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

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.

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

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

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 Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance at LI Europe


[Source: quotesgram.com]

Those people fortunate enough to be a child in the 80’s will undoubtedly recognise the opening narration of the hugely popular A Team…

“In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them….maybe you can hire The A-Team.” [Source: IMDB Quotes]


Every week the A team were portrayed as acting on the side of the good, helping an oppressed community against a band of thugs and bullies. The programme inevitably ended with an outlandish finale with over-the-top violence (in which people were seldom seriously hurt), spectacular explosions, and jeeps being overturned.

John “Hannibal” Smith would create a complicated plan and rely on BA “I pity the fool!” Baracus, Templeton “Face” Peck and the crazy pilot “Howling Mad” Murdock to deliver its success. The ability of the team to form weaponry and vehicles out of old parts formed a focus for the last 20 minutes of the program.


How do you think Hannibal relayed his plan to the rest of the A Team?

  1. Did he keep it in his head and not tell anyone about it?
  2. Did he write it down and give it to everyone as a memo? (No e-mails back in the 80’s)
  3. Did he just tell one of the team and expect them to relay the plan between each other?
  4. Did he have a meeting with the rest of the A Team and the people who hired them?

Undoubtedly he chose option 4; and judging by the results, where the underdogs – the A Team – overcame overwhelming odds and beat the bad guys every week, without injury to themselves or the people who hired them, Hannibal’s meeting must have been highly effective.


Just take a second and ask yourself “How effective are my meetings?”

  • Do you always get the results you desired?
  • Does everyone involved in the meeting see them as value adding?
  • Do people turn up prepared?
  • Do all the actions get recorded and delivered?


If you’ve answered no to any of the above, your meetings aren’t as effective as they could be. 
So here are a few simple tips for effective meetings:

  • Have your meeting standing up
  • Lock the door after the start of your meeting
  • Keep score of the issues raised, actions assigned, actions completed on time and reviewed
  • Track how many actions have a who, when and what

And remember:

  • To value the input of each delegate
  • Make sure only one person speaks at a time
  • Never belittle anyone else’s ideas
  • 70% agreement = 100% commitment for decisions


If you would like to utter Hannibal’s immortal words “I love it when a plan comes together” then get in touch for your FREE ‘Effective Meetings Tip Card’ – call 0333 456 1988 or drop us a line to place your order contact@li-europe.com.