Recruit, Reward, Retain – A Huge Challenge For UK Organisations

Many of our UK clients are finding it hard to recruit, reward and retain good people. Inflation is surging, household budgets are stretched, and the labour market is tight. Unusually, there are too many jobs chasing too few people. Flexible working, home working, hybrid working, four-day weeks, joining bonuses, and other innovations are just some of the “headline” ways that employers are trying to cope.

As consultants, we’re seeing the effects at first hand. More and more clients want us to provide resources they simply don’t have. We help them tackle new projects, coaching and mentoring their in-house staff. We provide concentrated part-time resource (the Operations Director that isn’t yet a full-time role). And we help them to develop a whole range of reward, recognition and incentive programmes.

Growing businesses often find that their payment and bonus systems become opaque, demotivating and no longer fit for purpose. In urgent cases, we can often recommend simple, transparent systems to relieve some of the pressure points. This buys time to follow up with a more nuanced and effective approach, yet still keeping it simple and transparent. Most importantly, the new systems need to be seen as fair, and reward the right actions and behaviours. Simple grade structures, payment for skills schemes, group productivity programmes, and individual performance reviews are all part of the arsenal! If you find your own organisation struggling with the “three R’s”, simply drop an email to info [at] nicholsonconsultancy [dot] com, and find out how we can help…

Being Busy and Being Efficient – What you Need to Do When

We’re all aware of the “Busy Fools” syndrome – high output, high costs, high stress, and high risk. When you’re up to your neck in alligators it’s tempting to just keep ploughing on, Head down, bottom up, you know that you’re wasting time and money but you hope for the day when everything “quietens down” and “gets back to normal”.

If customer service deteriorates, this might be self-fulfilling. An IT industry insider once described to me the typical cycle of a high-growth IT business – rapid growth leads to poor service, which slows growth. Service improves, the company grows, service declines, ….. and so the cycle continues.

If we can avoid this decline in service levels then we’ll need to accept that things won’t just “quieten down” and that “busy” has become the new “normal”. So we need to know what to do about it.

And businesses who are “Quiet” and “Efficient” also need to have effective strategies.

That’s why some years ago we developed this simple “Busy” / “Lean” Grid, to help business leaders understand where their business is, and what they need to do about it. Let’s have a look at each of the four quadrants:

  1. “Busy and Inefficient” – the “Busy Fools” scenario. The busier we are, the less efficient we become. Stress levels increase, service declines and productivity tails off. One of our biggest challenges (as a management consultancy and training organisation) is in persuading prospective clients to stop chopping down trees and spend some time sharpening the axe! In this situation very few business leaders have the courage to make everyone “down tools” for a week to transform the way they operate, so we need to find another way. The solution is to spend a couple of hours training staff to identify the main sources of wasted time and effort, to generate improvement actions, and to implement a prioritised improvement action plan. Pretty soon, productivity increases, stress levels are reduced and morale improves.
  2. Quiet and Inefficient” – the “About to go out of business” scenario. At this point, massive action is needed to turn around the company’s fortunes. Sales, service and efficiency all need to increase – often with little or no investment available. Fresh thinking is required, often driven by new Leadership.
  3. “Quiet and Efficient” – the “All dressed up with nowhere to go” scenario. Being Lean is all about adding value and eliminating waste. Many organisations like eliminating waste but far too few focus on increasing the “value-add”. If you find yourself in this situation then you need to get close to your customers, understand exactly what they value and are prepared to pay for, and find more and more ways of providing this. As part of our work with clients in this quadrant we focus on VAST – Value-Added Sales Techniques. In the longer term, this needs to become part of effective Supply Chain management.
  4. “Busy and Lean” – the “making it look easy” scenario, where most of our clients are! When you’ve truly embedded Lean thinking and Continuous Improvement, the rewards are very clear. Even in a recession, sales increase, margins improve and people still find time to make this month better and more efficient than last month. These World Class organisations invest broadly across the business, they innovate their products and processes, they look to inspire their employees and stakeholders and they understand “why” they do what they do.

Whichever quadrant your business is in, if you’re keen to improve contact We can help you add value, reduce costs, and “work smarter not harder” – all at the same time!

Why your Manufacturing company needs an Inbound Marketing Strategy

Written by Gemma Rogers  |  27, July, 2017

There is no escaping the fact that there has been a seismic shift in the way customers buy, and the manufacturing industry is no exception. Research shows nearly 90 per cent of B2B buyers begin by doing their own research online.

Manufacturers can no longer rely on a direct or distributor sales force to generate growth. Traditional sales and marketing tactics, such as print advertising, trade shows and cold calling don’t work like they used to. It is also difficult to calculate the ROI of such methods for manufacturing companies with typically long sales cycles. The famous quote: “I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. My only problem is that I don’t know which half” rings very true. In an industry which relies heavily on measurability of processes and systems, this is something of a discord.

Some of the more modern marketing methods such as online paid advertising and pay-per-click promotion, while 100% measurable, only offer a short-term solution; the minute you stop pumping money into a PPC campaign the lead flow stops.

You need a different approach, and adopting an inbound marketing strategy could be the answer.

Why Inbound is the perfect fit for Manufacturers

Sales need to position themselves more as advisors; providing informative and educational information to assist buyers in their decision-making process. Information that goes beyond what can be found online; that adds value, that addresses buyers’ needs, aspirations and fears. Only then can you begin to gain a buyer’s trust.

An inbound approach to sales and marketing focuses on creating relevant, high-quality content that pulls people to your company, attracting traffic that you can convert to leads and close to sales over time. So, it’s perfect for the longer sales cycles associated with manufacturing. After all, long and complex sales cycles require strong relationships.

With an inbound strategy, you build a baseline to measure future progress more accurately – and specific, measurable and attainable goals. These goals inform the tactics you’ll need to achieve these outcomes.

Follow these seven steps to develop your Inbound Marketing Strategy

1. Establish a baseline audit, goals and timelines

A strong, successful inbound marketing strategy should be based on clear business goals. In your manufacturing company, you probably rely on production forecasts based on sales figures to determine how much product to produce? You understand the importance of measuring your processes and systems? Well, your marketing should not be the exception.

To start measuring your marketing, you need to conduct a comprehensive baseline audit. Questions to consider are: how much monthly traffic does your website currently generate? How many visitors convert to leads? How many leads convert to customers, for example.

2. Explore your competitive landscape

In this new digital era, it is relatively easy to conduct research on your competitors and measure how you stack up. How many followers on social media do they have, and how active are they? Can you learn anything from their content – what offers do they have? How does their website compare to yours, not only in look and feel but also in performance?

Two useful tools for conducting this research are Website Grader and SEMrush.

3. Brand messaging and positioning

This is an area that can help manufacturers stand out from the crowd. Many businesses still think a brand is about logos and colour choices. But it goes much deeper than that. You need to dig deep and develop a core message that your customers relate to, that demonstrates who you are and what you stand for, and that stands you apart from the competition.

4. Define your Buyer Persona and Buyer’s Journey

To be able to create content that resonates with your customers, it is essential you first understand who your customers are. Buyer personas are representations of your target customers based on real-world information and educated guesses. Their likes, dislikes, habits, behaviours, motivations and concerns, as well as their job function, where they spend time online, decision criteria, and more.

Even if you only manufacture one product, you are still likely to have more than one persona. For example, the marketing or purchasing department is likely to be researching on the C-suites behalf, and both groups may have an influence on the final decision.

If you have a complex and varied product offering, you may have several personas that represent the different verticals you sell into. If your sales process relies on distributors, you may consider developing personas for both the distributors and the end customers.

The best way to define personas is to include as many of your key personnel as possible in the process. Devise and circulate questionnaires and once the responses are collated, organise a brainstorming session with your team to define your final personas and then circulate the final versions to all of your staff.

5. Establish a foundation for content creation

Inbound marketing cannot work without content. With typically long sales cycles in manufacturing, developing well-considered content at each step throughout the sales funnel enables you to develop multiple touch points with prospects, keeping you front of mind as they conduct their research.

Is your content well balanced, covering topics for each stage of the buyer’s journey? And is there a variety of formats? Not everyone has the time or patience for eBooks. Have you considered other formats such as quick guides, blogs, video and infographics?

Develop a content plan that plugs any gaps in your content offering, ensuring that you are writing with a persona in mind at all times. Identifying existing resource and potential budget for outsourcing here is important as content creation can be a challenge. Do you need to recruit someone, or possibly hire the services of a content writer?

6. Exploring optimal website performance

This is another area where many manufacturers fall down. It is not enough to have a visually appealing website or an online catalogue of your products. Your website needs to be about your customers, not your services, features and benefits.

In order to rank highly on Google there are some fundamental basics your content must include, such as keywords, H1 titles, meta descriptions and title tags. Your website must also be responsive and optimised for mobile, have sound security, a fast page load time, to name just a few.

By considering a platform such as HubSpot, you can take your website to a whole new level by using smart content. The smart content functionality in the HubSpot platform is a powerful tool that enables intelligent personalisation by data segmentation, device, location, persona type and lifecycle stage.

7. Close the loop with inbound sales enablement

Inbound marketing will generate new leads for your business, but the way in which your sales people deal with these new inbound leads may need to adapt. An inbound lead is more informed and more qualified than an outbound lead.

The final step of the inbound marketing strategy is to conduct an audit of your current sales process and look for areas of improvement. This could include reviewing your sales literature, product brochures, pricing guides. An alignment between sales and marketing is needed to ensure your marketing provides relevant content and enables Sales to focus on the prospects in their pipeline that will close.

Platforms such as HubSpot enable Sales to use event-triggered technology to spot the signs that someone is ready to buy and spend time with the right prospects.

Marketing teams can provide email templates for salespeople to use, and tools such as sequencing can automate follow up emails, so salespeople no longer need to keep track of follow-up with prospects.

Most modern CRM systems can record email correspondence and calls and log activity reducing the need for manual data entry.

By following these steps, you will build a strong inbound marketing strategy for your manufacturing company. Implementing an inbound strategy will help you to reach more of the right people, at the right time, on their terms. It will create a clear structure for your sales and marketing efforts from which you can build a strong inbound marketing foundation for your organisati

Written by Gemma Rogers

Gemma brings over 15 years experience in sales and marketing across a wide range of industry sectors, from large multinationals to small start-up businesses. Her passions are inbound marketing and inbound sales, creating unique and memorable websites and campaigns to engage and delight potential clients and customers alike.

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 and individual services have been relocated to and

From BRICs to MINTs – the Second Round of Emerging Market Growth Begins

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries have seen significant growth over the last decade since the group of countries were defined as emerging markets in 2001.

Brazil is currently experiencing significant growth in its manufacturing industry thanks in part to high import taxation laws imposed by the government.  These laws were introduced to try and encourage companies to manufacture goods in Brazil rather than import them into the country.  The government policy of high import taxes has worked, especially as far as the automotive industry is concerned and the high tech industry is growing quickly as well.  In fact I would argue that next to China, Brazil is seeing more inward investment, from a manufacturing investment point of view, than many other countries at the moment.  Whether it is to take advantage of a growing economy or leverage the country as a stepping stone into the North American market, you cannot deny that Brazil is on a roll at the moment.

Russia has also seen significant growth over the past decade, thanks in part to a reduction in government imposed restrictions and red tape. Traditionally many companies have chosen markets other than Russia to invest in but those that have taken the plunge and invested in Russia have seen huge growth in their own market share.  The automotive industry is a prime example, many Russian car plants look as though they have just come out of the stone age due to tight government control and lack of investment, but St Petersburg Port has become an unlikely investment hub for the global automotive industry.  Renault-Nissan made a significant investment in the government controlled automotive manufacturer Avtovaz, which has resulted in the alliance controlling a significant market share. Like a Phoenix, the whole automotive industry in Russia is now rising from the ashes and it is just a matter of time before millions of consumers start to spend their money on new cars.

Moving across to India, the country is still seeing significant growth in its economy, thanks in part to a decade of setting up one of the world’s largest markets for outsourcing companies to invest in and it has become the offshoring destination of choice for many companies around the world. Consumer wealth in India is growing significantly and many consumers are making the switch from two and three wheeled vehicles to cars. India’s manufacturing industry has grown around its ability to produce high quality goods from a relatively low cost but highly skilled workforce. Most goods manufactured in India are for export but increased consumer wealth is likely to slow down the rate of export as manufactured goods are sold into the domestic market instead.  So some interesting dynamics at play here which has helped companies such as Tata invest in overseas luxury brands such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).  In fact in 2013 JLR sold more cars than any previous year thanks in part to the significant investment from Tata who has a strong belief in the future of the luxury brand.

Ten years on and China is still referred as an emerging market by some analysts but out of the four countries China has seen the largest growth in its economy when compared to the other three countries. As consumer wealth has grown in the country, so has the consumer desire for luxury goods such as cars.  In fact China is the largest car market in the world and it continues to grow. Strict government laws, namely establishing  joint manufacturing ventures, around how western companies can establish a presence in the country, has helped its own domestic manufacturing industry to flourish. However times are changing in China as the government tries desperately to spread the wealth across the country rather than have it all focused along the East Coast.  Large tax based incentives are now seeing more western investment in central and western China and this trend is likely to grow over the next ten years.  Today, companies are finding they have a choice, either to put up with the increasing wage rises in Eastern China or move their operations to lower cost regions of the country.  In some cases companies, even Chinese ones, are looking at other emerging markets around the world to invest in.

Increased wage costs, labour strikes and a desire to exploit other growing markets has led to the emergence of a new wave of emerging economies, thirteen years after the BRICs were defined. Hold on tight, the second wave of emerging markets is vying for inward investment, say hello to the MINT countries!  This new acronym refers to Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey and was coined by Jim O’Neill, the former chief economist and head of asset management at Goldman Sachs.  Interestingly Jim was also credited with introducing the BRIC term back in 2001, so you could say he has expertise in identifying key growth economies around the world.  So let me now explore why these countries are likely to take over from the BRICs as the economic growth engine of the world.

One of the common things that three of the MINT countries share is that they all have geographical positions that should be an advantage as patterns of world trade change.  For example, Mexico is next door to the US and also Latin America. Indonesia is in the heart of South East Asia but also has strong connections with China.  The BRIC countries have certainly helped boost the profits of many logistics providers around the World as they ship manufactured goods from China and India to all corners of the world.  Given that the MINT countries are geographically better positioned next to key economies then I would expect the dynamics of the logistics industry to change given the shorter distances that goods will have to be shipped to reach their point of distribution or sale. As for Turkey it can be regarded as being in both the West and East however Nigeria is the odd one out here as it is located in a part fo the World that has traditionally seen little development, at least by Western standards but it could be a key country once other countries stop fighting with each other and trade finally opens up across the Continent.  Given that Nigeria has been included in the MINT definition it could lead to the country being accepted as a member of the G20 as the other three countries are already members.

Economically three MINT countries, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria are commodity producers and only Turkey isn’t.  This contrasts with the BRICs where two, Brazil and Russia are commodity producers and the other two countries aren’t.  In terms of wealth, Mexico and Turkey are at about the same level $10,000 per head, this compares with $3,500 per head in Indonesia and $1,500 per head in Nigeria which is roughly the same as India.  They are slightly behind Russia at $14,000 per head and Brazil on $11,300 but still a bit ahead of China on $6,000.  As part of the research for this blog I found a great set of infographics which dives deeper into each of the MINT countries, click here for the article.

From an infrastructure point of view, these countries have some significant catching up to do, especially in Indonesia and Nigeria. Jim O’Neill recently completed a trip to each of the MINT countries on behalf of the BBC and he found out some amazing facts.  One of the most interesting was that about 170million people in Nigeria share the same amount of power that is used by about 1.5million people in the UK.  Almost every business has to generate its own power.  So this begs the question, how has Nigeria grown at a rate of 7% with literally zero power!  If Nigeria is able to sort out its utilities infrastructure then it is estimated that Nigeria could grow at 10-12% per year and become a key economic hub for the African continent.

Indonesia faces both political and infrastructure challenges and Turkey has its politics and a desire to do things the Western way which when combined with the Muslim faith in the country is certainly a challenge but they are determined to see their economies grow over the next decade. It is no surprise that Turkish Airlines is currently the fastest growing airline in the world.

From a manufacturing point of view, Mexico is grabbing most of the MINT related headlines in terms of levels of manufacturing inward investment.  Over the past two years it has established itself as a key automotive manufacturing hub, thanks in part to its relative proximity to the huge North American market and significantly reduced labour rates. Nissan, Daimler and VW have all announced multi-billion dollar investments in new production plants in the country.  Indonesia is seeing significant investment from both Western and Chinese companies looking to get out of the increasingly more expensive Chinese labour market.  Just as Mexico stands to become a leading automotive hub, then it is possible that Indonesia could become a leading high-tech investment hub over the next decade. High Tech goods have been manufactured in Indonesia for many years but I would expect exponential growth to now continue given that the country has now been identified as a significant growth economy.

From a B2B perspective it has been interesting to watch how technology has been adopted across the BRIC countries in recent years as it provides clues on B2B adoption levels across the MINT countries.  Out of all the BRIC countries and from a communications point of view, China has placed a lot of emphasis on improving its legacy telecommunications and network infrastructure.  It has also been keen to develop its own XML based message standards due to the increasing importance placed on internet based trade around the world.  However what has actually happened over time is that Western companies entering the Chinese market have brought in their Western ways of working and this includes their best practices for deploying B2B, ERP and other IT infrastructures that are key to operating a business today.  Also, China has huge global expansion plans and if they are to establish further operations in North America and Europe they will have to adopt Western B2B message and communications standards such as EDIFACT and AS2.  For this reason I believe that EDI messaging is here to stay and in fact the growing success of the emerging markets and their global expansion plans could lead to a growth in EDI traffic around the world.  Who thought that would happen back in 2000 when XML was touted as the replacement for EDI messaging!

Since the BRICs were identified as growth economies in 2001, technology has moved on very quickly and I think we will see the MINT countries move straight to new telecommunications infrastructures such as mobile networks.  After all reliable, fixed line internet connectivity is not widely available in many of the MINT countries.  Given that it is far quicker to install a mobile network when compared to a fixed line telecommunications infrastructure then I would expect mobile commerce or M-Commerce to grow faster in the MINT countries than the BRIC countries over the next few years. Here is a great SlideShare presentation that I found highlighting how a local telco provider, Vodacom, plans to support the mobile communications market in Nigeria, click here for more information. China will probably be implementing more mobile networks across the Western parts of its country but collectively I think mobile network adoption will be faster across the MINTs.

If companies are able to get access to reliable mobile and utilities infrastructures then we will see levels of B2B adoption increase quickly as the MINTs look to utilise more cloud based B2B integration services.  Given the relatively low IT skills that exist in some MINT countries, a cloud based approach to rolling out B2B infrastructures will help these countries grow their economies far more quickly than the BRICs were able to achieve in their early days on the world stage.

International expansion is an area that I have covered in numerous blog posts over the past few years, but this particular one encapsulates most of the areas that companies have to be aware of when entering a new market for the first time.  I have discussed Mexico extensively in an earlier blog post and future blog posts I will cover the other three MINT countries in more detail. So in summary, an interesting time for Western companies, should they invest in BRICs or MINTs ? As I have a sweet tooth I think I know where my money would go!

Manufacturers must invest now to earn their place in “Industry 4.0”

As we enter 2014, the manufacturing sector looks set for the first strong year-end since the recession.

The sector reached a two year high for growth in August, and following the news from data firm Markit and the CIPS that manufacturing was a major boost to the UK’s economy in October, the outlook for 2014 is very optimistic. However, that optimism should be tempered with caution.

Competing with the Far East on cost and volume remains impossible, so for last quarter’s new shoots of growth to turn into something truly sustainable, it is vital for UK manufacturers to invest in new technology and embrace new ways of working. Agile, flexible business processes and a focus on customisable, bespoke manufacturing have emerged as important elements of a new approach that has been dubbed Industry 4.0.

The phrase was first coined two years ago at the Hanover Fair, the world’s biggest industrial fair, and defines this new phase in manufacturing as the fourth major industrial revolution, following steam, electricity and the more recent entry into the digital age. While this might seem like a grand comparison, it is certainly justified.  Successfully embracing Industry 4.0 will enable the UK to regain its spot as a major manufacturing power.

However, achieving this new model is not without its challenges, starting with the level of investment required by companies. This is about much more than simply buying and installing the latest equipment, instead requiring a deep investment into integrating new business processes that affect the entire organisation.

The good news here is that we have seen significant proof of manufacturers rising to the challenge. Earlier this year for example we saw £1bn invested into technology and skills for the UK automotive industry, co-funded by the government and manufacturing companies. Likewise, the manufacturers’ association EEF and accountancy firm BDO LLP recently revealed a surge in investment from UK companies, with 24 per cent stating an intention to increase their investment levels – up from just seven per cent from the same poll in May. The result was the highest surge in investment since 2007 and the second highest since the survey began in the 1990s.

A more difficult challenge to address is ensuring that companies have the skilled workers and leadership capable of taking on these new ways of working. As part of a recent round of talks with spokespeople from around the industry, Epicor asked whether the increasing level of automation and ‘intelligence’ in production and business processes in manufacturing would result in IT skills becoming more important.

The response was an unanimous yes, but when we asked if this meant traditional technical skills would become less important, we received a firm no, with many respondents wary of becoming over-reliant on automation and losing the skills to understand and fix problems.

The manufacturing sector has an unfortunate reputation for being slow to embrace change and eager to cling on to traditional methods. If the industry is to remain relevant on the global stage against increasingly sophisticated operations in the Far East, UK manufacturers must prepare themselves for the new strategies required to earn the Industry 4.0 standard.

Steve Winder, Vice President, UK & Eire, Epicor

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!

Value-Driven Manufacturing in Action at James Heal

Works Management magazine hosted a superb best-practice factory visit last week to our award-winning client James Heal, based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK: The visit presented an excellent opportunity for delegates to see first-hand exactly how Value-Driven Manufacturing can transform a company, despite the economic down-turn.

James Heal is a highly successful UK precision testing instruments manufacturer delivering outstanding growth, employment and export. Sales have increased by over 50% in the last two years with a significant increase in revenues from new product development and innovation, whilst product costs have been reduced by up to 25%. This success is a direct result of the lean manufacturing programme, innovative product design and a “can-do” culture. 

Visitors took part in an interactive workshop – Value-Driven Manufacturing – facilitated by Manufacturing Consultant Andrew Nicholson, where they learned how to apply the principles of Value-Driven Manufacturing “back at the ranch”.

Watch this space for the forthcoming Visit Report, Case Study and Learning Points!

Better still, sign up below to this blog and never miss any future posts!

For more information about Value-Driven Manufacturing, have a look at the blog posts here or visit the website – Value-Driven Manufacturing – where you can download a free guide to Value-Driven Business.

Beyond Lean Manufacturing: Value-Driven Business

For many manufacturers – particularly those well advanced on their Lean Manufacturing journey – the burning question now is: “So what do we do next?”

Manufacturers have been applying “Lean” techniques across their production operations for many years now. Most of them have reduced their costs, most of them have increased their productivity, many of them have engaged their employees and some of them have sustained a culture of Continuous Improvement (CI). So far, so good. But what do you do next?

You’ve streamlined your manufacturing operations, you’ve created a good CI system, most employees are actively engaged, Lean has become part of the day job, and you’re confident that improvement activities will be sustained.

You know that Lean Thinking works, you know that it’s a journey not a destination, and you’re wise enough to steer clear of the latest “management initiative” (fad).

So what do you do next?

To answer that question, let me offer you three “next steps” to consider:

  1. Apply Lean Thinking across all areas of the organisation, not just in Production or Operations. Train all employees (and I do mean all!) to understand the basic concept of “Lean” and how to apply it in their areas of the business. They’ll need a different approach – and some different tools and techniques – from “Lean Manufacturing” but the tools are there if you know where to find them. And the opportunities for improvement are usually much greater than in Production or Operations. Have a good look – you’ll be amazed at what you find! Some of our “World Class” clients have found rework levels of more than 90% in their “back office” and support functions – it’s not uncommon.
  2. Work on the entire Value Stream / Demand Chain. Extend beyond Operations to cover all stages of the order fulfilment process (from “Quote to Cash”). Once you’ve done that inside your own business, extend outwards to include your suppliers, customers, agents, distributors, and end-users. If you can create your own unique Value Chain (even if none of the components are unique) then you can create a very valuable business. Some of our clients have created a unique competitive advantage for themselves by doing exactly that.
  3. Focus on the “Value-Add” side of Lean – the part that most people ignore! Look for opportunities to add more value for your customers. See where you can “in-source” or “back-shore” your operations, and find out if you can do some of the things that your suppliers and customers currently do. Some of our clients have increased their turnover by more than 50% in less than a year by doing exactly that.

The three steps that I’ve just outlined are part of a much broader approach to business improvement, called Value-Driven Business. When it’s applied to manufacturing businesses – which is mainly what this blog is about – it’s called Value-Driven Manufacturing. You can find other blog posts about Value-Driven Manufacturing here on the Manufacturing Times blog (helpfully categorised under “Value-Driven Manufacturing”!), and you can find out more about Value-Driven Business at www.ValueDrivenBusiness. There’s enough there to take you well beyond Lean Manufacturing!