Brexit – immediate actions for UK Manufacturing Leadership

Manufacturing clients that we’ve been working with at a strategic level already have well-rehearsed plans in place for Brexit. For those who are still reeling with shock here are some of the short-term actions that Manufacturing Leaders might consider – the “Six R’s”:

Reassure: the first essential role of Leadership in turbulent times. Ramp up the communication, make yourself available, get out and about in the workplace. Let people know that despite recent rhetoric no-one’s job will be lost this month or next. In particular, reassure migrant workers that they are valued and wanted and will continue to be so.

Resilience – time to update your business risk assessments and make sure that you have robust plans in place and contingencies for the things that won’t go to plan! In particular, consider broader supply chain risks (see below).

Rates 1 – Exchange Rates: the pound will be weaker for a while so ramp up the exports and continue to use Lean to in-source materials and components. De-risk the Supply Chain and take manufacture and control in-house.

Rates 2 – Interest Rates: we simply don’t know if interest rates will go higher or lower so shorten your payback periods slightly but keep on investing. Short-term turbulence often leads to cheaper asset prices so look out for bargains – don’t put off that acquistion but instead go flat out and bargain for a lower price.

Routine: now is the time to reinforce Standard Work, One Best Way and all of the “boring but important” daily disciplines that make for successful long-term business.

Remember: turbulence doesn’t change the world but it makes for bigger opportunities and bigger threats – update your SWOT review, spot the opportunities and act decisively.

Courage mon brave!

The Three Stages of Lean Transformation

As our knowledge and practice of Lean has developed, many of us have come to the conclusion that there is no standardised “one size fits all” roadmap or sequence that details every step of “how to implement Lean” for every organisation. But there are three vital stages that it makes sense to follow. Here they are:

1. Grasp the Current Situation. A full understanding – by all team members – of the current situation, is the essential starting point for any improvement activity. Questions to ask might include: Exactly where are we now? What are we trying to do here? What is our purpose, our mission? How do we add value for our customers? Honestly, how are we performing now? Are our measurement systems capable of telling us? Are we collecting (only) the right information to help us to make decisions and to take action?

2. Achieve Stability. What are the most important processes in your business? How do you develop new products or services? How do you deliver them? How do you plan, execute and measure the vital few? How do you manage your people, from cradle to grave? Are these processes capable, under control and stable? How do you sustain “One Best Way”: do you provide clear instruction, effective training, regular monitoring, wide-spread mistake-proofing?

3. Implement Lean. Only now can you begin to change the way you work, with a real prospect of success and sustained improvement. Once you have stable, repeatable processes you can analyse them and find ways to do them better. With the right tools and support the team can simplify and streamline the processes so that you become more efficient and more productive, and achieve better outcomes.

The detail of how to do it – and the exact tools to use – are gained only through years of experience. If you don’t yet have that experience you’ll need to hire it in, but make sure that you coach your people so that they “learn by doing”. By following this approach, and by rigorously following the PDCA Improvement Cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act), you can genuinely transform your organisation and make Continuous Improvement a way of life.

The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Lean – Part 2

Andrew Nicholson
By Andy Nicholson, Managing Director of Nicholson Consultancy

In my previous blog I suggested that many organisations have come to understand that their future success requires the marshalling of Purpose, People and Processes, to deliver value to the organisation, its customers and its stakeholders.

So let’s look at what this actually means in practice:

The purpose of a Lean organisation is to create and deliver real long-term value.

The technical side of this requires a deep understanding of customers and stakeholders and should make clear exactly how, why, when and where value is added.

For the Purpose element to work a common set of values and a vision need to be drawn up that people feel are worthwhile and that they can get behind.

The truly Lean organisation values and develops its people, treats everyone with respect, and demands excellence.

To ensure sustainable continuous improvement requires, what W Edwards Deming, many years ago, described as “Constancy of Purpose” – the discipline of doing the important stuff day after day after day.

When it comes to People, the first and most important step is to get the right people on the bus – people whose values and attitudes fit with those of the organisation.

I’m with the approach of Jack Welch, as CEO of General Electric, on this one – if managers don’t demonstrate those values, they need to be replaced, regardless of how well they “hit the numbers”.

Lean organisations know how to recruit and retain people with the right values, and they are expert at developing each and every employee to their fullest potential.
Such organisations aim to engage people in a greater purpose, they recognise and reward their contribution, and they train and empower them to do the right thing in their own work-flow.

When Henry Ford talked about “the machine that God built” and Jim Womack, Dan Jones, and Dan Roos, wrote “The Machine that Changed the World” they weren’t talking about the motor car itself, they were talking about the process that created the motor car.

From the outset, Ford and Toyota understood that the myriad tasks and activities in a manufacturing plant should work together smoothly and effectively like a well-oiled machine.

Lean organisations are obsessed with their value streams – the essential value-adding tasks by which they create and deliver value.

They actively manage their extended value streams – their supply chains – by partnering and working with their suppliers and customers.

All the time, their people are working to understand “exactly how is value added, how do we cut out the waste, how do we link the pieces together and improve flow?” Put simply, good processes deliver good results.

Last, but not least, pulling all of this together requires the right leadership – leaders who have the right values, who are passionate about Lean and who are in it for the long haul: the sort of people who work very hard to make things very simple.

Lean Start-Ups: are they possible?

The short answer is “Yes” it is possible to start Lean and stay Lean. Here’s how:

It is important to keep it simple and stay organised. This can be achieved by adopting Lean 5S principles, which is a system to reduce waste and optimise productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues.

This includes making sure anyone can find anything quickly and easily. Keep things simple and visual – can people easily see at a glance what’s OK and what isn’t?

Focus on the following main three business areas:

• Sales – getting the work in / engaging with the customer
• Operations – getting the work done / delivering
• Finance – managing the cash, funding the growth

Employees should be made aware of how they fit into the company structure and what their contribution needs to be to make the business run smoothly, effectively and efficiently.

To achieve this:
• Write down each role and give it a name or a description
• Write down the main purpose of the role and exactly how its provides value to the customer
• Outline “what a good job looks like” – the best way / tricks of the trade, and pitfalls to avoid

Next draw up a grid with the roles along one side and people’s names along the other. For each job show with an R who is Responsible, with a D who Deputises, and with an A who Assists so employees know at a glance what their duties are.

Regular communication is key. For at least one hour each week talk about what’s going well, what’s not going well and what ideas you have to make things better.

By consensus, pick one improvement idea that is easiest to implement, has the highest impact and is affordable. Agree who will make it happen, and when, and get on with it.

Hire slowly, fire quickly. Be clear about values, expectations, Do’s and Don’ts. With new staff, have a one-to-one review for 15 minutes each day, then one hour per week, then one hour per month.

Make a conscious decision to retain or part company at the end of the first day, the first week, the first month. If it isn’t working in the first month, it probably never will. Let people take risks, make mistakes and fail, but expect them to learn and not to repeat their mistakes.

Do the absolute minimum required to add value for the customer – everything else is waste. Keep it simple, keep it electronic, and automate it.

Store data in only one place, share it and organise it so that anyone can easily find what they need.

Seriously consider scalable, cloud-based “pay as you go” systems. Use non-proprietary open systems where you can.

Similarly, do the absolute minimum that you need to do with a new product or process to see if it works. This is what Silicon Valley entrepreneur Eric Ries calls the MVP – the Minimum Viable Prototype.

Experiment quickly, fail early, learn as you go and keep on learning.

The key to Lean is the improvement cycle Plan-Do-Check-Act. In a start-up the most important thing is to get along the learning curve as quickly as you can.

Therefore, you need to cycle through these stages as quickly as you can. You’ll need some sort of plan to start with, but also be prepared to be flexible. This is because the reality is likely to be different from your original plan, so you have to learn as you go.

Have a tight control on costs by keeping fixed overheads to a minimum, outsourcing non-core tasks, “paying as you go” and avoiding long-term tie-ins.

Continually question the reasoning behind any action plan. Always ask yourself ‘does this add value for our customer’, ‘does it make us more profitable’, and ‘does it make things easier for us?’

Manage the cash every day, without fail. This can be easily one by using a simple spreadsheet.

The Lean process is all about keeping it simple, focusing on what matters, learning quickly what works and having the courage to ditch what doesn’t.

Do we all have to fail before we can succeed?

The value of going Lean is easy to quantify: in forensically examining a firm that is experiencing problems, Lean experts can identify what is going wrong and suggest solutions for the workforce to put in place.

But what if it is a new company, that doesn’t yet need a solution?

At a recent summit from the Lean Enterprise Academy, Lean guru Jim Womack summed it up like this: “Is it possible for an organisation to start up Lean from Day One, or must an organisation grow until it becomes inefficient, and only then learn from its mistakes?”

This challenge helps us re-examine the Lean principles we use every day at Nicholson Consultancy and realise their value as independent tactics that are transferrable to a number of situations.

We might think that the simple answer is to learn from other people’s mistakes, but current thinking is that Lean is situational – we can transfer the skills, but we need to tailor our approach for each organisation and each unique set of circumstances.

The question of where Lean fits into a business strategy mirrors various conversations I’ve had recently with friends and colleagues who are business owners and entrepreneurs.

We’ve all made many mistakes over the years and most of us would like to think that we wouldn’t repeat them. But how do you get it right until you’ve had the experience of trying it and getting it wrong?

The challenge is to create a business that is Right First Time – and having done that to keep it on track so that it never needs major work. Of course, there will always be improvements to be made because the manufacturing landscape changes so often, but an appreciation of Lean strategies can be a solid foundation to build on.

This is an interesting approach that many Lean practitioners and their potential clients will have missed out on. Let’s get the message across that Lean is not only a repair option, it can also be one of the first things on the list when a new business is being planned.

Maybe we don’t have all the answers and maybe we can’t get everything perfectly right from Day One, but surely there’s more than enough experience and accumulated knowledge out there now to at least aim for “More Right than Wrong, Most of the Time!”

Not the snappiest of slogans, but maybe it’s what we should be aiming for.

Business Growth Service (England)

On Friday 5 December, the UK Government announced the launch of the Business Growth Service which integrates the existing GrowthAccelerator and Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) programmes, along with the Intellectual Property Office Intellectual Property (IP) Audits and the Design Council Design Mentoring.

The Business Growth Service will make it easier for businesses with the potential, capability and capacity to improve and grow to access expert advice and support. Depending on the support they need, businesses will also be introduced by the Business Growth Service to experts from other Government services including UK Trade & Investment, UK Enterprise Fund, Innovate UK and local growth hubs.

Further details will be announced in the next few days but the following are important changes to names, brands and websites:

1. Introduction of new name and brand: Today the Government will make a formal announcement about our new brand name and look. As we move towards the full transition in April next year, this new brand will be used alongside our old brands in our marketing collateral. Next week you will receive further guidance about available marketing collateral.

2. New website address: As of today both the MAS and GrowthAccelerator websites have closed. The new website homepage is www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/businessgrowthservice and individual services have been relocated to www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/ga and www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/mas

Sheffield Forgemasters SC21 Manufacturing Excellence Assessment

“Audit” and “Enjoyment” are two words you don’t often see together but that’s how it’s been this week as Sheffield Forgemasters http://www.sheffieldforgemasters.com/ undertook a rigorous three-day SC21 Manufacturing Excellence Assessment with six auditors, overseen by four observers / mentors from BAE and Rolls-Royce. Great example of Supply Chain collaboration and delighted to see recognition for all of the hard work by everyone at Forgemasters. Thanks also for some great input, advice and coaching by the folk from BAE and Rolls-Royce. Everyone now looking forward to the next one! https://www.adsgroup.org.uk/pages/91430300.asp

Sheffield Forgemasters video (HR Media)

What good is Time Study Data anyway?

This is such a great question – posted recently by Grant Eldred in the AME LinkedIn Group http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers=&discussionID=246005920&gid=730737– that I just had to respond! I’ve re-posted my reply here since it’s a common issue for many Lean practitioners…

Great question Grant!

How times change! When I first started out many manufacturers employed highly trained full-time Work Study / Industrial Engineers and developed actual or synthetic Standard Times down to the decimal minute. And let’s not forget that Taichi Ohno and many of his Toyota colleagues were also highly trained Industrial Engineers!

Very few organisations take that approach these days, and in my view have often gone too far away from facts, data and measures when it comes to labour times and costs. One of the (sensible) reasons for this is of course the fact that fewer and fewer manufacturers in developed economies actually manufacture high volumes of standard products where labour costs are critical and need to be measured very accurately. There are obvious exceptions of course, like automotive (Nissan’s UK plant here used to work to Takt times of around 1 minute).

BUT – and it’s a big BUT… Lean focuses mainly on all of that non-value-added time (often more than 90% of total lead-time) eaten up the Seven Wastes, rather than on the Value-Added activities that you’d be timing.

In practice I always involve the team, train them in basic Lean Awareness (20-30 mins on Lean and the Seven Wastes is OK), and help them come up with estimated times. I don’t aim to train them in Work Study techniques as well but I do always emphasise one of the basic points about arriving at a Standard Time – it’s the time that a competent trained operator can be expected to maintain over a full shift, day in, day out. So any observed times have to include a “rating” of the operator’s performance, and the observed times adjusted accordingly.

Before getting into the detal it’s usually possible to make a start by collecting some “gross / total” data on output rates and number of operators to arrive at some overall averages of labour content. Observing the work flow, looking for imbalances and estimating operator performances can then lead to some useful work with the team on line balancing, standard work, waste reduction, mistake-proofing, One Best Way and all of the other good Lean stuff (we’ve a blog post on the “people side of improvement” athttp://manufacturingtimes.co.uk/2011/07/09/increase-factory-output-part-3-targets-feedback-recognition-and-reward/ ).

Generally, this will lead to massive improvements in output and productivity, without any increase in worker effort, and for most instances that is all that the organisation wants / needs.

Occasionally though – and in my experience this is fairly rare – you can reach a point where you have developed a fairly “Lean” operation but it’s obvious that operator performance levels are pretty low (I’ve seen 20-50% levels). If at that point you’re in an environment where labour costs are highly significant then that’s when I do actually bring in the highly trained Work Study Engineers and develop more accurate Standard Times. This is an expensive exercise so often the objective will be to create a database of “synthetic” / parametric (“formula-based”) times that the client team can then manage themselves.

For what it’s worth – I’ve always employed (Industrial) Engineers and trained them in Lean, rather than the other way round. But as an Engineer myself maybe I’m a little biased!

Hope this helps!

As always, your own comments and feedback are greatly appreciated…

 

The Secret to Sustaining Lean: Kick-starters and Care-takers

“I’m great at kicking off new projects and improvements but then I quickly lose interest and move on to the next thing”

That’s what one of my long-standing clients said to me yesterday. And you know what – I’m exactly the same. And you know what – if you’re an owner-manager, an entrepreneur or an experienced manufacturing professional, you’re probably exactly the same too.

We’re driven by the excitement of new and interesting challenges and we quickly become bored by repetition and monotony. That’s just how we are. And we’re unlikely to change.

And that’s the real reason that so many organisations fail to sustain Lean and Continuous Improvement. In fact, it’s the real reason that so many organisations fail to sustain major change programmes: “The people who can kick-start change are not the people who can keep it going”.

If you can face up to that fact then maybe you can do something about it.  

You need kick-starters and you need care-takers. And you need the kick-starters to hand over to the care-takers before they get bored.

Using Lean to Drive Sales Growth: Value-Driven Manufacturing

“This is Lean Heineken – it refreshes the parts of the business that other Lean doesn’t reach!”

You probably use Lean to cut costs and increase productivity, but are you using it to Drive Sales Growth?

A few weeks ago I ran a half-day Value-Add Workshop with the owners and directors of a medium-sized manufacturing group. I revisited them last week to follow up, and found that they’ve identified 203 new business opportunities, of which 46 are high potential.

OK, they’re more diversified than most companies of their size but just take a moment to reflect on that. Forty-six high potential opportunities to generate new business.

If you could generate just a fraction of those opportunities in your business, how much more sales could you generate?

It’s another wake-up call for all maufacturers out there: get on board with Value-Driven Manufacturing now, and discover the real benefits of Lean – before your competitors do!      www.ValueDrivenBusiness.co.uk