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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

All-New Responsive ETAC Solutions Website

All-New Responsive ETAC Solutions Website

New Responsive ETAC Solutions Website Launched

This month saw the launch of the new ETAC Solutions website. We were quietly working on the new site and today we’re excited to officially launch it!

To make Lean training more accessible — among many of its new features — customers can book training courses on the Lean Six Sigma programmes, view all available programmes and course options, download Lean content and tips and share feedback of past Lean workshops.

We will be updating our blog with useful tips, advice and upcoming workshops — be sure to bookmark us!

Let us know what you think of the all-new responsive ETAC Solutions Website.

The ETAC Solutions Team

New format FETAC / QQI courses from ETAC.

The level 5 “Lean Manufacturing Tools” programme will be run in a new format in 2015.

FETAC LogoIn the early 90’s the concept of Lean Manufacturing was introduced by Womack & Jones. The team studied the automotive industry at the time and found dramatic differences in performance and bottom-line profitability particularly between US and Japanese companies. They found best practice results at Toyota in japan.

The Toyota Production System is concerned with maximising value in any process and eliminating waste whilst transforming the value chain, the sequence of events that deliver the client requirements. The tools target improvement in quality, reliability, workplace organisation, and streamlining material and information flows.
This Level 5 programme is designed to give the delegates an overall knowledge of how to use these key tools. As part of the programme, the learner will apply the tools to an improvement project within their operation. The attendants will be presented with the concepts and techniques allowing to practically apply the tools by using simple exercises and modules.

This is a 5-day programme run over 12 weeks. All participants are required to deliver a Lean improvement project within their business. On successful completion of the course, candidates are awarded a Level 5 credit on the National Framework of Qualifications.


Course outline:
Task 1: Lean Thinking

Task 2: Project Charter

Task 3: Kaizen

Task 4: 8-step process improvement

Task 5: Value Stream Mapping

Task 6: Workplace Organisation (5s)

Task 7: Kanban

Task 8: Quick Changeover (SMED)

Task 9: Standard Work

Task 10: Asset Care (TPM)

Times: 9am till 5pm

For more information
please contact: ETAC Limited
PDC Centre,
Docklands Innovation Park,
128-130 East Wall Road,
Dublin 3
01 6856535

Top 10 lean tips for business transformation

1         Focus

Ensure that your lean program

a)      Delivers Customer Value

b)      Is aligned to your business strategy

c)       Delivers bottom line results – verified by your Financial expert!

2         Leadership

Your lean programme should be sponsored by senior leaders

They should be actively involved in the programme.

The programme should be reinforced through regular communications

3         Process Oriented

The lean approach is to systematically optimise your processes.

Begin by understanding your key processes and where value is being added.

The aim is to minimise or eliminate non-value adding process steps

4         Data Driven

Without data, you are left with opinions.

Make sure that all decisions taken to optimise processes are based on sound data.

This assists in taking the emotion out of key decisions and promotes acceptance

5         Performance Tracking and Accountability

Track performance and make results visible.

Real time data tracking is best.

Ensure all processes have key measures and review them regularly

Lean Business Transformation Team

6         Team Based Implementation

Ensure that effective teams are created to optimise processes.

Involve process owners.

Track team performance and reward success

7         Human resources

Ensure that your program is adequately resourced.

Bring in expertise if required.

Establish a proven training program for staff

8         Change Management

Lean programs question the ‘norm’

This can be difficult and involve changing established practices.

In this case, ensure that the team gives adequate attention to HR / Change Management.

9         Benchmarking

Visit other successful lean implementations.

Companies are often delighted to present their lean implementation.

Network with other companies implementing lean.

10     Don’t celebrate too early or give up too soon

Lean is a journey.

When you’ve optimised your process – start again!

The aim is to build a culture of continuous improvement

Start your Lean journey NOW

Building a lean culture

Very often, identifying waste and improvement opportunities is the easy part of a lean programme. Sustaining the effort and winning the hearts and minds of people is often a much bigger challenge. This is particularly true for well established companies and public services.

The lean culture change is usually driven from the top. So what is the role of the business leader and management team in shaping the lean future of the company?

Gemba – Management walking the business process and listening

To keep this simple, the lean leaders must have

  1. A vision for the company – “It is better to grow into profitability rather than to shrink into profitability”(ref: The Lean Toolbox – Bicheno/Holweg). Employees are unlikely to support a cost cutting programme and must see a vision of growth and opportunity for their company.
  2. Strong communication channels. The company may have fine ideas and strategies but fail to communicate them to all of their workers. Structured management forums and regular workforce briefing should be supplemented by a presence in the processes. Management teams need to get out among their workforce and actively listen to feedback to keep in touch with the real operational issues in the business.
  3. Key measures. A real-time and well communicated measurement system is vital to ensuring that the business stays on track. If the employees don’t get this information, it is the equivalent to a team competing in a game without knowing the score.
  4. Systems for resource allocation. Allocation of resources must be based on real-time customer demand and systems must respond quickly to the signals generated by the lean business processes.
  5. Good processes to monitor performance and assist in removing roadblocks as required. There should be a sense of urgency to tackle problems straight away and to escalate unresolved issues quickly.
  6. Methods to “Catch” people doing the right things and recognise them for the good work that they do reinforcing the lean thinking within the company.

These issues often take far longer to get right than implementing lean tools. I’d be interested in feedback from lean leaders and a discussion on the key priorities for business leaders in a lean transformation.

Should I begin my lean programme with 5s?

We are asked this type of question by many companies.

The idea of a clean and tidy workplace is very appealing and seems an ideal way to begin the lean programme.

Done poorly, and there is little distinction between the 5s initiative and a good spring clean.

Done well, this can involve many people and make an instant impact.

The essence of 5s is to:

Sort – decide what is required and remove everything else. This can be an enjoyable and empowering experience for the team.

Set in order – ensure that what is required has a designated and suitable storage area. Again, this can give the team a tremendous feeling of taking control of their area.

Shine – regular schedules are defined to clean and maintain all that is required – machinery, tools, work areas & materials. Good schedules assist a TPM (Total Preventative Maintenance) programme and SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die or Quick Changeover).

Standardise – Habits are not formed until a process has been performed many times. Standardising and optimising the new processes takes time. There can be reluctance to move away from old ways which have ‘worked’ for years. Documenting and scheduling the new ways takes time. Setting visual controls takes time and will not be done in one event.

Sustain  – Sustaining 5s in a process requires regular review. How often are schedules checked?. How often are frequencies, limits and quantities re-calculated? How often are visual controls updated?  How often is the system audited and how are results measured and communicated?

Our view is that like any of the lean initiatives, 5s is one of many tools. The lean programme needs to start with clear objectives, a clear definition of value and good understanding of the business processes. In any improvement initiative, we are looking for some measure of success. If 5s clearly impacts our measure of success, then it may be an exercise worth doing early on.

However, if in defining our value stream we realise that our process is unbalanced, carries too much inventory or has poor flow, we may wish to focus on the process first and then apply 5s to the re-designed process.

Some teams decide on 5s as an improvement project. However, the business case and project goals can be very subjective. Ultimately, after the initial enthusiasm, the team can lose motivation as there is no clear measure of where they are going.

What is your experience with 5s? Would you recommend starting a lean programme with 5s? What has and hasn’t worked in your organisation? What are the key challenges and issues?