By Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance

With the continuous cold weather through the winter, we rely on our central heating systems to keep our houses warm, so when my elderly parents called me to say their radiators weren’t warming up and ask me if I could take a look at their central heating system, I had no choice but to say yes.

Now bear in mind, I’m no central heating expert, in-fact, my level of knowledge covers three areas, boiler pressure, timer switches and bleeding radiators. I checked the water pressure, all okay. I checked the timer switch, working perfectly. Finally, I bled all the radiators, no air in the system. The central heating system was fired up and, after 10 minutes the radiators checked for temperature. Although they were warm, they weren’t as warm as they should be.

After making a few telephone calls, a local central heating engineer arrived at the house. The engineer asked if we had tried anything. I explained that I was no expert, and talked him through checking the timer, pressure and bleeding the radiators.

Smiling the heating engineer said “that’s one of the main problems these days, everybody knows a bit, but they’re not experts”. 20 minutes later he had diagnosed that the pump was failing and by the end of the day had replaced the pump and my parents, once again, had a fully functioning central heating system.

Fast forward two weeks and a visit to a prospective client’s site. The prospective client had started a Lean Manufacturing programme around 18 months ago. They had tried many things, such as 5S, Kaizen, SMED and Autonomous Maintenance. The site had seen some success but were struggling to sustain new initiatives and deliver an improvement to the bottom line.

When the site started their improvement journey, they promoted a shift manager to Continuous Improvement manager. Talking to the Continuous Improvement manager about the tools and techniques employed at the site and the training that he had undergone he explained “I’m no expert, but I worked on this stuff at a former employer’s site”, smiling at him I said the exact same words spoken to me by a knowledgeable heating engineer “that’s one of the main problems these days, everybody knows a bit, but they’re not experts”.

You wouldn’t strip your central heating boiler down if you weren’t 100% qualified and knew what you were doing, you’d call in an expert. So why do so many businesses start a Lean Improvement Programme with out calling in the experts?

Before you start your Improvement journey, call in the experts, call in LI Europe.

Click here for the services we offer.

By Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire

I was treated last night to the delights of our daughter’s school carol concert. After 2 years of no school gatherings, it was wonderful to see the children, and their parents, in a socially distanced event.

The last time some of these children stood in front of an audience of adults they would have been 5! I doubt they could remember that far back so it wasn’t surprising that they were nervous.

They each had their part, individual readings, solo, duet or small group singing. I would have been terrified if I’d had to get up and sing solo.

Did they all volunteer for their task? No. Did they all think they could do what they were being asked to do at the start? No. Did some have doubts on the night? Absolutely Yes. Were they extremely nervous? I can only answer this on behalf of one small girl, YES!

I’m pleased to say that they all played their part with no tears. Did they all get their words exactly right? Probably not.  Did they all hit every note? Not quite. At the end did they all have a beaming smile? Absolutely, plus many of the parents.

What great life skills they learnt last night. So how was it achieved? By the skills of their teachers: choosing the right task for each person, stretching them individually but not overwhelming them, letting them practice and practice, showing patience throughout. Finally, putting trust in them to deliver the goods.

As leaders we should be applying the same methods with our team members, stretching each one to achieve their potential. Teachers have training, so too should Leaders in industry yet so many are promoted into position without the right training or support.

If you want to stretch yourself, enhance your leadership skills and develop your team why not get in touch? Contact Erica Bassford to learn about Leadership Training and Personnel Development at Ambassador Academy.

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By Oli Walwyn, Digital Marketing Apprentice

It’s been a month since the Suez Canal was first blocked by the ship Ever Given. The blockage roughly cost 12% of global trade valued at over $9 billion per day. The dispute in costs and damages are still being discussed today. To some, amusing at the fragility of the ‘magic’ global supply chains we rely on. For transporters and manufacturers, it was excruciating.

Like it or not, the world relies on these physical systems that are subject to the Earths geography and powered on hard manual labour. They are complex, inconceivably large and span all 7 continents. Like many systems of production, they are also subject to bottlenecks that restrict their output and limit their productivity.

Bottlenecks are points of congestion in a production system that occur when workloads arrive too quickly for the production process to handle. In simpler terms, a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. No manufacturer is free from these restrictions.

Take Tesla, for example. When Tesla began production of its electric vehicles, demand was high, and some analysts were concerned that production would be reduced due to problems in the production line.

Founder Elon Musk said the company’s ability to expand its production line depended on its ability to increase output of batteries. To meet demand and ease the bottleneck, with the help of Panasonic, Tesla opened a massive “Gigafactory” near Reno, Nevada in 2016. This would allow the company to make their lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicle subassemblies. By 2018, the factory was already the highest-volume battery plant in the world (in terms of gigawatt-hours).

Batteries were the problem, but also the solution. In Ever Given’s case, a sudden strong wind along with the size of the ship, caused it to become stuck. Once in, it was extremely difficult to free, causing a build-up of over 300 vessels at both ends of the canal and leading some, to take a massive detour around Africa.

How could this have been prevented?

  • Increased regulations on ship size
  • Widening the canal
  • Improved weather protections whilst passing the canal

These are just some ideas of how to mitigate a bottleneck in this instance and prevent a massive loss in production, and in costs. But what if you don’t have the ability to create an additional production line, as was the case with Tesla? Or you cannot ‘widen’ your existing bottleneck, then the priority must be to maximise its throughput, never let it miss a beat. Understanding, and implementing, bottleneck theory can help maximise your bottleneck. Not sure how this can be done?

Get in touch with us today. Contact Erica Bassford to learn about Bottleneck Improvement or other manufacturing solutions through The Ambassador’s Academy.

Written by Jason Gledhill, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Spring feels like it has finally sprung, and we can (hopefully) finally say goodbye to the cold weather has seen lots of cold, frosty mornings and in some instance snow.

Invariably the snowy and frosty weather results in a later than expected departure for our journey to work, due to having to spend a couple of minutes each morning having to de-ice the car windows.

So, how can we ensure that next winter we arrive at work at the same time as usual on frosty mornings? We could maybe set the alarm clock to go off a little earlier, drive a little faster (which I wouldn’t advice) or employ some of the tactics we might use in a SMED program.

 SMED, or Single Minute Exchange of Dies, is a technique that was developed to speed up press tool changeovers but is equally applicable to a whole range of manufacturing processes not just change-overs, and can also be employed in everyday life.

The SMED philosophy is based on reducing plant downtime through the standardisation of changeover / start up methods.

This will include the understanding of both internal and external elements to your lost potential time.

Internal Time = A task that needs to be done during plant downtime.

External Time = A task that can be done pre- or post-plant downtime.

If used correctly SMED can dramatically reduce change-over times. From a business perspective this reduction in change-over times helps reduce the need to carry excessive amounts of finished goods which in turn helps improve profitability.

If we followed the SMED philosophy for cold and frosty mornings, we would invariably realise that we need to streamline external activities, namely the scraping of ice from windows.

We could employ a number of methods, some of which might include

  • The use of de-icer (don’t forget to factor the time required to retrieve the de-icer spay and coat the windows)
  • Maybe pour some tepid water on the windscreen (make sure the water isn’t too warm or your windscreen may crack, and factor the time to retrieve and return the tepid water container to its place or origin)
  • Cover the car with a sheet the night before to ensure frost doesn’t settle on the windows

Traditionally SMED spends a lot of time on moving internal activities to external activities, however due to the nature and size of the machinery in FMCG, moving internal activities to external activities, although important, doesn’t tend to deliver a huge amount of benefit.

As a general rule, the majority of the activities in the FMCG sector tend to be focused around step 5, streamline external activities. Frequently on FMCG change-overs the most amount of time lost is around the clean-down, CIP or allergen wash.

Moving internals to externals tends to be cost inhibitive in many instances, whilst improving external activities costs very little money and can deliver a greater reduction in lost time.

If you want to find out more about SMED or other improvement activities that can deliver an improvement to your organisations bottom line contact LI-Europe

Alternatively, if you want to access over 25+ years of Operational Excellence experience, have a look at the FMCG Academy

Hopefully, your business is already employing Operational Excellence tools, so maybe you just want to understand how close your organisation is to excellence, have a look at our free mini diagnostic tool

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Engagement Manager at LI Europe.

Much has already been written on what the legacy of Covid-19 and lockdown will have on businesses. One of the big discussions has been around how leaders deal with their staff working remotely.

Is a business leader’s trust in their team a reflection of themselves, their team, company culture or all?

In “First, Break All the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham, research is compiled which empirically finds that an employee’s level of engagement is primarily related to their relationship with their line manager, even above company culture.

How does Covid and remote working affect this relationship?

Traditionally, one of the ways productivity has been perceived is through how hours people have worked. In these cases, firms have suffered from a culture of presenteeism. The phrase “working from home” was spoken with an emphasis on “working” in inverted commas and those who did work remotely were seen as having an easy day or a day off.

More progressive businesses have adopted remote working for many years placing a focus on employee wellbeing and have trusted their teams to get the work done by the agreed deadline regardless of where/when it is done.

McGregor’s theory of management split people into X theory or Y theory. The traditional businesses/managers who scorn at the thought of working from home would likely be X theory type:

These believe

  • The average person dislikes work and will avoid it if possible.
  • Therefore, most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards objectives.
  • The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively un-ambitious, and most of all wants security.

Those adopting remote working, prior to it being normalised by Covid would likely have been Y theory types:

These believe

  • Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
  • People will generally try to achieve objectives, without the threat of punishment.
  • The commitment to an objective is a function of the reward associated with achieving it.
  • People usually accept responsibility, and will seek it too.
  • Most people actually have a good imagination, ingenuity and creativity, and will use them to solve organisational problems.

Theory Y managers generally have a higher level of engagement with their teams. Thus, they give discretionary effort to improve the business which results in a higher level of productivity.

Trust is always needed in the relationship between leaders and their teams. Clearly defined outcomes and accountabilities are still required regardless of location the work is being done.

Should the manager take a one size fits all approach to this new way of working? Is everyone able to achieve their best results at home?

Some people might prefer to be directed and guided which can come hand in hand with office working and regular contact with their manager. These people may struggle when at “arm’s length” through remote working. This links with the theory of Tannenbaum-Schmidt and their levels of delegated freedom.

Every member of a team will have their place on this red line where they feel most comfortable.  Those who prefer freedom could flourish with remote working. Those further to the left may struggle. It is vital that the leader knows where every member of their team is on the continuum and adapt accordingly. The ultimate goal is to shift everyone to the right, but only gradually. Sudden shifts can cause disengagement and people to be disenfranchised.

Similarly, does the leader know who in their team are extroverts and introverts?

Extroverts might want to retain office time and face to face contact with people in order to energise themselves through their working day.

Introverts could be in heaven working from home. They don’t have to make small talk with their teams or feel the social pressure of being part of the team.

Can the leader adapt their amount and style of contact with each member of their team to work not only to their position on the Tannenbaum-Schmidt continuum but also on their personality style?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to pivot and adapt their ways of working to deal with the situation. Remote working has become more of a norm which is, in my opinion, for the better. However, this doesn’t come without increased challenges and the onus on the manager in ensuring their teams can perform and thrive in these circumstances is significantly greater.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.

Written by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

I’ve carved pumpkins before but, this year, we went one step further, we ventured to the pumpkin fields to select our specimens.

Armed with wheelbarrow, accompanied by two children decked out in wellies, off we went. I had in mind the perfect pumpkin, you know the one, not too large, swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. Clearly my children had different ideas, my youngest set out to find not only the largest pumpkin in the field but also the smallest. My eldest was more concerned about the pumpkin retaining a decent sized stalk and with no blemishes to the skin.

Some 30 minutes later we were armed with the 3 chosen delights and headed to the cleaning station. I am pleased to say, the child that then proceeded to face plant into the mud was not one of mine. A little t.l.c. and the promise of a hot chocolate seemed to refocus him to his efforts of pumpkin cleaning but alerted my two to the proximity of a café serving of hot chocolate!

Payment made, hot chocolate consumed, we were ready for home and to start the challenge in earnest.

Taking into account the shape of each specimen we negotiated, and agreed, the pattern for each pumpkin. We prepared a template to follow, the children traced out the template which they then followed with their cutting tools. Two hours later their toils were rewarded with three half decent pumpkins carved and ready to display.

Why am I drivelling on about pumpkins? For me the pumpkin field resembled a business and its employees. Not that I am implying your employees are swelling nicely in the middle with a perfect orange glow. More the fact that each one is different, with their own strengths, and so needs to be treated differently. For example, the larger pumpkin was tall but less round, making it a perfect shape for carving a rearing unicorn. Identifying the strengths in your team and optimising their use can deliver great results.

Motivational techniques need to be adapted for each individual. The offer of a hot chocolate worked for the mud coated child but not everyone is motivated by the same things. You need to differentiate.

To get success my children had a template, a plan to follow. Each employee needs an individual ‘template’ a development plan to achieve their potential. They need to contribute to that development plan, just as my children did when choosing their pattern, it mustn’t be imposed.

When recruiting, what we each look for in an employee is also different, just like my children wanted different things from their pumpkin. All too often I see managers recruit in their own image. Involving others in the recruitment process can provide different perspectives to help avoid this.

Using the right management tools, even the weakest member of your team can deliver great results.

Want to develop your team further? Keen to enhance your management skills? Why not get in touch.