Category Archives: Top Tips

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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What would Claudio do?

Written by Adrian Oliver, Engagement Leader, Lauras International

iStock_000010821364_Large“Leicester City have just won the Premier League!” Go on say it again, “Leicester City have just won the Premier League!” The league table does not lie, the best team always wins in the long run. They are the best team with the best results. What an amazing achievement of sustained effort over the season, 36 games.

With 2 games left the players and management team are able to now relax and have a well-earned rest. A bit of downtime during the summer before they get ready for next Season…

Did you watch their 37th game against Everton? That was not the display of a team taking it easy. They ran their opponents into the ground, had 30 shots versus their opponents 9 and won the game 3:1. Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester City Manager, prior to the game has been credited with motivating his team to perform well, celebrating winning the league but then focussing his team on getting ready for the next season and proving to the world that they are worthy champions: the best.

Like Claudio, we need our teams to be performing at their best each time they enter the competitive arena, be that the football field, sales negotiation, or manufacturing line. Here are six simple steps for motivating our teams to perform at their best every time…

Six Simple Steps to Motivating Teams

Finding the right type of motivation for our teams and then applying it is a critical tool for any leader to have in their toolkit. Get this right and we can deliver truly exceptional results. Get it wrong and things can go the other way. The time we spend with our teams is our most valuable time as a leader as it enables us to influence performance.

But how good at this are we? And do we practice these things in our daily roles, every day…?

  1. Do we hear ‘continual whinging’ about a problem – or do we truly listen to what our people are telling us?
  2. Is it easier to develop the solution for the team and then get them to ‘select the colour’ – or do we get them involved with the problem-solving?
  3. Do we demand answers when things go wrong – or praise them for a job well done?
  4. When the Boss calls, what’s the first thing that drops off our list? Do we ring-fence time in our diary each day for our team?
  5. Does that report that needs to be done before going home for the day preoccupy us when talking to our teams – or are we fully focussed on them as people?
  6. If we’re feeling frustrated, do we head to the shopfloor to catch someone doing something wrong – or do we walk the shopfloor at regular times so that people know when they can share a fantastic idea with us?

From Line Managers to CEO’s we should secure time to be with and motivate our teams. To fully converse and engage with them. Listen to what they have to say and provide effective feedback. This is the gift that only we as Leaders can give, and it might surprise you to see what you get back in return.

Something to think about isn’t it?

If you find yourself pausing to contemplate how well you and your team of managers do this then maybe it is time to re-sharpen your Leadership tools. What would Claudio do? How do you become Champions?

Making Lean work in FMCG

This blog is the fifth in a series written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe. (To start at the beginning, click here.)

Lean-and-Green-webinar-Video15 years ago, Lauras developed an approach to making Lean work in FMCG.  It was entirely results focussed – the founders had and unstinting belief that if you followed the process, you would achieve rapid and sustained improvement. 

Those of you who have come across driver tree based problem solving will know what a wonderfully logical and concise approach it is.  That’s why 15 years ago, we applied our own problem solving method to the factors that drive sustainable improvement in a factory.   The result was the SIM – the Sustainable Improvement Model.

We’ve been putting this to use in the intervening period, and as with all good driver trees, as we get new knowledge and understanding, we can refine it time and again, to evolving it to ensure nothing is missed, and the relative importance of each of the elements is understood.  After a few years, and having tested it across many different sectors, we realised that as much as the structure was common across all sectors, each sector needed its own refinement.

In particular, we noticed that the asset value against operating cost has a significant impact on the rapidity and value that certain improvement techniques bring – thus to truly ensure we could get as close to the maximum rate of improvement possible, we needed a bespoke approach for FMCG v high asset intensity sectors.

A decade down the line, with instances where clients have used the SIM to drive their improvement and in so doing have won multiple awards, the precise understanding of ‘what to do, when’ to ensure rapid and sustained manufacturing profit improvement is better understood than ever.

Since every factory is starting from a different place, the one size fits all approach just isn’t going to deliver the maximum rate of improvement for a given site.   The SIM rates each element across a 5 point scale:

  1. Not Engaged
  2. Experimenting
  3. Effective
  4. Good Practice
  5. Best Practice.

An early learning was that it is vastly more important to identify the elements that have no or little focus, and are rated as Not Engaged or Experimenting, and turn them Effective.  Where there is a lot to do, there is clear path that can be mapped out as what to prioritise in year 1, and what can wait until year 2 or 3.  The rate of improvement of a site that has merely achieved “Effective” at every level of the SIM is impressive – and this doesn’t take anything more than doing the basics well.

The M&S Plan A audit framework has become the first retailer supplier audit to review against a Lean Framework.  The first version of this framework, developed in association with the people who coined the term Lean from an academic analysis (the reasons behind Toyota’s success) is true to Classic Lean, and has yet to be tailored for FMCG.

The purpose of a Lean Audit is simple – to drive improved value, and ultimately reduced manufacturing cost.  The Manufacturers who remember this when following a retailer Lean Framework will do best and maximise the value from lean auditing.

For more discussion on making Lean work in FMCG – register for  Food Manufacture’s Lean Audit webinar (11am, Tuesday 26th April).

 

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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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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 >