Category Archives: People Engagement

Failing to Plan or Planning to Fail?

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

Plan-Effective-Meetings

[Source: quotesgram.com]

Those people fortunate enough to be a child in the 80’s will undoubtedly recognise the opening narration of the hugely popular A Team…

“In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them….maybe you can hire The A-Team.” [Source: IMDB Quotes]

Every week the A team were portrayed as acting on the side of the good, helping an oppressed community against a band of thugs and bullies. The programme inevitably ended with an outlandish finale with over-the-top violence (in which people were seldom seriously hurt), spectacular explosions, and jeeps being overturned.

John “Hannibal” Smith would create a complicated plan and rely on BA “I pity the fool!” Baracus, Templeton “Face” Peck and the crazy pilot “Howling Mad” Murdock to deliver its success. The ability of the team to form weaponry and vehicles out of old parts formed a focus for the last 20 minutes of the program.

How do you think Hannibal relayed his plan to the rest of the A Team?

  1. Did he keep it in his head and not tell anyone about it?
  2. Did he write it down and give it to everyone as a memo? (No e-mails back in the 80’s)
  3. Did he just tell one of the team and expect them to relay the plan between each other?
  4. Did he have a meeting with the rest of the A Team and the people who hired them?

Undoubtedly he chose option 4; and judging by the results, where the underdogs – the A Team – overcame overwhelming odds and beat the bad guys every week, without injury to themselves or the people who hired them, Hannibal’s meeting must have been highly effective.

Just take a second and ask yourself “How effective are my meetings?”

  • Do you always get the results you desired?
  • Does everyone involved in the meeting see them as value adding?
  • Do people turn up prepared?
  • Do all the actions get recorded and delivered?

If you’ve answered no to any of the above, your meetings aren’t as effective as they could be. 
So here are a few simple tips for effective meetings:

  • Have your meeting standing up
  • Lock the door after the start of your meeting
  • Keep score of the issues raised, actions assigned, actions completed on time and reviewed
  • Track how many actions have a who, when and what

And remember:

  • To value the input of each delegate
  • Make sure only one person speaks at a time
  • Never belittle anyone else’s ideas
  • 70% agreement = 100% commitment for decisions

If you would like to utter Hannibal’s immortal words “I love it when a plan comes together” then get in touch for your FREE ‘Effective Meetings Tip Card’ – call 0333 456 1988 or drop us a line to place your order contact@laurasinternational.com. 

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M&S Lean Audit: What’s missing for FMCGs?

Lean-for-FMCGs-AuditThis blog is part of an editorial series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe.

This is now my fourth blog in the ‘Lean Audits for FMCGs’ series.  If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here.

Otherwise, lets look at two key tools that are missing from the ‘Classic Lean’ Toolkit that would deliver significant value to FMCGs, an area of focus that doesn’t belong, and one of the greatest benefits of the M&S Lean Audit Framework.

Debottlenecking is missing – yet has fastest impact on your bottom line
The major tool missing from Classic Lean that is of tremendous value within FMCG is debottlenecking theory – sometimes called the Theory of Constraints (TOC).  Pioneered by Eli Goldratt in the book “The Goal”, debottlenecking methodologies can be used to optimise line performance, and give a clear set of tactics to deliver improvement.

The average FMCG manufacturing line has approximately 9 processes.  This is many fewer than a car line – and this difference is the key reason why constraint theory doesn’t appear in the classic Lean Toolkit.  However, as a tool used to optimise speed, line control, and accumulation, it has one of the fastest impacts to the bottom line you can hope to achieve.

Improvement Systems is missing –  yet critical to sustain improvement
Good leadership and management processes are of course common across industries.  The M&S audit does a good job on most of these.  If there’s one thing the audit is light on though, it’s ensuring the right reporting is delivered easily from the right kind of measurement systems.  KPI’s are taken for granted within the audit – but all too often FMCG factories struggle with the accuracy of information.  Ensuring your measurement system is telling you to work on the right things, not the wrong things, is of critical importance and should be high on your priority list.

Supplier Relationships – not relevant for most FMCGs
Lean Audits often prioritise focus on Supplier Relationships.  For FMCG manufacturers, this requires leverage of the buyer on the supplier – and whilst this holds true in some supplier relationships, there are many where it does not.

The large enterprises have identified this, and in many instances are already trying to mimic the tactics used on them for so many years by the retailers. Whether the relationships being mimicked could be called compatible with “Lean” however is a different question.

The purpose of the Lean Audit framework should be to help you achieve a better cost to manufacture. If you are not a large enterprise, move Supplier Relations lower on list of priorities than other activity.

Improvement Champions – the real win for FMCGs
Finally, one of the greatest benefits the M&S Lean Framework will bring is the focus on having an improvement champion/manager.  The legacy of a half a century of quality audits is that the requirement for a quality department is no longer questioned. The real win will be if Lean Audits help businesses to understand that whilst continuous improvement, like quality, is everyone’s responsibility –  Improvement Champions are the key to  ensuring the processes are working, running CI workshops, and offering training and support With Improvement Champions in place, we can look forward to a continual improvement in manufacturing efficiencies, reduction in waste, and ever improving manufacturing cost per unit.

Next time I’ll be looking at how to make Lean work in FMCG. And to hear more on this subject from us, retailer M&S, and supplier Greencore – register for this Food Manufacture webinar.

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FMCG Lean Audits: choose from the Toolkit with caution

This blog is the third in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe.

In my first two blogs in this series, we looked at the benefits of CI audits, and why Lean Audits could drive improvement in FMCG. 

But not all of  the ‘Lean Toolkit’ is appropriate for FMCGs, and can in fact drive the wrong actions…
The purpose of any continuous improvement function is ultimately to provide a lower manufactured cost per unit.  Whilst all of ‘Lean’ can be said to achieve this, we can see that when applying the principles to FMCG, some assumptions from the car industry don’t translate across so well into fast moving consumer goods (see last blog), and other things taken for granted are of critical importance.

So lets look at what to focus on to drive rapid, sustainable improvement.

The standard tools in the M&S Lean audit are:

  • Workplace Organisation (5S)
  • Problem Solving (5 Whys and FMEA/Fish Bone Diagrams)
  • Value Stream Mapping and
  • Standard Work.

It also briefly touches on Kanban, quick changeovers, and TPM (total productive maintenance).

5S – Low Priority for FMCGs
Classic Lean tends to prioritise workplace organisation (5S).  However, unlike other industries, FMCG already has quality and hygiene standards embedded, which means that the early wins available from workplace organisation elsewhere simply aren’t available within most FMCG factories.  There are of course benefits to be had, but it is a much harder task to translate these to the bottom line,.

As such it is much more prudent to move 5S down the priority of implementation.  It looks good, and does have a moral boosting effect, but better to do this once you have cash in the bank from other tools to have offset the rather significant time investment required.

5 Whys and FMEA/Fish Bone Diagrams – FMCGs can do better
In Classic Lean, the problem solving methodologies promoted are generally 5 Why’s and FMEA / fish bone diagrams.  However, Six Sigma promotes  technically advanced statistical analysis methods that are more useful.

The advantage that FMCG has over other industries is that the processes and machinery simply aren’t that difficult. But this also means that most of the easy wins have already been achieved through experiential problem solving.  As such, FMCG is particularly well suited to the use of problem solving methodologies using Control Factors, or Driver Trees – that drive the simple application of logic and basic science.

Targeted VSM – high priority
Value Stream Mapping as a tool from first principles is best used in extremely targeted ways.  There are specific outcomes that can lead to quick bottom line benefit – changes to the planning process, distribution, warehousing, and stock holding for example – so having a firm view from the outset on the expected outcome and potential realisable benefit is a key step to ensuring maximum rate of return.

For instance, admin processing costs are not generally that high, and significant activity is normally required for even a small benefit.  It is of course a very good thing to do, but understand that other activity is going to deliver much greater benefit earlier for you.

Within FMCG, we can see that the value stream is essentially the order fulfilment process – and as such has traditionally been called the S&OP process.  The first draft of the M&S Lean Audit is quite light on detail in this area, so it ensuring you are using a bespoke S&OP audit process as well, most likely based on the work of Oliver Wight, would be a good way to accelerate the value return.

Quick Changeovers – Highest Priority for FMCGs
Depending on the SKU profile, and work already done, quick changeovers can be of very significant value, and can be moved much further up your priority list, ahead of 5S.

In my next blog, I’ll be looking at what’s missing from this Lean Audit that would add tremendous value to FMCGs – and the tools that really won’t add benefit!

Stay tuned.

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Lean Audits drive action – but is it the right action?

This blog is the second in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe at Lauras International.

TPM-SixSigma-LeanIn my last blog I mentioned that Marks & Spencer’s, who pioneered the Quality Audits, have introduced a Lean Audit into their Plan A.

So lets look at whether ‘Lean’ will deliver in the food industry what is clearly hoped of it by the retailers. The objective of course is to lower manufacturing costs – so of the three main approaches to continuous improvement, is Lean the right one, and is it what is needed in FMCG?

Lets consider the other two approaches – TPM and Six Sigma
If we look at the relatively low asset cost required in FMCG manufacture, the spend required to achieve exceptionally reliable equipment – the fundamental reason for a TPM approach – rarely gives a value return. This means that reliability of 96% is generally quite acceptable, except for a few notable exceptions, and the requirement to spend big on predictive maintenance just isn’t there as it is in other industries.

Meanwhile, Six Sigma is fundamentally about eliminating variation – 6 standard deviations from the mean and all that (actually 4.5, but that’s another story). For FMCG, with low unit cost (and permissible variation of around 1 sigma due to the average weight legislation) again the high-end techniques of Six Sigma have limited value return.

This means that a Lean Approach is in the driving seat
However, Lean did not originate in FMCG – it comes from automotive, with an entirely different asset base and set of base assumptions. This means that whilst many areas of Lean can deliver real value for FMCG, we must be careful in its application. What is taken for granted in automotive is not always true in FMCG – thus the success of the Lean Audits in reducing cost within FMCG will ultimately come down to how well adapted they are for the FMCG sector.

Taking one example (and there are many more); Constraint Theory as outlined in Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal” is of huge applicable benefit within FMCG, but classic Lean either ignores it completely, or allows the contraction of ‘Unnecessary WIP’ to merely ‘WIP’ to drive exactly the wrong actions.

Having experienced the misfortune of this type of misapplication, one FMCG factory owner was heard to remark “I’d rather have taken a million pounds in cash out the bank and used it to fuel a bonfire in the car park – it would have been less painful than what happened”!

So – the future is sure to be Lean Audits – but the companies that succeed from using them will be the ones that are wise to prioritizing what delivers rapid bottom line benefit – and uses an approach to continuous improvement tailored specifically for FMCG.

Tune in next week for the next blog in this series, or hear more on this topic by registering for Food Manufacture’s Lean Audit webinar (11am, 26th April).

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What does a ‘Standard Day’ look like for FLMs?

Written by Senior Consultant, Nathanial Marshall.

FLM_ShopfloorHow many fires have you put out today? Do you feel that the days are flashing by and you’re not getting anywhere? Shouldn’t you be adding value as a Front Line Manager?

Operators often tell us, “The managers are never out here, they are just sat in the office.” FLMs are equally frustrated with a feeling of no structure to their day and with little time to spend understanding the issues to drive performance because of “other things cropping up”.

This is why we recommend the ‘Standard Leader Day’ – a structured approach for a shift listing all the key value adding activity that an FLM should complete in their shift and an estimated time for each.

Having a standard approach will help FLMs structure their day, understand the issues on their plant and engage with their people. When followed properly it becomes instrumental for driving improvement and challenging the norms.

It doesn’t have to be restricted to FLMs, it should ideally be in place for all levels of management within the business and most importantly, it has to be audited regularly. If the ‘Standard Day’ is not being achieved, ask yourself and your management team why? What else is happening in your day that is more important?

It will drive meetings to be more effective, ensure you are only at the meetings that are essential to your day, and highlight when other functions are not supporting your operators as they should. It allows the FLMs to challenge back to their own manager. “If you want me to take that on, which of the essential items in my Standard Day would you like me to drop.” It also allows and encourages positive challenge in both directions.

Probably the most important element is to walk the plant at least 3 times a shift. The walk around should:

  • Follow a structured approach
  • Be planned at set times
  • Check speeds, output, and product specs, and
  • Most importantly, facilitate engagement with operators.

The walks allow you to have presence as well as just being “present”. The more you do them, the more open the operators will become and this increased engagement will help support your future improvement initiatives.

For more tried and tested tips for improving your Manufacturing operations –
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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 >

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.