest Priority for FMCGs
Depending on the SKU profile, and work already done, quick changeovers can be of very significant value, and can be moved much further up your priority list, ahead of 5S.

 

In my next blog, I’ll be looking at what’s missing from this Lean Audit that would add tremendous value to FMCGs – and the tools that really won’t add benefit!

Stay tuned.

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This blog is the second in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

TPM-SixSigma-LeanIn my last blog I mentioned that Marks & Spencer’s, who pioneered the Quality Audits, have introduced a Lean Audit into their Plan A.

So lets look at whether ‘Lean’ will deliver in the food industry what is clearly hoped of it by the retailers. The objective of course is to lower manufacturing costs – so of the three main approaches to continuous improvement, is Lean the right one, and is it what is needed in FMCG?

Lets consider the other two approaches – TPM and Six Sigma
If we look at the relatively low asset cost required in FMCG manufacture, the spend required to achieve exceptionally reliable equipment – the fundamental reason for a TPM approach – rarely gives a value return. This means that reliability of 96% is generally quite acceptable, except for a few notable exceptions, and the requirement to spend big on predictive maintenance just isn’t there as it is in other industries.

Meanwhile, Six Sigma is fundamentally about eliminating variation – 6 standard deviations from the mean and all that (actually 4.5, but that’s another story). For FMCG, with low unit cost (and permissible variation of around 1 sigma due to the average weight legislation) again the high-end techniques of Six Sigma have limited value return.

 

This means that a Lean Approach is in the driving seat
However, Lean did not originate in FMCG – it comes from automotive, with an entirely different asset base and set of base assumptions. This means that whilst many areas of Lean can deliver real value for FMCG, we must be careful in its application. What is taken for granted in automotive is not always true in FMCG – thus the success of the Lean Audits in reducing cost within FMCG will ultimately come down to how well adapted they are for the FMCG sector.

Taking one example (and there are many more); Constraint Theory as outlined in Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal” is of huge applicable benefit within FMCG, but classic Lean either ignores it completely, or allows the contraction of ‘Unnecessary WIP’ to merely ‘WIP’ to drive exactly the wrong actions.

Having experienced the misfortune of this type of misapplication, one FMCG factory owner was heard to remark “I’d rather have taken a million pounds in cash out the bank and used it to fuel a bonfire in the car park – it would have been less painful than what happened”!

So – the future is sure to be Lean Audits – but the companies that succeed from using them will be the ones that are wise to prioritizing what delivers rapid bottom line benefit – and uses an approach to continuous improvement tailored specifically for FMCG.

Tune in next week for the next blog in this series, or hear more on this topic by registering for Food Manufacture’s Lean Audit webinar (11am, 26th April).

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