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, 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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Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, LI Europecricket_image

I was watching the recent Test Match between England and Australia when Ricky Ponting, the ex-Captain of Australian National Cricket, was being interviewed about his experiences as an international cricketer. The interviewer enquired about the biggest changes Ponting had witnessed during his career. He explained that he had started his playing career during the Semi-professional era of the Nineties, through the Professional era and latterly into the Ultra-professional era. What did he mean by this, the interviewer asked…?

With the increase in the number of TV cameras at matches and the proliferation of companies providing data and statistics on all elements of the game, Ponting explained it has become increasingly common for teams to use this data to identify the weaknesses of opponents. With this information teams have been able to develop more effective tactics to defeat an opponent and thus make their path to success more likely. As a consequence, individual players have had to focus their attention more and more effectively on their own areas for improvement, reinventing themselves each year in the face of fierce competition so that they are able to survive and succeed at the pinnacle of their profession.

Having worked in both the food and drink markets, I know from experience how important it is for businesses to use their scarce resources wisely. In the competitive market places that we all operate in, no-one can afford to waste valuable resources on areas that are not priorities. We must deliver sustained improvement in our operations if we are to deliver long-term success.

Like the international cricketers, it is vital that we capture detailed information about our priority areas so that we can recognise areas of strength but also areas for improvement, e.g. once we have identified the bottleneck of a process we can begin to capture data about how effectively it runs. Using simple data capture sheets and proven analytical techniques it is possible to identify the biggest causes of lost production, be it speed, downtime, or quality related. Now we are able to select suitable methodologies and people to deliver the identified improvements. By implementing solutions that are effective for a hundred years we are able to then move onto the next biggest problem without needing to return to the original issue. As we deliver improvement upon improvement our performance begins to accelerate and we develop a culture of success in which our people and business are able to realise their full potential.

Like the international cricketers we have a decision to make. Do we want to rise to the challenges of an increasingly competitive market-place and become recognised for excellence, seizing the initiative and striving for improvement. Or do we stand still and ultimately no-one remembers us?

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