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?

< NEXT BLOG   PREVIOUS BLOG >

This blog is the second in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

TPM-SixSigma-LeanIn my last blog I mentioned that Marks & Spencer’s, who pioneered the Quality Audits, have introduced a Lean Audit into their Plan A.

So lets look at whether ‘Lean’ will deliver in the food industry what is clearly hoped of it by the retailers. The objective of course is to lower manufacturing costs – so of the three main approaches to continuous improvement, is Lean the right one, and is it what is needed in FMCG?

Lets consider the other two approaches – TPM and Six Sigma
If we look at the relatively low asset cost required in FMCG manufacture, the spend required to achieve exceptionally reliable equipment – the fundamental reason for a TPM approach – rarely gives a value return. This means that reliability of 96% is generally quite acceptable, except for a few notable exceptions, and the requirement to spend big on predictive maintenance just isn’t there as it is in other industries.

Meanwhile, Six Sigma is fundamentally about eliminating variation – 6 standard deviations from the mean and all that (actually 4.5, but that’s another story). For FMCG, with low unit cost (and permissible variation of around 1 sigma due to the average weight legislation) again the high-end techniques of Six Sigma have limited value return.

 

This means that a Lean Approach is in the driving seat
However, Lean did not originate in FMCG – it comes from automotive, with an entirely different asset base and set of base assumptions. This means that whilst many areas of Lean can deliver real value for FMCG, we must be careful in its application. What is taken for granted in automotive is not always true in FMCG – thus the success of the Lean Audits in reducing cost within FMCG will ultimately come down to how well adapted they are for the FMCG sector.

Taking one example (and there are many more); Constraint Theory as outlined in Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal” is of huge applicable benefit within FMCG, but classic Lean either ignores it completely, or allows the contraction of ‘Unnecessary WIP’ to merely ‘WIP’ to drive exactly the wrong actions.

Having experienced the misfortune of this type of misapplication, one FMCG factory owner was heard to remark “I’d rather have taken a million pounds in cash out the bank and used it to fuel a bonfire in the car park – it would have been less painful than what happened”!

So – the future is sure to be Lean Audits – but the companies that succeed from using them will be the ones that are wise to prioritizing what delivers rapid bottom line benefit – and uses an approach to continuous improvement tailored specifically for FMCG.

Tune in next week for the next blog in this series, or hear more on this topic by registering for Food Manufacture’s Lean Audit webinar (11am, 26th April).

< NEXT BLOG  PREVIOUS BLOG >

 

Lean-and-Green-webinar-Video

Hear Jeremy discuss this subject with Mike Stones, Group Editor at Food Manufacture


This blog is the first in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

With GCSE and A level exams looming in a couple of months, it is easy to think back to that time (perhaps more years ago than we’d like to admit), that we took exams ourselves.  I remember that as the deadline approached, the mind was able to focus on the task ahead, and get down to revision, and making sure I had done the necessary work.  There’s something about a test that drives action.

Those days may be behind us, but auditing (the analogue of exams in the workplace) are a hugely useful way of ensuring activity takes place rather than constantly being put off in favour of other priorities.

This is why historically Quality Audits have been so effective across the UK food industry.  Standards have been driven ever upwards, so much so its hard to believe what it was like 50 years ago…  In hoping to supply a retailer with their standard Bordeaux, one young entrepreneur took the de facto product for analysis to find out where it came from, and discovered it was simply not from Bordeaux. In fact, it wasn’t even wine – rather a mix of industrial alcohol, food colourings and glycerol!

Whilst last year’s horsemeat scandal reminds us of the need for constant vigilance, the wholescale abuses of the past simply aren’t viable any longer – and make no doubt about it, it’s external audit that has achieved that goal.

But what next as the margins to be gained from Quality Audits are ever diminishing?  

Manufacturers aren’t merely interested in good quality. Cost and on time delivery are just as important.  So an audit that is going to help manufacturers drive efficiency and reduce waste has the potential to give a competitive audit to both those companies, and ultimately any retailer sourcing from those companies.

No doubt that is why Marks & Spencer’s, who pioneered the Quality Audits, have introduced a Lean Audit into their Plan A.  With 300 companies being asked to achieve silver status by 2017, any company wanting to supply M&S in the future needs to be on their game. For everyone else, they can be sure that where M&S lead, the other retailers will follow, which means that Lean Audits in the food industry are going to be the shape of things to come.

In my next blog I’ll be looking at whether ‘Lean Audits’ are actually what is needed in FMCG. Stay tuned…

< NEXT BLOG  PREVIOUS BLOG >