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Carpenter Assembling Newly Made Windows

Continuous improvement

The business was well established, but any form of improvement agenda was totally lacking.  The operations team needed a clear path forwards to become more productive and improve profitability.

This SME manufacturing client has been established for more than 30 years and operates within in a traditional market sector.  They employ around 60 staff and are classed as one of the smaller companies in this labour-intensive industry.  Over the last few years, the company has struggled against the larger competitors.  These are generally well-organised businesses that deploy the latest state-of-the-art machinery. This means that unless the client becomes much more productive, they will fall even further behind.  

In terms of the staff, most of the people are very long-serving and all the supervisory team has been promoted from within.  Also, the previous Operations Managers have either been former Supervisors or were inexperienced.  As a result, the production unit is now very poorly organised and the team has a limited vision of how to improve efficiency and productivity.  Some changes for the better have been made in the past, but they have never been sustained.

The project objectives centred on creating a “roadmap” to excellence and the company needed a plan to move from the current position to one that could be compared to the "best in class."  In addition, any implementation costs would need to be generated through savings and there was also a requirement to identify any further benefits that could be used to strengthen the business.

An initial diagnostic analysis revealed:​

  • WIP levels were very high meaning that the production flow was being restricted and there was also double-handling of products.

  • Some individual working methods were obviously inefficient.

  • Storage of raw materials was badly controlled and stock levels were difficult to ascertain.

  • Raw materials were generally over-stocked to cover the inefficient management of materials.

  • The level of operator performance was very low overall - often because work wasn't available due to poor planning.

  • The general level of housekeeping and workplace organisation was inadequate.

 

The consultancy involved working with all of the Supervisors and many of the production staff, to get them involved and to determine the root-causes of the problems.  Around 40 separate recommendations were forthcoming and these were presented in the form of an implementation schedule – that will become the Continuous Improvement programme.  This was prioritised in terms of potential benefits and ease of accomplishment.  The main focus was on:

  1. The overall improvement strategy.

  2. Layout and flow of work.

  3. Lean operating methods.

  4. Labour productivity.

  5. Developing the supervisory and management team.

 

Projected saving were a 15% improvement in labour productivity£120,000 pa, plus a 40-50% increase in the utilization of factory floor space.

OPERATIONS MANAGER - "The report and improvement programme has gone down really well, even the FD is happy.  The Supervisors are all committed to it and we are going to make the changes happen - starting from today.