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.