Category Archives: Lauras International

A 3 step process to save time

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Senior Consultant at Lauras International.

StopWatchRecently, whilst running an improvement workshop, there was a delegate who turned up late every day. After a myriad of excuses and some not so light insults from his colleagues, I attempted to get to the bottom of why he was failing to turn up on time. He stated that he doesn’t have enough time to do everything he needs to do in the morning, leaves the house late and thus misses his bus.

I first suggested that he set his alarm earlier in a morning. That did not go down well at all. He craves his sleep and wanted to ensure he was fully rested for his days carrying out improvement activities in the workshop. Then I thought to myself, why not get him try to utilise one of our improvement tools in his morning routine?

Using Cycle Time Reduction (CTR) he would be able to get up at the usual time, complete his morning routine in full, leave the house on time and arrive at work promptly for the start of the workshop. Everyone is a winner!

Firstly, I got him to make a list of all the tasks he completed in a morning, how long each one took, and when they started and ended relative to the time he wakes up.

We then mapped these out visually on a Gannt chart.

I asked him to look for any critical paths i.e. any activity that needs to be completed in sequential order. Once he had identified these, we could look to see if there were any activities that could be completed whilst he was busy with other parts of his routine.

Unbelievably, we found he took his shower, prepared his lunch and then put the coffee machine on to boil. So we looked at how we could reduce the time spent on this sequence and identified an easy 8 minutes he could get back…

By putting the coffee machine to automatically boil ready for the time he finishes his shower, he could shave a vital 3 minutes from his morning routine. Fixing his lunch and packing his bag the night before would save another 5 minutes.

Making these small alterations (and a few others) to his process, our delegate was able to arrive early every day for the rest of the Workshops.

CTR can be used on any manufacturing process (continuous or non-continuous) to reduce the amount of time taken for that process to be completed. For example, it might be used to reduce the time taken for a case packer to complete its cycle or reduce the time taken for a plant to changeover between products. Applying CTR on your production line can provide significant throughput improvements.

It is a simple 3 step process

  1. Define the current cycle
  2. Map the current cycle
  3. Optimise the current cycle

For more on this tool and how to apply it, check out our Improvement Toolkit >

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Leveraging diverse talents and individual strengths

Written by Steve Roger, Global Managing Director of Lauras International

iStock_000010821364_LargeErica recently shared a great blog on how manufacturing professionals can find ‘hidden zones‘ by exploring their strengths and weaknesses. This week, I’d like to examine this subject in some further detail…

A key requirement to enabling the delivery of manufacturing improvement is to measure where we are. The common statement made is “what you don’t measure, you can’t improve”.

This is often a key aspect in audits or using KPIs to measure and drive performance.

Following these audits, the focus is often on improving the “weak” areas: a valid and essential approach if the “weak” area is not at the certain, required level. However, to continue to focus on weak areas to match performance in other stronger areas may in fact be a mistake.

In studies (Corp Leadership Council) of 20,000 people across multiple organisations, the results revealed that when people focused on their strengths, performance increased by 36% – whereas when they focused on a weakness, performance dropped by 27% (CLC 2002).

All manufacturing organisations have individuals with diverse talents and strengths. Leveraging and building on the strengths of the individuals within a team actually minimises the impact of the “weaknesses” in other members, and typically fosters both greater engagement and greater commitment.

Often the barrier to Continuous Improvement is individuals resisting changing their behaviours. Encouraging individuals to focus on what they do well, and can do more of, results in positive outcomes and increased motivation -which often makes individuals more receptive to adopting new behaviours.

Ultimately, being open about and understanding the strengths of different team members helps a team to better leverage their collective strengths. If you’d like help with identifying, measuring, and managing your  team’s strengths – get in touch and start improving your manufacturing performance today.

The Carrot Conflict


Written by Jason Gledhill, Head of Reliable Maintenance at Lauras International.

043_3500x2011_all-free-download.com_3177516Whilst preparing Sunday lunch an incident happened that highlighted the fact that clarity of instruction is key to getting a job done right first time.

The leg of lamb was in the oven slowly roasting. Beautiful roast potatoes were turning crisp on the outside whilst remaining soft and fluffy on the inside. The kitchen was filled with the intoxicating aroma of good home cooking, and children were hanging around in anticipation of purloining a roast potato whilst my back was turned.

I had just started to prepare the carrots when I realised that we had run out of mint sauce. As you are all undoubtedly aware, to eat roast lamb without mint sauce is a sin that can never be forgiven. I therefore had to go to the local shop to purchase a jar, but also needed to get the carrots peeled and chopped.

My son, Thomas, the eldest of the tribe, just happened to wander into the kitchen at that moment, probably trying to steal a roast potato, and I saw an opportunity. I could give him the chance to learn some valuable life skills by seconding him into the role of chief carrot prep chef, whilst I went to get the mint sauce.

Thomas was promptly given the task of peeling and chopping half the carrots, whilst I went to collect the mint sauce. After listing a myriad of reasons why he couldn’t perform such a task he eventually undertook the challenge once a bribe of two roast potatoes was offered.

Ten minutes later, I returned with the required mint sauce in hand. I walked into the kitchen to see my proud son standing by the counter with half the carrots chopped and peeled, and expecting his roast potato reward. There was, however, an issue.

Rather than remove half the carrots from the bag and peel and chop them, he had removed all the carrots from the bag, peeled half of each carrot and then promptly chopped the peeled half. After arguing that he hadn’t done the task as required and therefore wouldn’t get his reward, Thomas called the official adjudicator, my wife, to make a decision. After having the situation explained to her, the adjudicator looked at the chopping board and declared that although the task wasn’t performed to my expectations, half the carrots were peeled and chopped and therefor the reward had to be paid. The situation, allegedly, was my fault because my level of instruction was not adequate. I should have said remove half the carrots from the bag and fully peel and chop those that have been removed. In other words, be more unambiguous with my instruction.

Misinterpretation of instructions is a common issue in many manufacturing facilities, especially when those instructions have to pass through numerous shifts. This misinterpretation can cause loss of production, quality defects, and more seriously, health and safety issues. One of the quickest and easiest ways to get a consistent message across quickly is via a One Point Lesson, (OPL).

Click here for our Top Tips on how to create an OPL.

LaurasInternational-Carrot-OPL

 

Since the creation of a carrot preparation One Point Lessons my wife and children look at me with a sorry look in their eyes and tend to shake their heads in disbelief when I ask for someone to help with the Sunday Lunch, but at least the carrots are prepared correctly!

For more Top Tips for Manufacturing Professionals, check out our Improvement Toolkit.

Where is your hidden zone?

Where is your hidden zone?

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire at Lauras International

Four eggs in egg cups

During a recent management training course I was asked if an individual should focus on improving their weaknesses first or developing their strengths. It’s a bit like ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’

You are only as strong as your weakest link. If your weakness is something you need to use in your day to day life, being your weakest link is probably having a significant effect on your overall effectiveness. Our strengths, on the other hand, form part of our Unique Selling Point (USP). Continually developing our USP to ensure it remains unique is important, isn’t it?

We all prefer to work on what we enjoy and what we enjoy is almost always something we find relatively easy or we are good at it. Investing in your weakness, therefore, is likely to be more time consuming, more frustrating and will require more effort.

There is no straight answer but what is clear, our first task is to understand ourselves not only from our perspective, but from the perspective of others. We all have ‘hidden’ zones, things people see in us that we are blissfully unaware of. For example, jangling change in your pocket, or saying ‘Umm’ repeatedly during presentations. Once we truly understand our strengths and weaknesses we can make an informed decision on what to invest our time and effort in, and can look for alternatives to help. One of the best ways to overcome our weaknesses is to work with someone who has that as their strength, learning from them. An alternative may be to delegate or even outsource a task that require us to use our weakness.

In truth we will need to develop both our strengths and weaknesses but for the most efficient outcome we not only have to fully understand ourselves, but also the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. Need help with your chicken and egg? We can help you build your unique development plan then work with you to excel.

For more on our Aspire coaching and mentoring programmes for Front Line Managers, get in touch.

Slay your “Corridor of Uncertainty”

Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, Lauras Internationalcricket_image

I was watching the recent Test Match between England and Australia when Ricky Ponting, the ex-Captain of Australian National Cricket, was being interviewed about his experiences as an international cricketer. The interviewer enquired about the biggest changes Ponting had witnessed during his career. He explained that he had started his playing career during the Semi-professional era of the Nineties, through the Professional era and latterly into the Ultra-professional era. What did he mean by this, the interviewer asked…?

With the increase in the number of TV cameras at matches and the proliferation of companies providing data and statistics on all elements of the game, Ponting explained it has become increasingly common for teams to use this data to identify the weaknesses of opponents. With this information teams have been able to develop more effective tactics to defeat an opponent and thus make their path to success more likely. As a consequence, individual players have had to focus their attention more and more effectively on their own areas for improvement, reinventing themselves each year in the face of fierce competition so that they are able to survive and succeed at the pinnacle of their profession.

Having worked in both the food and drink markets, I know from experience how important it is for businesses to use their scarce resources wisely. In the competitive market places that we all operate in, no-one can afford to waste valuable resources on areas that are not priorities. We must deliver sustained improvement in our operations if we are to deliver long-term success.

Like the international cricketers, it is vital that we capture detailed information about our priority areas so that we can recognise areas of strength but also areas for improvement, e.g. once we have identified the bottleneck of a process we can begin to capture data about how effectively it runs. Using simple data capture sheets and proven analytical techniques it is possible to identify the biggest causes of lost production, be it speed, downtime, or quality related. Now we are able to select suitable methodologies and people to deliver the identified improvements. By implementing solutions that are effective for a hundred years we are able to then move onto the next biggest problem without needing to return to the original issue. As we deliver improvement upon improvement our performance begins to accelerate and we develop a culture of success in which our people and business are able to realise their full potential.

Like the international cricketers we have a decision to make. Do we want to rise to the challenges of an increasingly competitive market-place and become recognised for excellence, seizing the initiative and striving for improvement. Or do we stand still and ultimately no-one remembers us?

5 ways to identify opportunity

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe

Taking cost out of your manufacturing operation so that your unit can stay competitive will help you win your contracts again when they come up for tender – but how do you know what is the right amount of cost to take out, and from where?

Here are 5 ways to identify opportunities to take cost out:

1. Make sure your plan covers all 3 areas of major spend.

Direct Labour, Raw Materials and Packaging, and Overheads are the 3 major areas of manufacturing spend.  Your manufacturing ‘Overhead’ spend is probably mostly on Engineering, Salaries, and Energy. Does you plan cover all these areas, or are you missing a whole area of opportunity?

2. Measure your plans against ‘True’.
Your standards were useful for the costed submission that won your factory the work last time – but they’re no good for knowing what you can do in the future. Ensure you have an opportunity matrix that identifies opportunity against maximum run speed of the bottleneck, not the standard speed.  Don’t fool yourself that you’re doing well if you have a positive material variance, when the standard allows for 8% waste.

3. Set the right technology benchmarks.
You’re never going to achieve 100% – unless you haven’t followed point 2. So what is possible? 75%-98% depending on what technologies you are using. Could you achieve 98% with a technology change?

4. Understand how much of the gap you can close. 
40% in the first year is possible.  Have you allocated the resource to get you there? Is your improvement team skilled and efficient and able to close the gap?

5. Align capital plans and non-capital plans.
Invest your capital allowance for improvement in equipment that is going to increase the bottleneck rates or reduce headcount.  Investing in replacing performing equipment is simply trying to run away from root-cause problem solving, and increasing your depreciation to simply stay still in terms of unit cost – which could leave you in a nasty place in the future.   

 

Check out this video to see how we help FMCGs identify Improvement Opportunities with an onsite assessment.

Standardisation

Written by Graham Wilkinson, Senior Consultant, Lauras International

IMG_0096‘Standardisation’ means setting a standard, as well as bringing a condition into conformance with that standard. It provides the current best known method around how to carry out a particular job or task.

We have standards in our everyday life: Traffic Lights are universally red, amber, and green for example.

From a lean perspective, having Lean standard work means cost reduction and risk minimisation, as well as less time-spent training, diagnosing and troubleshooting abnormalities. It is an ideal method of minimising the number of variables that can have a negative affect on any given task.

For example, on a car assembly line, a standard is set for each stage of the assembly. If an abnormality were to occur during the process, the source of the problem would be quickly highlighted and diagnosed, as it would appear (visually) to be non-standard. This type of process stability means the outcome of any given process is predictable and thus, delivery times can also be forecasted with greater accuracy.

Here are the prerequisites for effective Lean standard work:

  • A stable process (no issues with quality, equipment or resources)
  • A blame-free culture, where staff are empowered to contribute to the development and improvement of the organisation
  • A holistic approach, with commitment to continuously improving standards
  • Using visual management controls to quickly identify abnormalities
  • A quick response system is in place to react to abnormalities

Remember, standards form the basis of continuous improvement, therefore an important part of creating a standard, is to continuously improve it!

Are you setting standards in your manufacturing environment – and doing everything you can to improve them?