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 Adrian Oliver, Practitioner at LI Europe

 

Regarding productivity levels, the UK currently lags behind other European nations by a significant amount. According to Trading Economics website, the UK has a GDP per Capita of US$ 42,514 and sits 15th in Europe behind countries such as Germany (US$ 46,747), Netherlands (US$ 53,597), Denmark (US$ 61,582) and Norway (US$ 91,218)1.

Considering the challenges we already face, the last thing the UK manufacturing industry needs is more uncertainty in the coming years. This view is common throughout the food and drinks industry, and I hope it is also a view held by politicians trying to negotiate the Brexit deal with the EU.

Watching the news recently, I see that we are discussing extending the transition period from two to three years. No, wait; hang on a minute, Downing Street is now rowing back from that position to say it might be a “few additional months”.  Does anybody truly know how long the process will take?

Since the referendum in 2016, the fear of the unknown has had a major impact on the amount of investment that businesses have been willing to make. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that investment levels are significantly lower than Bank of England expectations for the two-year period (a 2% increase versus an expected 13% rise). Indeed, investment has fallen over the last 12 months.

If our investment decisions are being delayed, how do we expect to compete with the rest of Europe and wider afield?

Fortunately, there is another way. A lot of the business owners we speak to have well-run, successful businesses. However, the thing that makes the top performers stand out is the balanced approach they have between productivity being driven through investment in equipment and investment in people.

Ask yourself this question; when you sit down at your next business planning meeting to agree on how to deliver a 10% increase in output without increasing wages, does your list contain mostly capital expenditure? If it does, are you missing an opportunity?

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

Notes:
1. Data is based on 2017 figures and can be found at www.tradingeconomics.com

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 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 Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, LI Europe

I was on my way back from a visit to the Weetabix factory in Burton Latimer, just outside Northampton. The visit was arranged as part of Works Management’s Manufacturing Management Conference. The 2 day event provided a fantastic opportunity to catch-up with some of the latest thinking on lean manufacturing, to hear how companies such as Toyota, Newsprinters’ Eurocentral, and GKN have used lean to drive business performance – and also the opportunity to meet a group of people interested in making lean work for their business.

As Gareth Bale stabbed home a close range goal (from 40 yards!) I reflected on the previous 2 days. A number of the presentations focussed on why some lean transformations succeed whilst others fail. Common themes for success are strong leadership and “systems thinking”. Leaders need to identify what they are trying to achieve (the simple release of cash, the drive to meet increase in demand, etc) and effectively communicate this to their teams. They need to focus their time in the areas where lean is being practised (Phil Warner from GKN talked about creating Leader Standard Work for Senior Management) and recognise people as they achieve wins. For all levels of employee this then needs to be embraced within a robust system which encourages standardisation of task and constancy of purpose. I am pleased to say that this reflects the experience of LI Europe over the last 15 years and is why we focus our Sustainable Improvement Model around 3 pillars: Ability (Know How); Inclination (Leadership); and Time (People Engagement).

The visit around the Weetabix factory was quite exciting for me. In 2011 LI Europe had supported the Bars business unit complete a number of lean workshops that resulted in a reduction in wastage of 80% and an improvement in output of over 50%. A culmination of this work resulted in the Site being crowned as Winners of the Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards (read the Case Study here). I am pleased to report that the Site continues to be successful on its lean journey and is well on the way to achieving World Class line efficiency levels. The Site leadership has clearly understood a number of the messages highlighted in the conference, including the need to engage their teams and the use of excellent visual factory standards to help ensure employees focus on the important things at all times. This was a real pleasure to experience and I would highly recommend you take an opportunity to have a look if you get the chance.

[… Wait a minute, the Referee’s Assistant is holding up the board indicating numbers 11 and 15 are coming on for England, who is that? Ah, Vardy and Sturridge, I wonder if they can make an impact?]

If you find yourself reflecting on why your business improvement programme isn’t achieving the impact you hoped for, or if you’re just frustrated at high levels of waste or concerned about escalating operating costs then why not get in touch?

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