Aspire2bLean Blog

Lean Consulting for Corporates and SME's.




Some interesting reflections on the use of “Diesel” in recent debates. Considerable negative press around particulates and NOx. There is no doubt that fumes and particulates can harm the lungs, and that we still do not fully understand the impacts of these. However, diesel engines are very efficient and power the worlds transportation, whether it be marine engines, train traction units or HGV. The unit fuel consumption per item delivered is considerably lower than that of petrol, even for road transportation. Because diesel involves less refining, the production costs vs. petrol are also lower, and thus the impact on the carbon footprint. The point here is to look at diesel from a “Lean” perspective, i.e the value add quotient.

I am therefore glad to see that the debate is moving away from diesel vs. petrol, to a different question.  Should we be using diesel for road cars ? There have been recent improvements with AdBlue and filtration, but these are really “bolt-ons”, not fundamental improvements. With engine development for both diesel and petrol cars, we are getting closer to the ultimate theoretical thermodynamic efficiency. The recent development of the combustion chamber for the Mercedes F1 car is a step forward. We should not lose the impetus for sustainable fuels, even if they may be less thermodynamically  efficient.  It is also good to see that in the Netherlands they are powering their electric trains with wind turbines . Gas turbines are being used for ships, and huge LNG tankers are using their cargo to fuel the tankers. The fuel bleed keeps the cargo at temperatures to ensure it stays as a liquid.  This is another great example of “Lean” thinking.  Until we have alternative fuels cracked, we will have to  accept diesel is an efficient fuel for mass transportation of goods, and people.

Starting the New Year in the correct Frame of Mind



We all do the “Talk” of de-cluttering at this time of year, but it is time to do the “Walk”. It is easy to just throw a few things out, but that does not set us up for success. We need to to go beyond that, and to use Lean Terminology, follow a 5S approach, where we don’t just “Sort” the stuff we don’t need, we follow-up by “Setting In Order” , “Shining”, “Standardising” & “Sustaining”. Easily said but not so easily done. Most people people or organisations stumble at the “Shine” part because they believe the work is done, and they have not sustained the earlier stages. However with the Aspire approach, we ask people to standardise and sustain, each of the first 3 stages before moving on, which leads to a long term effective outcome. This is a state of mind as well as an approach. This is not about housekeeping but discipline and continuous improvement


Lean & Climate Change

I recently attended a webinar run by the I.Chem.E. on and the following climate change initiatives post COP22. It finally looks like the engineering institutions are coming together as one, and working with politicians, technologists. This is a critical step in the process as engineers make it happen. There was a lot of debate about carbon credits, and  fossil fuel subsidies. Although there is a lot of drive from environmentalists and believers in the political arena, history has shown that significant change ultimately happens when businesses understand the need and buy into it. As one participant mentioned this happened with the behavioural safety culture 30 years ago. Businesses will buy into it, when they see a need for it to sustain their operations. This is where engineers can really get traction, as they are the ones that make things happen at the sharp end. Furthermore, engineers, technologists and operations managers who have a “Lean” mindset will really make it happen. Lean thinking is fundamental to business improvement and long term sustainability. By eliminating “Process” and “Transactional” waste, this saving money alternative forms of low carbon energy can be utilised. The more that low carbon energy is used, the greater the economies of scale, and the greater the long term returns.

Speeding up the Decision Making Process

It does look like Brexit will come at some time this year. Whatever your previous views on the rights / wrongs or outcome of the referendum. We cannot afford to delay the decision making processes that are coming towards us. These are not just the political decisions that are critical to the “exit” negotiation processes, but the practical decisions beyond that. Assuming that the “exit” has an impact on trade, inflation and economic factors there is a strong chance that some lost manufacturing comes back to the UK, which will be good for jobs, the economy and infrastructure. To accommodate this influx, we need to build road, rail, logistics infrastructure quickly. This means we need to start thinking about setting aside monies now, looking at skills, resourcing and construction service capacity. We need to remove some of the unnecessary “Red Tape” to enable this. As a Lean Practitioner the key word is unnecessary, as we should not circumvent some critical and valid planning processes. We should be looking at enterprise zones, tax rebates where appropriate and strategic plans. The investment will reap a return in the medium to long term because as we know that every job created in manufacturing and related, creates a further 6 jobs in the supporting sectors and demographic . This is the opportunity to up-skill, and invest in new technology and processes. Money spent on infrastructure is only wasted if the scope is wrong or it is over/under designed.  This is the time for “Right Sizing”. Value Stream Mapping is a powerful tool for leaning out manufacturing processes, but it can, and should also be used for the strategic thinking process.

Leaning The Design Process

An interesting article in The Chemical Engineer magazine by Paul Bonner and Theodore Faiella about integrating the approach for Process Design and Plant Aotomation. With large scale chemical plant design , construction commissioning and start-up there are a number of design iterations. Typically the client (or manufacturer) comes up with the design intent from their own library or from a process licensor. A critical part of the design is the process control strategy.

This has to be correctly translated to the EPC contractor, and in turn the EPC has to generate a detailed process control specification for the control tenderers. There is also detail or intent lost in translation. This is a classical transactional waste that can be improved. Furthermore, operator control screens have to be designed, which is not just a simple translation / visualisation of the control strategy  interlock strategy and instrumentation. Considerable money (£ mil.) can be lost with this transactional waste. Fortunately, the Licensors have developed their standard control strategies, and have worked with DCS suppliers, to come up with standard systems, modules and visual layouts, which is effectively “plug and play” with considerably less modification and “waste” . A great example of collaboration and vertical integration limiting waste and unnecessary cost.  For the full article read TCE issue 906/7.

Environmental Lean

Staying Ahead

Lean Manufacturing

How do we stay ahead in this constantly changing world or the aptly named VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) environment? A lot is said about agility and this is certainly one of the key determinants for staying ahead. How do we stay agile? Agility has two key drivers.

First is the ability to detect a need to change direction and secondly, the capability to move quickly in the revised direction. The first comes with strong awareness of the position and good peripheral vision, but the second comes from being “Lean” and not carrying any unnecessary baggage. The interesting thing is, that not carrying the excess weight or baggage, will improve the available energy and in turn the awareness to be agile. This is an example of where being “Lean” can be synergistic, working both directly and indirectly.

Lean Thinking

I thought I would kick off my first Aspire2BLean blog with a reflection on Lean Thinking. I was leafing through an old in-flight magazine, and I came across a quote from Ken Segall, who was behind Apple’s creative ad work. He said “Simplicity was the lens through which Steve Jobs observed everything.”

Keeping it simple was his mantra, and the products that were born from this, demonstrated it uniquely. I am sure he never considered that he was at the forefront of “Lean Thinking”, but keeping it simple is what we do as lean practitioners, or at least ditching unnecessary complexity. These will be the watch words that will be fundamental in this business and where we will challenge any business or operation to reduce non required work or process waste.


There is a lot of talk about win-win, but what does this really mean, and how to we get to this holy grail in our work or negotiations. It is critical that we get the results we desire to move forward.  I have given this thought, and tried to put this in my own context such that I can perform appropriately. People talk of conflict , confrontation, alignment, agreement, resolution.

The world is a complex place, and without stress or constrictive pressure the world and individuals will stagnate. When I face difficulties, I decide to avoid conflict with individuals or partners, but confront issues. I have made a clear distinction between conflict and confrontation. In the iPEC coach community we call this level 5 energy where we are all searching for win-win.

It is a good place to be, because when we achieve it increases our energy levels, which in turn improves the probability of repeating our win-win environment. If you are interested in learning more about Energy Leadership click on the iPEC logo on the Accendit site.