Category Archives: Case Studies

problem_statement

The rush to solution

The first step in any process improvement initiative is to define the problem or business opportunity. This step is often completed far too quickly and in some cases defines a solution without really addressing the real issue.

Paul was a recent case in point. Paul has just commenced a project-based process improvement programme. He works in an assembly area on a mezzanine floor in a manufacturing company.

Products for assembly are brought to Paul and his team by forklift from the ground floor.

Paul’s project was to install a lift in the area as the team were often waiting on the forklift driver. He was quite frustrated that management couldn’t see this and wouldn’t justify the expenditure.

problem_statement

In fact, Paul had presented a solution without actually defining the problem and the impact on the team. We needed to take some steps back and understand what is actually happening.

The team had recently had to wait for an hour on work from the ground floor.

  • How often did this happen?
  • What was the process for ordering material?
  • How was this communicated?
  • How often did work need to be moved?

There was no data on any of these questions and no real process in place for delivering product.

The forklift was also used to receive purchased items, to load deliveries and to manage stock on the ground floor. Any of these activities could delay transfer of work to the mezzanine unless some notice was given or some plan was put in place.

It also became apparent that there was limited product in the process staged for assembly.

There was a need to map the entire process and understand how the work flowed within the business. Mapping forced the team to think about their process and their commitment to their customers. The links between each stage of the process needed to be understood and the team needed to agree ways of working. This is the 2nd stage of process improvement.

The ‘solution’ of installing a lift is now likely to be superseded by a pull system in the short term giving a clear signal to the forklift operator when product needs to move. In the longer term, the team are now considering a cell-based layout on the ground floor.

Like all good Lean systems, there is no mystery, just simple ways to engage the knowledge and experience of the staff already present in every business.

We are very proud of the improvements that all of our participants achieve in 3 months.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

Enterprise Ireland offer support to clients through their Lean Business programmes. Click here for details.

The ManagementWorks project-based Lean Business programme will run in Dublin in December. Click here for details.

 

customer-experience

Who is responsible?

Imagine arriving at these 2 hotels?

How is your initial impression? How would you describe the experience?

 

If it was your business – how would you like it to be represented? Who is responsible for this representation – the individual or the business?

We can continue to assign our problems to individual error or we can delve deeper and explore the systems and processes that we have put into place.

“Management is responsible for 94% of the problems” – W. Edwards Deming – Out of the Crisis

It all starts from day 1.

Does each person hired understand why we are in business and what we are trying to achieve for our customers?

Do we share our processes? – the best ways that we have found so far to deliver our value to the customers.

Do we train our staff so that they fully understand these processes?

Do we support and encourage our staff to propose even better ways that we can improve on these processes?

The result in doing these things may be represented in the hotel on the right. The result in not doing these things could be represented on the left.

Or you may choose to assign responsibility to the individual in the situation.

Help

Lean thinking is concerned with creating the right environment for our business, our employees and our customers.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

ETAC run Lean programmes for businesses and through Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Skillnets.

Programmes will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland, leading to QQI awards.

Click here for details on the range of programmes available.

 

Does everyone know the score?

Imagine arriving late to a sporting event to see that there is no score on display. Everyone around you is confused as to the actual current score. Or image a sign telling you that the score will be posted as soon as possible after the game finishes.

Would you lose interest in the game? Would the players have the same motivation?

It is often interesting to ask staff in a business how they did the previous week. The answer may be as general as ‘pretty good’ or ‘not a great week’.

Delve a little deeper to ask for some evidence and the answers may be quite vague – ‘well, we had no major issues’ or ‘things were a bit slow’.

How well is performance tracked across your business? Are the relevant things tracked – those most important to the customers of the business or section?

In Sport, performance tracking is essential to driving improvement. Here are some statistics from last season’s English premiership

Score
statistics from www.whoscored.com

English premiership teams playing West Bromwich Albion should know that this team score more goals from set plays than open play. In contrast, one of the top teams, Manchester United, score relatively few goals from set plays. Could this drive significant improvement actions?

Knowing what to measure in each area of every business is essential. It is an opportunity missed if everyone doesn’t know the score. Continuous improvement is supported by facts and good data collection and review.

 

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

The ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland.

Click here for details.

 

Lean

Presentations are for managers

There is often a perceived ‘glass ceiling’ by frontline workers. Presentations, meetings and often systems are in the arena of management and many staff are uncomfortable in these areas.

One of our recent programme participants was adamant from the outset that he would not be delivering a presentation in front of ‘strangers’. Furthermore, the concept of running a meeting was alien and presenting work on a ‘computer’ was work normally done by office staff.

Following a lean structure, encouraging all project leaders to clearly identify their issues, engage their team and implement changes based on sound data, the results can be amazing.

3 months later, our participant delivered a 30-slide, 12 minute presentation. He outlined the background to the issues that he wanted to address in his business to a room of ‘strangers’ through simple diagrams and lots of photos. The work and ideas of his team were explained.

The result of the effort was a re-organisation of the workplace, reducing product transportation by over 800 metres per unit and a saving of 3 hours labour time per unit.

The confidence in the presentation delivery gives us huge satisfaction in seeing the personal transformation of an individual now using meetings, data and presentations to drive continuous improvement.

Like all good Lean systems, there is no mystery, just simple ways to engage the knowledge and experience of the staff already present in every business.

We are very proud of the improvements that all of our participants achieve in 3 months.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

The ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland.

Click here for details.

 

Excellent results from the latest Lean programme

Lean Training

You may have thought that Lean process improvement was only relevant to manufacturing staff?

It has been our pleasure to train and mentor this group who completed the 2017 Spring training programme last week.

Let me introduce the group and briefly describe their results to date:

  • Louise works in Finance and managed to uncover potential savings of almost €40k per year from the process for contracted work.
  • Amanda works in Customer Service and used Lean to reduce UK backorders from 17% to 0.6% and fulfil 99.4% of all orders within 24 hours.
  • Kevin was our manufacturing representative and applied 5s, Kanban, SMED and Asset Care to improve the efficiency of his production area.
  • Rosie works in Finance and applied Lean thinking reduce reporting time for all sites from 3 days to 1 day and eliminated some significant system errors whilst doing so.
  • Thomas works in Supply Chain and applied Lean thinking with his team to achieve lead-time reductions from his Far East Supply base. His pilot programme with a key supplier has already yielded an 8-day improvement.
  • Denise works as PA to the General Manager and applied Lean thinking to reverse a downward trend in sales with Irish customers.
  • Christine works in Product Registration. Her project was to reduce the lead time of processing a new application request from the commercial team. Products requiring an updated GAP took 55 days.  – this is now estimated to take 15 days in future.
  • Nigel works in Estimation and has applied Lean thinking to increase output by 44% and reduced backlog by 46% to date.
  • Andy prepares orders for printing and has reduced orders in his area by 38% and increased the value-add time of his process from 40% to over 50% – a 25% increase in capacity!
  • One of the group was on holiday – Lorraine works in Finance and tackled the customer returns process. In 3 months, an additional 20% of returns costs have been reclaimed, the number of processed claims has increased by 20%, the number of outstanding returns in the Irish business is at a third of what it was at the start of the year and the aim is to reduce the overall process lead-time by 50%.

We are very proud of the improvements that this group have achieved in 3 months. The programme carries certification and their work will be submitted for a QQI award.

You may be interested in applying Lean thinking to your business and putting these ideas into place?

The ManagementWorks Lean Business programme will run this Autumn at various locations in Ireland.

Lean Click

Skillnets Lean training

Not having a system could be eating your cash

We were working with our call centre client and looking at the task of processing claims. Unfortunately, in Ireland, many claims in this particular sector are submitted on paper forms. Our task was to map the process of approving these claims. We broke the process into small element steps and were in the process of timing a number of claims with the claim approver, Jenny. As is the norm with paperwork applications, we encountered a number of errors and missing information. This required Jenny to either make a phonecall, write an email or send a letter by post.

It was while Jenny was sending a letter that the absence of a reliable supply system came to light. Jenny was out of A4 envelopes and apologised as she now had to walk about 100 metres to the stationary store to get some more envelopes. Amazingly, in an office of over 200 staff, she came back empty handed and red-faced. “There are no A4 envelopes in the store – they’re due in tomorrow!”.

Luckily, Clare overheard the conversation and came to Jenny’s rescue. “You should have asked me. I’ve plenty under my desk” and she produced a pile of A4 envelopes. Later on, Paul, who sat beside Jenny, returned from a break. Jenny told Paul about the embarrassing episode with the envelopes (which increased the process step timing). “That wouldn’t have happened if I had been here” said Paul. “That has happened to me before – I always keep a store of envelopes under my desk”.

The thought occurred that there were probably more envelopes in that office than would be consumed in months. Anyone who had lost time in the past had now created their own ‘store’ in the absence of a reliable system. As soon as those envelopes come in tomorrow, Jenny was going to create her own store.

The solution was to implement a 2-bin kanban system. As most of the staff needed to print letters before using the envelopes, the 2-bin kanban ‘stores’ were located at each printer and serviced twice a day by the stationary suppliers.

Kanban – an example from your home

Think of something you use at home that you never want to be without.

On a recent training course this question was posed and Paul volunteered that his family never run out of milk.

How do they ensure that that happens? paul explained that they keep two 2 litre containers of milk in the fridge. As soon as one is empty, it is left out and prompts the next person going to the shop to collect a 2-litre container of milk. Simple? They are never without milk.

Oh, by the way, Paul’s family have never heard of kanban..

As with many lean principles, they are derived from simple common sense.

A good kanban system ensures continuous supply of material.

The word ‘kanban’ means ‘signal’. A kanban signal is a trigger to replenish material.

The most common type of kanban is a 2-bin kanban. 2 bins are used for each item in a storage location. Each container is filled with a quantity to cover usage over a set period of time. One ‘bin’ must be emptied before using the second. The empty bin triggers a signal.

The signal can be the bin itself, a card, a fax etc and should follow a standard process.

Bin sizes are calculated using a combination of the usage, delivery/collection frequency, supply lead time and batch size.

The target in many lean companies is to minimise bin sizes by increasing collection/delivery frequency and reducing batch sizes.

Through the application of kanban, companies can expect to reduce inventories and eliminate downtime due to material shortages.

This is one of the many tools delivered in the Lean Business programme helping to minimise waste in participating companies.