Insights into Excellence: A visit to Fujifilm

Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems (Fujifilm) achieved the highest ranking of any manufacturing site on our visit feedback last year with an outstanding +97% NPS Score. It is no surprise to anyone that has been to the site, as it not only meets, but sets, world class standards in visual management, Five S and lean deployment.

Factory imageMore importantly, the visit to Fujifilm stands out because of the emphasis they place on culture, and the obvious commitment to creating an environment where continuous improvement (CI) and Lean is owned by every employee.

The site at Broadstairs employs 320 (180  in Operations) and is primarily a chemical blending operation.  They manufacture speciality inks for the digital and analogue printing industries. Exporting over 6,200 tonnes of finished product to 86 countries they achieve over 97% right first-time delivery levels – an industry-leading standard.

I have been visiting this site for over 10 years, and each time the new initiatives impress me, the latest being the introduction of Kamishibai and Electronic Process Control (Takt) Boards.  Excellent tools which are delivering great productivity and performance improvements.

I have highlighted some information on these and some of the other learnings from their recent visit.

A Sustainable Lean Programme

Underpinning CI at Fujfilm is a home grown Lean deployment framework.  A dedicated CI team of three people supports this – Gary Burgess, Gary Page and Adam Murrell.

When developing their programme Fujifilm recognized that not all of the lean tools could or should be applied at once, so they developed ‘Building Blocks’ to highlight and manage those initiatives that would drive CI through the organization, and keep a focus on quality. building blocks fujifilm

Many of these areas will be familiar to those that have studied Lean or Continuous Improvement, but what makes it work is that this has not changed in ten years. The consistency and determination to re-enforce their commitment to best practice has allowed them to achieve outstanding levels of operational excellence.

Fujifilm are very open about their journey with visitors, and shared the following lessons:

  • It doesn’t matter what it’s called – Lean, WCM, CI – choose terminology that is homegrown and personal.
  • Communicate – and communicate some more (see below).
  • Get some early hits to gain momentum (Quick Wins)
  • Don’t have a big launch & never ever use the term ‘initiative’
  • Capture every problem as an opportunity to improve.
  • Empower people & give them responsibility
  • Manage expectations – upwards, downwards & outwards
  • Remember & Celebrate success

Kamishibai Boards (Short Interval Control)

One of the most recent additions to the Fujifilm lean toolbox has been the introduction of Kamishibai boards to assist in daily, weekly and monthly task management in many areas of the business.  This latest tool has been adopted with enthusiasm by Team Leaders, operators and office staff as it provides a simple, visual task reminder. The Kamishibai boards are a short interval control mechanism to ensure repetitive tasks are completed, such as Autonomous Maintenance, Consumable replenishment and audit control.  (picture here)

Lean All areas – Laboratory and Beyond

Fujifilm are justifiably proud of how well lean and workplace organisation has been adopted in every area of the site.  The laboratory is one of the finest examples of workplace organisation you could find in the UK and the improvements introduced have led to significant cost savings.  The benefits are substantial, customer visits tend to focus on the laboratory area and as result of their exceptional standards they are always ‘tour ready’.

Andon & Visual Controls

2016 saw the introduction of electronic performance boards in each area of production. These allow operators and managers to see at a glance how each line is performing against Takt (pace of customer demand).

IPICS BoardIdeas Programme – IPICS

One of the most popular ideas pinched with pride by visitors is the Fujifilm Ideas programme – IPICS.  This stands for Idea, Plan, Implement, Check Sustain.

This is managed through a simple t-card system developed in-house. Ownership of each idea is the initiator and activities are monitored by the team leaders.  A monthly reward and recognition programme support this.  To re-enforce the effectiveness of this programme in the last four years Fujifilm have seen the following results

  • 3039 Ideas submitted
  • 753 Declined
  • 2286 Implemented


Communication, Communication, Communication

Fujifilm truly believe that the bedrock of any successful lean programme is communication. If employees don’t know what is happening, they can’t possibly support or replicate it.  Excellent communication allows you to gain, and sustain, momentum. When drawing up a lean programme it is imperative you address how activities and actions are disseminated.  Fujifilm share their communication programme which includes:

  • Lean Awareness Training
  • Five senior management briefings per year
  • Employee communication forum
  • Operator Issue Boards
  • Strategy (Plan), vision & Values posted
  • Comments boxes – answered every month!
  • Annual employee survey
  • Television communications channel
  • Daily stand-up meetings & 5 min cell briefings

This seems a lot, but it all works on a holistic level, ensuring everyone who works at the site has clarity on where and what is happening.  Most importantly Gary Burgess, CI Manager at the site truly believes that a Daily Gemba (walking the line) is the key to sustaining lean at such a high level.

Our thanks go to Gary Burgess, Gary Page and Adam Murrell and all of the team at Fujifilm who gave up their time to share best practice with others.

The next visit to Fujifilm Speciality Ink Systems is on 27 July 2017.


Insights into Excellence: A visit to Kellogg’s Logistics & Distribution Centre, Manchester

Improving your business using Wigs and Drums!

By 2019, the UK Grocery Market will be worth over £203 billion and will look vastly different to how it does today. The growth in convenience shopping and rapidly changing purchasing patterns mean that companies that manufacture Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), need to be agile and flexible in order to survive.  Logistics and distribution in this world is not for the faint-hearted, and in a world where fluctuation of demand is the norm, Kellogg’s have adopted a range of business improvement tools to allow them to respond and achieve over 99% on time delivery.

breakfasts for betterdaysWe recently visited the Kellogg’s Distribution centre at Merlin Park in Manchester. This site is one of the customer facing warehouses that receives product manufactured in Kellogg’s European manufacturing sites, who produce a diverse range of cereal and snack products. Every day on this site 60,000 cases are picked, 3,000 pallets arrive and a further 3,000 depart. Kellogg’s globally has over 31,000 employees, 350 of which are on the three Manchester distributions sites – it is a large company with a local feel.

On our recent visit, Paul Blears (Logistics & Distribution Manager UK & Europe) and Ian Walsh (Logistics Manager for XPO Logistics) shared these great insights and ideas on how they remain calm within a storm of changing demands.

Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
On a company visit I always aim to pinpoint that one key piece of learning that is transferable to any company, which is probably why the WIGs idea resonates so well. This is one of the tools Blears and his team uses to drive engagement and encourage continuous improvement – outside of the day to day operations. Blears asks each of his reports to come up with just one WIG a year. The WIG needs to be something that is:

  • Wildly important to them personally; and
  • Will add value to Kellogg’s;

The key here is the goal is one that is owned and initiated by the team member and not by the management – the other key if it isn’t obvious is it is just ‘one’. I believe this is why it works. Everyone can focus on just one thing, right? and it makes review and reporting simpler and easier, and engagement is therefore higher. This is cascaded by down to everyone in the division, and supports one of the Kellogg core values of Simplicity.

drum2Create a Drum Beat
To stabilise the environment and manage variability, Blears talked of creating a ‘Drum Beat’ which allows them to maintain confidence in the schedule. This is achieved through a series of five minute meetings at set points in the day. These happen daily, 364 days a year without fail, providing short interval controls needed to stay on target and stay ahead of any potential issues in supply and demand. The 5 minute meetings are taken from the ‘Agile’ toolbox and focus on reviewing recent performance, current and future states. This simple act of a regular call in meeting provides stability and consistency.


Plan for Change
Another concept championed by the team at Kellogg’s is the concept of Plan for Change. This isn’t about wasted effort, it’s about wasted frustration. By planning for change the team plan for scenarios and outcomes based on historical data but are not constrained or paralysed when the forecast doesn’t match that expected. Forecasting in FMCG can be a dark art – there are so many variables and with the growth of social media and its impact on spending patterns a random tweet or like of a product can create enormous fluctuations in demand, so the concept of planning in the knowledge that the plan will change, allows them to manage this. This approach could be adopted by all manufacturing companies that suffer from frustrations in forecasting.

Make the outside world your inside world
This is about ensuring as a business they are in touch with what is happening in the global community – from a social, economic and technological perspective. Great advice in a changing world. Kellogg’s are part of an FMCG consortia ‘Five to Drive’ looking at new solutions to improve delivery and reduce costs, Blears truly believes that the distribution model in the future will look substantially different to that of today.

kelloggs quote

Doing Good
People no longer work for salaries alone, and it helps both recruitment and retention that Kellogg’s have an outstanding legacy of altruism. In 1930 W K Kellogg founded the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to administer his $45 million in personal assets to various charities. In 1944, W. K. Kellogg also gave away 21,400 shares of company stock to a fund set up to assist veteran employees. “Dollars have never been known to produce character, and character will never be produced by money,” he once said “I’ll invest my money in people.” The foundation continues today and is one of the largest charitable foundations in the USA. To guide current and future trustees and staff, he said, “Use the money as you please so long as it promotes the health, happiness and well-being of children. The charity remains a substantial shareholder in the Kellogg Company.

Embracing Change
As you would expect in a warehouse of this scale, operators utilise state of the art voice picking technology to improve both pick rates and accuracy. We also saw evidence of a continuous improvement activity that led to the standardised cubing of pallets, improving warehouse utilisation and space management.
Kellogg’s and XPO have responded to changing market demands and brought the co-pack operation (a necessary value enabler to the business back to the site and it is managed within the warehouse operation by a flexible team, cross functional and organisational team. Variability and seasonality in co-pack is exceptionally high so flexibility in resource is a real enabler here. Whilst co-packing sends shivers down the spine of anyone obsessed with lean and right first time it does meet a market demand and is surprisingly more common than you would think.

Big Data & What’s Next
As with many other manufacturers, Big Data was raised as one of the single biggest challenges facing the organisation. Managing and providing meaningful metrics from multiple software platforms is clearly a common challenge. Kellogg’s are currently focused on combining ERP, CRM, Voice Technology and transport logistic software to create a platform that can give a snapshot of meaningful information instantly. Kellogg’s are close to a solution which they hope will allow them to correlate and sift information quickly to improve decision making in a wider scope with far fewer ‘analysis hours’ required

With a day focused on managing uncertainties it was great to finish with some sage advice about the future. Blears believes that whilst experience is a long time gained and easily lost, you must continue to focus on innovation and revolution in order to grow – in this new world, it’s key to be brave and bold, whilst maintaining the sensibilities of meeting high customer expectations, day in, day out.

Our thanks go to Paul Blears of Kellogg’s and Ian Walsh of XPO Logistics for openly sharing their ideas and insights with others.
For information on upcoming visits please go to our website