Aspire2bLean Blog

Lean Consulting for Corporates and SME's.

-- MOVE AWAY FROM THE GREY --

Russia

I have seen some great examples of “Lean” thinking on my recent consultancy trips in Russia. A great one for “Takt Time” , and meeting customer demand for airline passengers. Not only is the immigration both rigorous and efficient at Domodedovo Airport, but they have set a standard of 40 minutes from the time when the plane hits the tarmac, to the time you clear the airport with your luggage. On each of the last 4 occasions when I have been there, my luggage was on the carousel before I got to it, and the shuttles were quick. It would be interesting to do a VSM (Value Stream Map) based around saved business time. I would imagine it would run into Bil. RUB. It would be great to see the same approach at Heathrow.

This is another example of how other countries / cultures are getting the message and moving forward, not just about saving money, but also delighting customers. As always, this driven by a business need.

Lean is Alive & Kicking

Some commentators have said that “Lean” has had it’s day, with the majority of western manufacturers, and those in the developing world, having run lean and similar programmes. These programmes show up under other guises such as “Production Systems” and “Operational Excellence”. However the fundamentals of these are founded in Lean . Lean has always been about continuous improvement and development.

“Lean2” is firmly here,  because some programmes are failing and have failed. This has happened for numerous reasons, such as lack of drive, passion, energy, significant business restructuring or just turnover of key leaders. Global instability is creating a renewed business need, and the smart companies are engaging in programmes. We are seeing an upturn in demand. In these cases it is not just about the tools or specific approaches, but the “Lean Mindset”. It was ever thus, but some companies never really grasped this. The mindset is about hunting waste and transforming culture in a way that enables this to happen. This is where EI plays a significant part in the improvement, and those who can coach as well as consult have a significant advantage. We are seeing more and more referrals for these specific skills. In our view this will increase exponentially, as global and regional uncertainty increases. It is critical to get inside the heads of those who can make a difference at the execution level, and also support those leaders and “influencers” who have a passion for change.

Fundamentally it is simple. It is about improved processes, behavioural shifts and a passion for change. Those organisations who grasp this will win.

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.