Aspire2bLean Blog

Lean Consulting for Corporates and SME's.


Electoral Jitters


As we get closer to a UK election there is a lot on peoples minds. The “snap” election has postponed slightly the “Brexit” discussions /negotiations. However, whatever the outcome of the election, because both the main parties have vowed to see “Brexit” through, business will have to be leaner and fitter than ever before. I have talked about speeding up the decision making processes before. Not only do businesses need to get their act together in their own facilities, they also need to look at the supply chain, and ensure they are protected without interruptions.

If their are opportunities to bring facilities back into the UK to both shorten the supply chain, and to mitigate against higher potential costs abroad (exchange rates), government funding may also available to support this process. Match funds are available through the LEPS (Local Enterprise Partnerships ) . Furthermore the Manufacturing Growth Programme has been initiated recently, similar to the old MAS, which provides the opportunity for qualifying companies to get significant rebates for associated tranches of consultancy, similar to the services we offer.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, governments also need to get smarter, such as removing unnecessary bureaucracy , that allows companies to make investments, purchase land, and also have the correct infrastructure in place to expand. A “Lean” mindset is critical for delivering on this. A leaner business does not just have lower operating costs and working capital, but it will be more agile in the market with a greater chance of surviving the turbulent times.

If you are interested in support, please take a look at our moving forward page and contact us.

Humans & Machines in Harmony


We know technology is advancing at a rate, but I have become aware of a great example. There was a recent article in The Economist around how a German online retailer OTTO, who are utilising AI effectively to improve the performance of their business and customer service. OTTO used technology developed by Blue Yonder and a deep learning algorithm originally developed at CERN for particle physics experiments, to analyse 3bn previous transactions with 200 variables. These included previous site searches. Armed with this capability they were able to purchase over 200,000 items, predicting what will be sold in  30 days with a 90% accuracy.

OTTO are clear that they see this as performance enhancement, not human job reduction. Interestingly Juergen Maier ,UK CEO of Siemens when asked  a similar  question on AI on last weeks Question Time, stated the same. Commerce and Industry needs to up-skill in order to programme the robots and develop systems. We need to invest in the right skills to have the right economic growth. I have written about AI in a previous post, it can be a very powerful tool, but in the race performance there will need to be checks and balances on efficacy. It raises an interesting question about how far AI can really go, but we do know that global companies that are managing their data effectively, are becoming the economic super elite. Companies that are close to point of use are certainly getting “leaner” in terms of workforce, but we must not forget the service / IT jobs that are created behind it. Furthermore, if there is better order accuracy and less physical waste we are moving to a more sustainable planet. OTTO have won awards for Corporate Social Responsibility.




Connecting “Waste”

I thought that this picture is an excellent illustration of how different operational wastes are “Linked” together. The four key physical wastes in any operating business are “Process”, “Energy”, “Effluent”, and “Transactions”. These are not mutually exclusive. If you have process waste, i.e. inefficiencies in making your product, you are likely to be using more energy than you absolutely need, and creating unnecessary effluent in the form of defects or recycles. Underpinning all this, will be a management process or transaction that is driving the others. This is is how they are all linked, and another justification for  more simplification. If we look at the four electrical plugs we can see how these could represent the four wastes, and the totaliser above indicating that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. We can use this as a means of showing our teams to challenge “Waste” as a means of reducing costs and driving a sustainable business. This “Lean Mindset” is the way we get staff to act as “Waste Hunters” rather than just Process Engineers and Statisticians.

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.