Written by Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance at LI Europe

Let me tell you a story… Gather round, listen closely.

Once upon a time in a factory not too dissimilar to your factory, worked an Operations Director, Tim Woods.   Tim was no ordinary Operations Director, the factory had been in his family for over a 120 years when he took control 6 years ago.

  Tim had great pride in his factory. He went about his job with diligence, and endeavour to make the business better. The factory had grown from its humble beginnings to owning a number of top brands.

To everyone but Tim, the factory and business were doing great. The factory was still in business, employing people and putting smiles on faces but there was a problem.  The business was fast losing profit margins and this made Tim very sad. The economic crisis had increased cost of production. Raw material cost had shot up, so had wages and overheads were no better. To further compound the problem, Brexit had caused the pound to fall against the Euro, greatly affecting earnings.

These highlighted the waste and efficiency concerns which Tim had to deal with every day, alongside the concern of competitors chasing their market share.

As time progressed Tim’s frustration grew. He tried numerous initiatives to try and improve the situation.

Tim tried to initiate measures to tackle waste and improve efficiency. Initial success only fell back to the normal way of working. He invested money to improve the system, installing efficiency monitors across the production line and tackling the challenges discovered at various points of the production process but all of these seem to be in vain. Profit margins continued to plummet.

Reviewing the results of his efforts, Tim was dismayed. The results did not reflect the amount of effort he had put into setting the factory on the right path and this made him feel hopeless. If nothing positive occurred in 12 months, then the factory would not survive.

The narrative ends here. Now I ask you, what would you do differently, if you were Tim? Business managers face this challenge. When they are sick, they visit the doctor, when the car breaks down, they call in the specialist but what do they do when the business faces challenges?

This story is not uncommon to us.  We are often called into organisations that have tried all of the above along with other methods of improvement and made little change.  LI Europe is often used as a last resort, a last-ditch attempt to save a business rather than a first choice to improve a factory.  Most of us will have heard of the acronym TIM WOODS, but how many of us have ever spent a sleepless night worrying about it?

We know a different way to improve profitability.  A way that always delivers sustainable improvement.  Have a look at the case studies on our website.  Don’t be Tim.

DOWNLOAD CASE STUDY  >> http://li-europe.com/case-studies




Written by Adrian Oliver, Practitioner at LI Europe


“Sorry I’ll be late home again tonight, everything will be back to normal after the board meeting…I promise”


I put down the phone and rub my sore eyes. That was my wife Jane asking if I was going to be home in time to see the kids before they go to bed. I’m not in her good books – that’s the third night in a row I am working late to get things sorted for the half-year review.

Somehow I’ve got to come up with a plan that will deliver a £1 million savings from our production costs. My management team has been working on it for the last six months but we just can’t get seem to make the improvements we need…

All right, that sounds a bit cliched and corny, the sentiment, described however, is often relayed to us by new clients, “The management team is putting all the hours and pulling every rabbit out of the hat, but seem unable to make the necessary breakthrough in performance.”

Typically, six months after starting the improvement programme there is a blinding realisation from the management team that the answers were available to them all the time. They just hadn’t known where to find them.

Many businesses will tell you that their greatest asset is their people. But how many managers truly live and breathe that idea? How many managers take the time to stop and listen to what their people are telling them, let alone allowing them to get involved and take ownership for driving improvement and delivering results?

“True competitive advantage occurs when a business is able to improve more quickly than the competition.”

True competitive advantage occurs when a business is able to improve more quickly than the competition. To allow for this to happen, we need people who know what is important, understand how the business is performing and are able to share their ideas with the management team in a clear and concise way that helps the manager make the best decision.

If people are truly the greatest asset then surely the best leaders will prioritise their day to spend quality time with their people. This starts with being present at their place of work. Taking the time to walk the area and discuss performance with individuals. Listening to issues and concerns then coaching and supporting to implement effective solutions.

In a presentation given by a senior manager from Toyota recently he quite rightly observed that the best employees always had problems. What he meant by that was that if someone had a problem it indicated that they were thinking about the business and an opportunity to improve existed. It is the leader’s responsibility to remove any blockers from stopping the improvement from happening.

As your people become used to you listening to them and showing an interest in making their jobs more interesting and effective, they will start to look forward to your regular walkabouts. By establishing a fixed route and time they will know when and where they can speak with you.

Combine this with a group of people with a common understanding and language for solving problems then the level of trust and mutual understanding between employee and leader increases massively. It is truly amazing to watch, during the course of an improvement workshop, the confidence and engagement level build in previously disenfranchised people. I have witnessed people in tears of joy as they overcome years of frustration of managers having not listening to them.

If you find yourself empathising with the red-eyed manager missing his kids bed time, or recognise that being present with your people gets squeezed in at the end of the day only if you have cleared your inbox then visit www.laurasinternational.com and explore whether or not there is a fit for you.


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 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.

rollercoasterWritten by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Have you visited any theme parks recently? Got tired feet from standing still for so long in the inevitable queues? On a recent visit, after 40 minutes of standing in a very long queue, waiting to ride the next fast and furious rollercoaster, my son turned to me and said “why do we have to wait so long Mum”?

I could have said, “Because there are lots of people waiting to go on this ride”, or “Because ‘Express tickets’ get to go ahead of us” or “We just have to wait our turn” – but I didn’t. Instead it got me thinking about Bottlenecks, Cycle Time Reduction and simple Throughput, which I decided to share with my son…

First we broke the activity down or mapped the cycle: open the entry gate, load people into seats, close safety harnesses, issue safety instructions over the tannoy, check safety harness, raise harness to move small riders to left hand side, lower safety harness again, ride, release safety harness, unload people, open exit gate, close exit gate – repeat. 

I then asked my son what ideas he had to make the queue quicker and he came up with the following four ways they could optimise the cycle:

  1. Why don’t they fill all the seats?
    My son had identified that they should keep the bottleneck full at all times because every missed unit is lost forever. (Some parks have adopted the ‘single rider’ lane to cover this but alas it was not the case at this park!) 
  2. They should tell you which side the children should sit before you get in so they don’t have to keep lifting the safety harness for people to switch!
    He even suggested a picture (or visual aid) to show which side the grownups should go and ensure clear instructions are given early to prevent waste on the bottleneck machine.
  3. The man who opens the exit gate keeps getting stuck behind the people trying to leave so it’s taking ages to open the gate and let everyone out. Why don’t they open the exit gate at the same time as the safety harness is raised?
    Good question. Why not introduce concurrent activities to shorten the cycle time?
  4. Could they move the start of the queue next to the entry gate, not at the top of the 15 steps down to the entry gate?
    He’d identified that they could start activities earlier to shorten the cycle time.

If we’d achieved nothing else – by the time we had developed our shortened cycle it was finally our turn and I didn’t have to hear him ask “Why do we have to wait so long” over and over again! It didn’t however, stop him from asking to buy a fastpass ticket!

Cycle Time Reduction is a powerful tool, with the ability to increase throughput on any repetitive cycle. Are you frustrated by lack of throughput in your plant? Get in touch for some ideas of how you could shorten the cycle.

Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, LI Europe

iStock_000010821364_Large“Leicester City have just won the Premier League!” Go on say it again, “Leicester City have just won the Premier League!” The league table does not lie, the best team always wins in the long run. They are the best team with the best results. What an amazing achievement of sustained effort over the season, 36 games. With 2 games left the players and management team are able to now relax and have a well-earned rest. A bit of downtime during the summer before they get ready for next Season…

Did you watch their 37th game against Everton? That was not the display of a team taking it easy. They ran their opponents into the ground, had 30 shots versus their opponents 9 and won the game 3:1. Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester City Manager, prior to the game has been credited with motivating his team to perform well, celebrating winning the league but then focussing his team on getting ready for the next season and proving to the world that they are worthy champions: the best.

Like Claudio, we need our teams to be performing at their best each time they enter the competitive arena, be that the football field, sales negotiation, or manufacturing line. Here are six simple steps for motivating our teams to perform at their best every time…

Six Simple Steps to Motivating Teams

Finding the right type of motivation for our teams and then applying it is a critical tool for any leader to have in their toolkit. Get this right and we can deliver truly exceptional results. Get it wrong and things can go the other way. The time we spend with our teams is our most valuable time as a leader as it enables us to influence performance.

But how good at this are we? And do we practice these things in our daily roles, every day…?

  1. Do we hear ‘continual whinging’ about a problem – or do we truly listen to what our people are telling us?
  2. Is it easier to develop the solution for the team and then get them to ‘select the colour’ – or do we get them involved with the problem-solving?
  3. Do we demand answers when things go wrong – or praise them for a job well done?
  4. When the Boss calls, what’s the first thing that drops off our list? Do we ring-fence time in our diary each day for our team?
  5. Does that report that needs to be done before going home for the day preoccupy us when talking to our teams – or are we fully focussed on them as people?
  6. If we’re feeling frustrated, do we head to the shopfloor to catch someone doing something wrong – or do we walk the shopfloor at regular times so that people know when they can share a fantastic idea with us?

From Line Managers to CEO’s we should secure time to be with and motivate our teams. To fully converse and engage with them. Listen to what they have to say and provide effective feedback. This is the gift that only we as Leaders can give, and it might surprise you to see what you get back in return.

Something to think about isn’t it?

If you find yourself pausing to contemplate how well you and your team of managers do this then maybe it is time to re-sharpen your Leadership tools. What would Claudio do? How do you become Champions?