What does Lean mean in 2015?

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In the UK, the Manufacturing sector is showing expansion and growth, in part thanks to a sharp drop in the price of oil. In Europe, manufacturing growth was described as ‘meagre’ in the latest Markit/CIPS PMI report. Europe’s slow recovery, the up-coming UK general election, shifting oil prices and changes to manufacturing costs all create an uncertain outlook for the months ahead. Investing in your own Lean growth strategy has never been more important.

As Manufacturing Growth Director, Steve helps businesses to compete, innovate and grow providing advice and support on new product development, intellectual property protection and production process optimisation. His broad career includes MD of £75M multi-site, European medium volume manufacturing company, Director of global sourcing in a $12B US corporation, MD of an off-shore engineering company in India and design and engineering leadership in sectors spanning aircraft to lawn-mowers. He has a PhD and MSc in Aerospace Vehicle Design, Cranfield, BSc Aircraft Engineering, Salford and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.

“Natural Selection almost inevitably causes much Extinction of the less improved forms of life and induces what I have called Divergence of Character.”  When this appeared in the second volume of “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 it’s unlikely that Charles Darwin would have anticipated its relevance in 2015’s manufacturing world.  The important thing that we have learned from the crises of the last few years, is that the businesses that don’t evolve disappear. Inefficient companies whose cultures, processes and structures were either unable or unwilling to change to reflect the economic climate were often the ones that we lost. Using Lean processes can give your business, products, processes and customers the edge.

In 2015 Lean remains at the forefront of business optimisation strategies.

Put yourself first

Falling materials and energy costs are great for your bottom line, but if you remain at the mercy of markets you can’t control, you’ll never have a competitive advantage.  If you’re in control of all your costs, including waste, processes and machinery then you stand a far better chance.  Ask yourself

  • Are you controlling waste? 
  • Do you have too much unsold inventory? 
  • Are you producing too much? 
  • Is a lot of what you produce being sent back with problems? 

Reduce your waste and you’ll improve your performance.

Seek perfection

Your customers have choice.  There are huge markets that cater to their needs and it’s your job to stand head and shoulders above the rest.  Understand your customers and essentially, their customers.  Know their pains and gains and strive to find ways to meet and defeat them. 

The harder you work to make your product, people and processes perfect in your customers’ eyes, the more they will reward you with their business.

Engage with the team

Achieving perfection requires everyone working for a common aim.  You have to communicate the goal, benefits and rewards of improved processes and ensure everyone is engaged.  Manufacturing is often burdened with an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality and driving change can be a challenge.  Engagement is imperative for two reasons.  Firstly, it will challenge the old mindsets.  Secondly, your workforce is changing.  It’s younger, more willing to experiment and ready to embrace new technologies and techniques.

We all want our teams made up with the best talent available and an engaged workforce is a great way of finding and retaining the best talent.

Making it happen

It’s likely that you already know the areas of your business that need change.  Identifying the specifics that need to evolve and knowing the best ways of implementing them is another thing entirely.  EEF Training’s Lean Academy will give you all of the tools that you need.  This 12 day course will take you through all of the different aspects Lean, including the three key foundations; tools, leadership and business relevance.  The Lean Acadamy’s content can be customised to fit around you and your business and can be delivered through one of our specialist training centres or at your site.  Delegates will leave with all of the skills, knowledge and tools you need to implement Lean and sustain it over time.

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Manufacturing Growth Director

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