Tag Archives: lean operations

Getting the Order out

In the last year UK Manufacturing grew productivity by 5.7% (source EEF),this means that many manufacturing companies will be

  1. better at getting products and orders out on time – that end of day or Friday afternoon last minute chasing of jobs is reduced,
  2. increasing the margins and profitability of their business,
  3. improving the quality of what they send out,
  4. starting to sleep better at night knowing that they can pay bills when they come due. 

So just a couple of thoughts?

  • Have your team (managers and staff) delivered similar improvements? more products and orders out on time, increased profits, better quality,  and confidence that the business current account can pay the bills!
  • Are you getting better returns, every year, from the same levels of investment in people, machinery, raw materials?

If not, how could that be? remember 5.7% is an average, so some companies will have gained much more than this and the cash that goes along with it*

If you haven’t had such gains,

  • Do you and your teams have the time to look for productivity improvements or does the day to day get in the way?
  • Do you think your teams know where to look for productivity improvements?
  • Are they too close to the work to give you an objective assessment of what could be improved?
  • Would you like to get to the answers (& the cash, the improved performance it brings) quickly?

If you’re a manufacturing business owner or a manager who’d like to find out whether you could be getting better returns for your investment and improve your productivity there is a FREE scheme that can help you find out.

A FREE scheme? well it’s the Manufacturing Advisory Service which is one of the few business schemes which has survived the Government cuts.

What do you get for FREE then? you get to meet with an experienced manufacturing professional, normally at your own premises, so no travel involved, who will

  • listen to what you want to achieve, what you need to achieve to keep customers onside
  • understand the challenges you face (cash flow, quality, skills, etc)
  • appreciate how the experience, expertise and skills you already have can be built upon

from that they will be able to decide whether they can help and IF they can they will provide the names of accredited companies, with the relevant skills in Lean Manufacturing, ISO 9001, ERP, Product Design etc who can help you to improve your productivity.

Nearly forgot to mention the £6,000 FREE investment for productivity work. If you decide to invest in productivity projects, with an accredited supplier, then you could get up to £6,000 towards the costs.

Lots of paperwork? hoops to jump through? not normally, your advisors can help you with the small amount of paperwork to be filled in.

Do you qualify? Do you employ less than 250 employees? have a turnover less than 50M euros? see most companies will qualify.

ResQ currently complete work for MAS in Lean Manufacturing across Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Humberside, Yorkshire ( East, West, North and South ).

If you’re in these areas and you’d like to know more about MAS then give us a call (01904 277 007 or 0115 711 7007) and we can see if we can help.

Outside of the areas above then go to the MAS website and give them a call.

Two companies that achieved much more than 5.7% are detailed below.

Case Study 1 – Lean Manufacturing FMCG, Warehousing & Distribution Company gains 14% Productivity increase.

Case Study 2 – Lean Manufacturing Printing Company gains 40% more capacity.

* the two companies in the case studies above gained 14% & 40% improvement by using Lean Manufacturing and Thinking techniques, we completed the work for them via the MAS scheme. 

This time next year you could be confident that customer orders are being

  • delivered on time,
  • delivering increasing profits,
  • safe in the knowledge that your business can pay its own way!

Oh and you may find you’ll be making 5%,10%,15% even 40% more this time next year!


What are the traits of a Lean Manager?

We’ve moved What are the traits of a Lean Manager to our new Lean Management website.

About the Author;

Mark Greenhouse has been working on the application of Lean management in Legal and design led Manufacturing companies for the past 5 years. His own Lean journey started back in 1988 when he started study of Production Engineering. He’s applied lean in many organisation types, finance, call centres, banking, FMCG etc. Mark also provides lectures on operational management at Leeds University Business School.


Barista to Fashionista

It’s been a busy few weeks but these two stories came to me that demonstrate how the improvement techniques that Lean Thinking includes may be holding up in these difficult times.

They both relate to the application of Lean and business & customer led improvement in the retail trade – Lean Retail if you like.

  1. Starbucks To Test “Lean” Operations……   – apparently Starbucks are testing lean in some of their stores in the US. So next time you’re in the queue remember someone is trying to work out how they can improve the speed of service, the quality of the product and utilise green practices. What appear to be Starbucks staff seem to have a lot to say about this on the original blog posting, some them even sharing the ideas that have been tested so far; so I’ve posted an excerpt and a link to the comments at the bottom of this post. 
  2. As the lastest retail sales figures for February are released in the UK, a somewhat depressing picture is beginning to emerge – not really surprising when you consider that a lot of the major layoffs/shorter working time (Woolworth’s, Honda, Toyota, M&S, Wedgewood, the banks etc) didn’t start to kick in till January. 

The one ray of hope again appears to be Zara, especially when compared with similar companies in its’ sector, clothing. Two competitors, Next and H&M both posted reduced profits whilst Zara’s remained constant.

The excerpt from the BBC website stated;

“On Thursday, home improvements retailer Kingfisher said retail profit in the UK declined by £24m to £129m as it closed its subsidiary Trade Depot

Next said revenue and profits declined and that it expected sales to be negative for 2009 [revenue fell by 1.7% and profit by 13.9%]

Swedish retailer H&M, which has stores on many UK High Streets, reported a 12.6% fall in quarterly profit, blaming currency swings and lower sales

On Wednesday, the owner of the Zara fashion chain said its profits barely changed during 2008.   [Zara did actually record a 10% rise in sales as well, so they are attracting customers to spend more! – Lean Marketing ]”

You can read the latest performance press release as to why Zara is also upbeat about the rest of 2009.

So how come Zara are so holding up well? does it have anything to do with Zara being the Lean Fashion Leader?

As for the use of lean in Starbucks, well the quote below is from the comments on the blog, by a contributor named “JAVA JANE”  and gives and idea at to the journey they are starting on;

I work at a very large store in the NW – we started implementing Lean procedures last spring. The way it has worked for us:

We ran several “time tests” on daily processes, counting and timing each and EVERY step (making a frappuccino, ringing up and pouring drip coffee, making & storing prep, getting ice, whether the 4th register was necessary, sampling…) in order to weed out unnecessary steps. Also, we tried to rearrange certain stations to make them easier to use, for example, our cold beverage station was home to a couple of items that made more sense to keep at the bean counter or espresso bar as they were used there more often. Another example – we realized every time someone ordered hot tea, we were reaching around the brewing shuttles for the tea after grabbing the cup and then returning to the cup station to fill withhotwater…we just made room for the tea where the cups are. Basically – we stopped saying “It’s always been done that way” and started asking “Can that be done a better way? How?” We timed different methods of deployment, computed averages, came up with “lean” standards, and it’s been a great success! We definitely had some experiments that didn’t work, which is fine! You just have to be willing to change and go through a period of weirdness until it gets figured out. “

There are some additional posts from other contributors including a great one from ORSM, which details the first practices that have been trialled.

So whilst we can’t claim that Lean is the answer to all corporate ills, we do know that one Global retailer; who uses Lean and who is many years into the implementation has been able to maintain profits through this difficult period and another Global retailer has seen enough to give it a go! 

Could it help you?



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Is President Obama poised to go lean?

I was intrigued as to what President Obama would make his priorities in his first address to the US population so watched his first weekly video address on the BBC website.

Towards the end, just on 4 mins, he mentions that he is looking to root out waste & inefficiency in government.

So thinking that maybe Obama has come across lean I googled “Obama Lean” and found two key stories;

  • He has appointed a Chief Performance Officer to the White House staff, Nancy Killefer an appointee from McKinsey and the story is covered here and covers what her role entails.
  • Given his appointment to the post of the President on Tuesday he found time in the week before to visit a company, Cardinal Fasteners who have used lean techniques since 1998 and used it to turn to new technologies in the last two years.

Visit the Cardinal Fasteners website to see how they promote lean thinking.   

So what is the evidence as to whether Obama might be a fan of Lean?

  • He’s appointed a Chief Performance Officer,
  • He talks of reducing waste and inefficency, not just inefficiency or becoming more productive,
  • He visited and championed a company who have used lean techniques, in the week he took on the most powerful office.

Okay it might not seem much and he hasn’t actually used the word lean or lean thinking but we’ll keep an eye and ear open for any other stories we see about this, it may help promote lean over here too.

Visit www.resqmr.co.uk for details of how lean can be applied across many functions in organisations including; FREE papers and guides on LEAN in marketing, sales, accounting, HR etc.

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Could ZARA be the new LEAN fashion leader?

Well it’s been around for nearly 30 years in various formats in the West, so to call it new is stretching it a bit. However Spanish based global clothing retailer Zara has QUADRUPLED turnover and profit on the back of it since 2000 and this example demonstrates how lean can lead to organisations being able to charge more for their output.  

Beware though this strategy has taken 30 years in the year making!

Credit Crunch Answered by LEAN?

Does Lean Thinking have the answers to the pressures of the global credit crunch? maybe one company points to the answer!

TESCO the UK supermarket retailer announces rising profits, against the credit crunch backdrop. The TESCO group made profit before tax of £1.43bn in the 26 weeks to 23 August, an 11.3% increase on the same period last year. (source BBC)

Tesco has been using lean for many years, even before they introduced their Clubcard, so could the application of lean be critical to this success? here’s what their Chief Exec had to say about it?

Lean Thinking has been an enormous influence on my business thinking. It shows you how you can fundamentally transform your business” – Sir Terry Leahy, Chairman and Chief Executive, Tesco PLC.

(quote from Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation. James P. Womack & Daniel T. Jones)

did you think lean was only meant for manufacturers? maybe stretching to those with operational centres (call centres, back office processing centres etc) but not retailers?

So could lean help you and benefit your business? improved quality, reduced costs, more responsive organisations, engaged employees etc – share your view with us.

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How much waste is there in GAS and ELECTRICITY supply?

If my experience is anything to go by, plenty!!!

A long time ago, okay January this year, I decided to switch tariff with my existing supplier. So they didn’t need any extra details, they weren’t acquiring a new customer or anything. In fact they did pay me £30 to change and cut my bill, does that customer retention strategy make sense to you? surely offering cheaper bills would have sufficed?

I was slightly concerned when it took 10 days to set my account on-line, considering I had entered all details on-line and I was an existing customer. They wrote to me, paper AND e-mail, my new accounts (gas and electricity) were now ready on-line, only they weren’t; they hadn’t copied the information across, that took o further 24 hours to sort out, they wrote, it was all checked and working.

Only it wasn’t, there’s a pattern here, the electricity account couldn’t be viewed as it wasn’t linked to my details. So another three days delay to get my accounts working – 14 days in total for a customer they already had.

Then 4 weeks later they sent me an e-mail about their latest energy offers!! addressed to my e-mail account but with the contact details of the previous homeowner, she left in 2004!!

Then I get a letter about their latest price increases, the ones they advertised in Jan that made me move my tariff, it’s taken them over 6 weeks to get a letter out to their own customers – why didn’t they use e-mail? (Cheaper and faster). Anyone else get the idea I’m a bit worried as to how incompetent this company can be, so I write to the chief exec.

He thanks me for my contact and that they have passed on my thoughts and have ensured that my e-mail details are now correct.

Guess what? they weren’t! Two weeks ago I get an e-mail to my e-mail address but with the previous occupant again named in the text. Then 3 days later as part of their drive to reduce energy costs they send 4 “free” energy saving bulbs to my house. “Free” – I paid for them in my bill didn’t I? what would their shareholders say? giving things away for free!

I go online to complain only to find that 8 weeks previously they have closed my gas account with one credit figure in it (what they owe me!) and replaced it with a new account with a lower amount in the credit figure.

Did they write and tell me about this? Have I complained? I wrote to the chief exec again, he has his own team dealing with complaints, tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it?

+ positives they lower my bills and pay me £30

– negatives they fail to set up accounts correctly, link my details to the previous occupant, send me “free” lightbulbs, close one account and open another one, without telling me!. Do I think they could improve their processes and customer management?

Oh and all the while this has gone on my monthly bill has risen just shy of 50% – how much of that is an incompetency based price rise rather than a market based one, I’m not sure, I hate to think about how much waste exists in that particular organisation.

While the global energy prices are “rising” who knows and who cares – they don’t appear to!!