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 Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

There’s no shortage of industry exhibitions, expos, conferences and trade fairs, and deciding which events to attend can be tough. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the latest industry updates, but equally, it’s impossible to attend every single event. These events can be an expensive day out and it’s difficult to accurately measure the return on investment.

Even if you aren’t exhibiting, there’s still the travel costs, food and drink expenses, and of course, the cost of your time. So, how can you measure the value of attending such events? How do you justify the spend?

When companies exhibit, it is easier to measure leads and enquiries and track the conversions. As a visitor, you may not necessarily have the opportunity to market your business, so you need to look at more than just the financial benefits of attending.

Seeing the latest technology is certainly an advantage. Listening to speakers can inspire ideas on which to follow up. Growing our networks can be hugely beneficial. And gaining insights from industry-leading experts can help us make more informed decisions.

That said, it’s no use simply saying you learnt a lot if you aren’t putting that learning into practice. You’ve got to take action. You’ve got to measure the return.

Think about the last industry event you attended. What actions did you take as a result? Investing in new technology? Changing a supplier? Streamlining a process? Cascading information and sharing your new knowledge with your team? What was the financial impact – did you see any positive effects on your bottom line?

You may have left the event feeling inspired, holding on to a goody bag full of branded merchandise and thinking about how nice the canapés were. But, if you didn’t take any action, did you actually get any real value at all? Or, was it just a nice day out at the company’s expense?

Simply attending every event you can, in the hope that you’ll get something from it, isn’t a strategy. Just like anything else in business, you need to go there with a goal – whether it’s to make connections, source new technology or develop your knowledge.

Before you book yet another exhibition, think about how it will add value. What are you hoping to get from the event? How will you measure that? How will it add value to your business?  

If it is unlikely that you will get anything of value from the event, then you might want to reconsider attending, no matter how appealing the free buffet sounds.

At LI-Europe, we understand the importance of value-adding events. That’s why we created The Ambassador’s Academy – a structured monthly meeting which enables forward-thinking managers to share best practice, learn about the latest improvement techniques and commit to actions back in the plant. And, because you commit to actions, you can see exactly how you are adding value to your business and what impact it has on your bottom line.

If you are a manufacturing professional looking for events that provide a real return on investment, then Ambassador’s could be right for you. To find out more click here or contact us to book a free taster session. 

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. 

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

I recently attended a county schools’ athletics meet for eight to ten-year-olds. I was watching the long jump competitors, and as the children took turns, I noticed an interesting difference in how they approached the task.

The first child took his place at the top of the track, waited for the all clear and ran as fast as he could before taking off. He recorded a decent jump of 2.5m, but he was unable to repeat the same success with his second jump. It was clear that he had a lack of experience and repeatability.

The next child had a completely different approach. He carefully paced backwards from the jump board to determine his optimal start position. He was focused and knew what he needed to do to maximise his performance. Just like the first child, he ran at a good pace, but he achieved a much longer jump; an impressive 3.8m. What was more impressive was his ability to repeat his performance on his second attempt.

It struck me that, even at the young age of nine, this child had learnt that process is important if you want consistent results. What he has developed, over time and through practice, is a precise routine that starts minutes before his actual jump. His preparation placed him in a great position to deliver his best performance – a winning performance.

The first child simply threw himself into the event, hoping for a good result; the second child worked out what needed to be done to achieve the desired result. He didn’t leave it to chance.

So, what does this tell us about performing at our best?

We can be like the first child and simply turn up and go for it with no guarantee we will get the outcome we want. Alternatively, we can follow the example of the second child and learn what steps are required to achieve the results we want – we can create a process. We can then repeat that process to get consistency in our results.

Just as the young boy has worked out how far from the board, he should be to start his run, we need to find our optimal starting point. We can then make small continuous improvements to move us to the end goal. Sometimes we will make mistakes but learning from those mistakes will help us move closer to our desired outcome.

Of course, the processes required within a manufacturing business are on a much larger scale than the processes required by a nine-year-old long jumper. That doesn’t mean that you can’t apply this lesson to your business.

We’ve developed a range of tools to help manufacturing businesses. Our FMCG Academy is an ideal starting point for working out where the gaps are in your processes so that you can start working on closing those gaps and getting consistent results.

Visit our FMCG Academy Platform now to learn how process can benefit your business.

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.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe


Last week, when doing my weekly shop, I found my favourite packet of chocolate biscuits on special offer. Naturally, I bought two packets to enjoy over the coming days. Once I arrived home and unpacked all of my shopping, all I wanted to do was sit down in front of the telly with a cup of coffee and a packet of my favourite biscuits.  When I opened the packet, I found not 10 pieces as expected, but 11 instead. I was incredibly excited that I was getting an extra snack for free. However, being a manufacturing professional, my mind quickly turned to the extra cost this would be creating for the manufacturers.

I might just be the one lucky consumer to get his extra biscuit, but it is likely there were hundreds if not thousands of others with an extra portion.  The manufacturers are essentially giving away an extra 10% of product. For every 10 packets produced, there would be an equivalent full packet given away to consumers for free.  This would add a significant cost to the business. Imagine if someone took away 10% of your expected monthly income, how would you feel?

To manufacturers, this is a type of waste called “Giveaway”. Often manufacturers focus on the waste that is “thrown in the bin”, or “Throwaway”. It is visible on the factory floor, in bins around the areas and its impact is seen by all, as well as being felt on the bottom line. Giveaway can be a hidden waste. Average weight checks will no doubt be in place to ensure the product meets the legal requirements for minimum weight pack declaration. Unfortunately, this is often done without a process to control or even reduce the level of giveaway.

Even for those who do measure it, there is usually an opportunity to improve. One of the other reasons it is a “hidden” waste, is because an “expected” giveaway may be built into their standards. For example, 5% is built into the budget. If the actual giveaway then comes in at 5%, it would show no loss. This can hide the magnitude of the opportunity.  Improvements to giveaway, unlike efficiency improvements, will always deliver a benefit to the bottom line instantly.

Different methodologies can be employed to reduce giveaway, depending on the product, process and technology.  Over the years I have spent time in various factories improving their level of giveaway. From 20% to below 10% on Sushi pieces, from 7% to 3% on biscuits and 2% to 0.5% on sausages, all of which has saved businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you fancy sharing your experiences and challenges of improving giveaway, as well as any other improvement initiative, why not come along to our Ambassadors Academy.

The Ambassadors Academy is a monthly event for ambitious manufacturing professionals concerned with driving productivity, in all its form.  If this article interests you and you’d like to find out more about the Academy follow this link to the Ambassadors webpage