2018 Best Practice Visit Programme

There is a great programme of Best Practice visits planned for 2018.

Download the PDF for use on noticeboards or as a quick reference.

2018 Visit Programme 2pgs

We look forward to seeing you on a visit soon.

Insights into Excellence: BAE Systems – Electronics

  • Design for Manufacture (DFM) or Design for Everything (DFx)
  • Enterprise Alignment
  • Cultural Transformation

The BAE Systems site at Rochester is part of the Electronic Syst


ems division, which employs over 11,000 people over 23 sites worldwide. It has been at the heart of electronics manufacturing for the Defence and Civil Aviation industries for over 60 years. On the site there are over 1200 employees of which half are systems, software, electronic hardware designers, and mechanical engineers. The site is a center of excellence for a wide range of manufacturing processes – including PCB design and manufacture, optics, mechanics, assembly, and test equipment. One of the primary reasons the site is continuing to expand is due to the growth in products for the civil aviation and transport markets. It’s latest success has been the HybriDrive Solution for electric buses.

BAE Systems have been a host on the Onsite Insights programme for over 10 years and their willingness to share their journey with other companies interested in best practice has helped numerous organisations improve. On this visit BAE shared their focus on Design for Manufacture, their Continuous Improvement journey and the steps they have taken to transform their Culture.

Design for Everything (‘DFx’)

BAE’s primary objective for introducing DFx into their manufacturing process was, quite simply, to ensure products were designed in such a way that makes them easier to manufacture.

This means:

  • Reduced component (material) complexity and cost
  • Reduced assembly (labour) time
  • Reduced test time and opitimised the test procedures
  • Improved serviceability throughout the life of the product
  • Prevent problems and improved quality
  • Ensured design meets the project cost targets.

When launching this initiative they were faced with common challenges ‘there’s not enough time’, ‘we only manufacture in low volumes, assembly is only a small fraction of the total costs’, ‘We’ve been doing it for years’. BAE acknowledged these, but truly believed that by systematically introducing DFx early in the design phase they would be able to bring products to market faster and at a better quality.

So in practice, what did this mean? Their initial focus was to create a supportive DFx culture by co-locating the design team within Manufacturing, this immediately broke down barriers and opened up communication. This allowed them to address what came to be known as ‘The Ugly Baby Syndrome’ where design engineers and product managers refused any critique of their pride and joy!

BAE had some excellent advice – Every company needs to first establish what their focus for DFx needs to be. For BAE this was to provide a strong focus on Design for Test as well as Design for Manufacture (hence the use of DFx not DFM). The rationale being that when they make it easier to test and easier to support – they make the right decisions in manufacturing.

BAE introduced a balanced scorecard to determine the most cost effective and manufacturable concept. Importantly the balanced scorecard allowed them to open up engagement across the business. This scoring system allowed BAE to have better visibility of design priorities and allowed for input from different departments. The example they used to explain this was the redesign of a Chassis Assembly – by using the scorecard they gained the view point of the supply chain, engineers and design team to review and score different manufacturing approaches from machined casting to assembled extrusion. The outcome was to develop a new process which drove £200k annual savings.

Starting with the best possible design is always better than improving a weak one.

They also recommend using the Boothroyd Dewhurst Principle for parts analysis:

  • Essential – does the part need to be a different material? Does the part need to move in relation to the other parts? Does the part need to be removable for maintenance?
  • Wrong Part Right – Are there two or more parts in the BOM that are so similar that they could be confused and the wrong part fitted?
  • Right Part Wrong – Is the way each part is fitted error proof?

If this is considered at the design stage it is easier to rule out potential assembly errors and mistake proof processes. Creating the best possible manufacturing environment.

Design trade-offs are often presented as black and white – for example reducing complexity can increase the overall cost to produce. However, it is always necessary to look at the end-to-end manufacturing process including aspects like piece part storage, BOMs, configuration impacts. One of the lessons BAE learned during this process was the trade-off may be more complex than the data available. i.e. defect rates, full lifecycle & impact to support.

DFx is now a natural part of new product development at BAE and has allowed them to provide a framework which ensures the front end of the project is loaded with the right people – improving the quality, success and longevity of the final build and delivery to the customer.

Lean Journey

The site was an early adopter of continuous improvement and Lean, in 1998 they began their first Manufacturing Improvement Programme, this has evolved over time to include a focus on Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Office, Benchmarking and application of many of the common Lean tools and concepts such as Five S (Workplace Organisation), Visual Management, Kanban (stock control) and Poke Yoke (Error Proofing). However, in 2005 they were struck by the fact that whilst they clearly understood and applied many of the improvement tools they struggled to sustain them, a localized approach was seeing improvements in certain areas creating bottlenecks in others, a challenge many companies will empathise with.

It became clear that to move forward they needed to find a framework that considered the end-to-end manufacturing process. BAE decided to adopt the Shingo Model for operational excellence. The benefits of the Shingo Model are the focus on Cultural Enablers as a foundation. This, I believe is what sets the Shingo Model apart from the TPS (Toyota Production System model), it relies on Culture first, and on this you can build successful and sustainable Continuous Improvement. Shingo also encourages systemic thinking – the need to look across the entire business and recognize the impacts of actions on others.

One of the key practices that have supported the organization is the Standardisation of both work and daily management – this provides:

  • Greater process control
  • Reduction in variability
  • Improved quality and flexibility
  • Stability (i.e. Predictable Outcomes)
  • Visibility of abnormalities
  • Clear expectations

This approach has had a marked impact on the business. BAE have seen a 50% increase in sales per employee, 10% reduction in overheads, they now have a 99.5% on time delivery to customer and have achieved a 4 times reduction in printed circuit board processing times.

Changing Hearts & Minds

One of the most noticeable changes I have seen at BAE Systems over the last five years is the improvements they have made to employee engagement. The focus on Shingo, has made them consider their culture, values and behaviours. They asked the question – what is culture? They defined it as a sum of their behaviours, values and principles – the way one conducts oneself, the treatment of others, our worth or standards and the laws that we base our reason or action on.

The focus on people and culture has driven a number of initatives:

  • A Wellness Activity Programme – employees recognized there was a desire to be part of a social club – so BAE now subsdise more social activities to create a more inclusive environment, creating an organization that people want to be part
  • Ensuring a safe environment – it became the norm that it was a safe environment – so BAE began looking at ‘near miss’ which made Health & Safety more pro-active. This evolved into physical safety, ethical behavior and employee wellbeing.
  • The ‘Recognising Excellence’ scheme and Rochester Chairman’s Award is given to people to recognize desired behaviours.
  • Skip Meetings – are open forums with the very senior members of the organization encouraging two way communications with cross sectors of the organization.
  • The Improvement Matters framework – makes use of peoples thoughts and ideas. It has generated small improvements and even new product lines.
  • Seeing the future – BAE create a mock newspaper set three years in the future. This sets out where employees hope to be three years in the future. It’s great fun and gets people thinking creatively.

From my observation, an important outcome of this is it has created a constancy of purpose as everyone has agreed on and understood the companies strategic goals. This provides a clear and unifying vision, which in turn stops the ups and downs created when people come and go.

One Big Thing

My big take-away from the visit is what BAE call their ‘One Big Thing’. This is the one strategic goal they are going to focus on in the coming year. Yes, there are multiple other targets, but the One Big Thing is the item that will lead to the biggest transformation in their business.


BAE finished their visit with the following video. I would advise you to think twice about watching it though as you will be singing the song in your head for a week (and sorry if you get the YouTube Ads!)! If you do or you don’t the message is a great one for anyone responsible for culture change – flashmobs work because they position key people within the group that know the actions (behaviours) expected, the others follow each of these people and changing behaviour is infectious.

Our thanks go out to the BAE team at Rochester who openly shared their experience with honesty, humility and a great deal of humour!

If you would like to see first-hand how BAE Systems have approached their journey to World Class Manufacturing, pre-register for their next visit in 2018.

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 www.onsiteinsights.co.uk

Insights into Excellence: A visit to Bühler UK

It is no secret that I believe Bühler in East London is one of the best places in the UK to see first-hand the application of a wide range of lean tools and techniques.  On each visit, I have made over the last fifteen years, I have seen a new initiative or improvement that adds value to their customer – this time it was the introduction of a total synchro room for New Product Development in the middle of the main production floor.  Last time it was the stores lock down. More on these later.

Sorting MachineUnless you are in the food or automotive industries you may not have heard of The Bühler Group, but they are market leaders in industrial-scale process technologies and solutions.  Very well-known are their automated rice milling solutions which process up to 30% of the world’s rice.  Their technology  also mills over 65% of the world’s wheat and 50% of the world’s cars feature die-casts made on Bühler machines.  At the site in East London they design, assemble and export highly complex optical sorting machines for a wide range of industries. It is a low volume, highly complex assembly build. It is a centre of excellence within the Bühler Group which turns over CHF 2.5 million per annum and has just over 10,000 employees worldwide.

Bühler’s continuous improvement and lean journey goes back around 20 years and was spearheaded by the previous MD Bruno Kilshaw, one of the first people I had the pleasure of working with on the visit programme, when it was known as Inside UK Enterprise.  In 2004 they relocated from the original manufacturing site in Pudding Mill Lane due to compulsory relocation for the Olympics.  The relocation provided them with the ability to create a flow line for assembly which had hitherto been impossible due to building constraints. They also made a decision at this time to focus on assembly and began to outsource fabrication and non-core manufacturing activities.

On the recent visit the Manufacturing Team provided our visitors with some great insights into the tools and techniques they have applied over recent years, I’ve sumarised some of the ideas below:

Team Leader Programme

Bühler are one year into a two year team leader programme. About 18 months ago they recognised that their lean and CI activities were plateauing and to take the next step they needed to review and challenge their operational structure.  Their approach was to create smaller, flexible teams that self-manage.  The restructuring created a new wave of team leaders – with smaller focused and more engaged teams.  To ensure the newly created team leaders had the right skills to take on their new roles they invested in a programme of leadership training delivered by consultants RPO. This provided the newly created team leaders the skills to empower and engage their teams.    Results so far have been impressive.  Just one year in they have improved engagement from 6.7 to 8.5 out of 10.  There has also been an 8% increase in productivity on site.

Bunker Sessions

Essentially the next evolution for 360 degree feedback, bunker sessions are an open and frank discussion where the team leaders bring feedback to the operations team and it is discussed in a closed door, no repercussion environment.  This open and honest feedback loop has gone a long way to ensure both team leaders and operators feel they have a voice, are engaged and valued.

Total Synchro

Buhler2Total Synchro is the Bühler name for their Lean and CI programme, there version of the Toyota Production System.  The Total Synchro programme at Bühler focuses on creating a highly visual environment, where every employee can tell at a glance how the plant is performing.

One of the key elements that sets Bühler apart from many other manufacturers is the Total Synchro room, which employs the washing line tool to display the value stream from order through to delivery for every customer transaction. I always call this the marmite part of the tour. I’ve watched it evolve from a very basic single washing line or rope process which allowed you to visualise where in the factory orders were to being a more complex but still very simple system which allows instant visualisation of work orders.  Initial reactions to the Synchro room are either ‘put it on a spreadsheet’ or ‘wow who moves all the paper’, but there is no denying that this system is effective in supporting the smooth running of the factory.  It provides a focus for the cross-departmental daily Gemba, and means problems can’t be hidden or ignored.

Takt management & Visualisation

Takt time is the maximum amount of time in which a product needs to be produced in order to satisfy customer demand – it is essentially the pulse of production set to balance a line. Bühler introduced the use of takt and a pulse line when they set up the new production process in 2004.  The takt allows them to flex up and down dependent on the demand of the customer.

On the introduction of the new team leader programme, the Operations Team created a magnetic tool to show how the takt could be impacted by kitting, line side supply and part shortages. At the change of each takt all the team leaders meet to review status allowing them to pre-empt or forecast any potential variance. Whilst this was intended as a temporary training tool it has now been adopted into day to day operations.

Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Bühler topped off a great day with an insight into how they as a company are staying ahead of curve in relation to 4IR.  To maintain their leadership position Bühler recognised that they needed to understand and plan for the next generation of technology.  They shared with us some concepts which they believe will transform the way they work in the future, ideas such as google glass which could aid picking and assembly, advanced engineering and robotic equipment which will reduce repetitive tasks and improve accuracy and consistency in production.  All of these concepts will impact the look and feel of the factory of the future, they will impact supply, skills, training, build and distribution.  Very similar to our recent visit to Kelloggs (Click here for the case study), Bühler showed that in a world of constant change and constant innovation it is necessary to plan for the unknown and increase flexibility.

Stores Lock Out and Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping has recently come back in to favour at the site, it was used in the early days of the new factory to assist with layout and line side kitting.  The team recognised recently that it was worthy of resurrecting this useful tool to aid them evaluate and review processes on a localised level.  On the visit they shared with us a project undertaken in stores where a value stream mapping exercise helped them to relay the stores area to speed up picking and improve accuracy.  As part of the VSM activity they also instituted a stores lock down, so that engineers and operators couldn’t just wander in and help themselves to parts.  This exercise has made significantly improved stock accuracy and improved picking rates.

Our thanks go out to Nigel Whittingham, Ivan Foxcroft, Peter Parmenter and all the team leaders who gave up their time to share best practice with others.

The next visit to Bühler is on 2nd November 2017.



Get Happy! A commercial imperative

Article published in Torque-Expo Magazine – April 2017 Edition

According to Torque’s end of year poll, looking after staff is a priority for most industry companies throughout 2017. We asked Ailsa Carson, Founder of Onsite Insights, for her insights into employee engagement and how that affects businesses bottom lines… Continue reading

Insights into Excellence: A visit to Princes Foods

6 (2)Achieving best practice is not a quick fix or short-term measure to improve public or employer perception. Achieving excellence and developing practices that are robust and stand the test of time requires commitment and dedication.  Last week we visited the Princes Foods manufacturing site in Belvedere, East London and saw a company that has a constancy of purpose, long range vision and a dedication to achieving excellence in all areas.  They have also achieved a very high level of Lean deployment and more importantly employee engagement.

Princes isn’t unique in that they manufacture their own brands which includes household names such as Napolina alongside supermarket own brand products.  As such, they have had to meet the stringent standards of the major supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Aldi, and have a continual focus on adding value and reducing costs.

Their lean journey, which began in 2012, and was spearheaded by Princes Manufacturing Director and Continuous Improvement (‘CI’) Manager.  The programme has been constant in its pursuit of engagement of hearts and minds and a focus on people. Their CI Manager summed it up nicely for us:

At Princes we seem to constantly return to our “Change Commitment “Curve illustration (see diagram below). What we want is everyone following the “Green Route”, to ownership, not the “Red Route”, to compliance. The trouble is the “Green Route” takes longer and requires patience, letting people experiment, and lots of coaching and support.

Shigehiro Nakamura, my old Lean Sensei, always stressed “people own what they create”. You have to avoid imposing highly defined solutions but rather communicate the key principles and then let the teams develop their own solutions within that framework. This way, in my view,  leads towards ownership and a truly “indestructible” C.I. system.  In essence – Continuous Improvement rather than delayed perfection.

Change curve princes

A great example of how they have applied this was how they encouraged their employees to think differently about their product.  Some of the products they manage are very high value, but not all, Tuite and his team started referring to the product as ‘Liquid Gold’ to instill in operators the need to minimize spills and manage waste. This simple act created a sense of ownership and triggered some great changes in behavior that have reduced costs and improved the work environment.

Visual management is of a very high standard on site, they have excellent lean training tracker boards ensuring all the tools are trained (in-house) and updated regularly.  The cell boards are clear and consistent across the site and the mobile problem-solving board can be taken to wherever a challenge or production issue arises.  Strategy deployment is clear and they utilize the Hoshin (X-Type) Matrix to ensure it is drilled down to all operating levels. This is supported through structured daily, weekly and monthly meetings – the heart of which is the daily Gemba walk led by the site operational team.

The site demonstrates a thorough application of all of the common lean principles (Five S, Visual Management, Kanban, Autonomous Maintenance and Poke Yoke) what struck me was how thorough it was and how well these work practices and only those they needed had been applied.  They acknowledged they had tried many others but are now just using what adds value to them as an organisation.  Note the use of ‘work practices’ and not tools – the Princes Manufacturing System deliberately avoids the word ‘tools’ as they believe it conjures to mind the things you keep in the shed and fetch out and use when needed then put them away again – which I think is a totally valid point and I will be adjusting my personal dictionary forthwith!

Recently, there has been a particular focus on asset management and machine reliability.  Much of the general maintenance is now undertaken by line operators freeing the engineering team to focus on supporting the operators and adhering to their planned and scheduled maintenance activities.

Every employee we spoke too talked of pride in the company and pride in the product they were manufacturing.  This is one of the goals of any employee engagement strategy, to have employees who are proud of the company they work for and the products they are manufacturing.  This is I believe a result of their genuine desire to engage and nurture their employees.  There is a structured training programme and commitment to 100 hours of training per person per year. They have also established the Princes Learning Academy based at their Bradford site which focuses on training in lean tools and techniques.  Each 12 person cohort through the academy are challenged to a deliver a minimum £10,000 cost saving project within 100 days. The results speak for themselves – last year various projects led by just the four Belvedere cohorts saved the site over £400k.  They also employ some of the usual soft tools such as an attendance raffle, a monthly all staff briefing and they celebrate birthdays with a bit of fun.

The honesty, humility openness and desire to share with others was so refreshing. The site is one of the best I have visited in the UK for some time for all of the reasons I have highlighted, and their willingness to share with other organisations what has worked and why was a great reminder of why the programme adds value to those that participate.

Our thanks go to the Management Team and Continuous Improvement Team at Princes Foods for their support of this visit.

If you would like to see first hand how Princes Foods have approached their continuous improvement and Lean journey and see how well the engage with their teams the next visit is to their Eden Valley site in Cumbria on 6 June 2017.  Please do contact me for more information.


Ailsa Carson

Programme Director

Onsite Insights


Supporting Best Practice

EEF Manufacturing Conference 2017

Most of you that know me are aware I don’t really do politics, but I make an exception one day a year for the EEF Manufacturing Conference. This is always a great insight into how global economic and political trends will impact the future of Manufacturing in the UK. Some of the key themes remain the same with the Skills Shortage in manufacturing remaining one of the critical issues for growth. A bit disappointing that this has been a recurring theme for over ten years with no real evidence of a strategy to resolve it.

Brexit of course was also high on the agenda. The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP commenting that the vote for Brexit was a clear vote for change and a symptom of the dissatisfaction and alienation many feel regarding the current political and economic landscape.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy focused heavily on the Industrial Strategy Paper. He emphasized the need for businesses to work with his department to make the Industrial Strategy a success. The only slightly challenging question that Clark faced was regarding the ‘deals’ being discussed with the automotive manufacturers – the response was unfortunately but expectedly vague.

Alison Rose, CEO Commercial and Private Banking, Natwest noted that their had been no real decline in investment and financing following Brexit. She also commented that whilst the economic forecast is bleak those companies that will weather what is to come are those that are taking action and progressing and not remaining stagnant and paralysed by uncertainty i.e. manage what you can but keep moving forward.

As always Martin Wolf of the Financial Times brought a serious but light-hearted look at the current economic forecast and how this may impact manufacturing. This is without a doubt the most informative and useful parts of the conference so a little disappointed he was reduced to being part of a panel discussion. However his ‘six’ minutes were worth the train fare!

The key elements that came from this were:

  • A large fall in currency will lead to increased inflation
  • Real income is set to decline which will likely lead to reduced consumer confidence.
  • Productivity rates – UK continues to lag behind the world and has recently dropped further. Since 2007 all measures have shown stagnation
  • Whilst the UK is the fastest growing country in the G7 we still lag behind globally

The panel discussion on Where Next for Manufacturing in the Global Economy did raise a good point that the lack of investment in capital equipment could be due to the perception that the cost of investment is so much higher than the cost of labour. We have historically had access to low cost labour – but as this is about to change Manufacturers may invest more in automation and therefore improve productivity levels.

So what are the best companies doing? The panels response was clear – they are addressing and controlling issues that they can. Developing a good understanding of hedging and developing an awareness of the impact of currency fluctuations.

Wolf was clear that he does not believe there will be any agreement on a post-Brexit plan or strategy which will lead to further uncertainty.

There was a great discussion from the Heads of Siemens and Nissan in the session on Making Britain the Best Place to do Manufacturing. Juergen Maier of Siemens talked of their plant in Congleton as being one of the best in the world due to a culture of continuous improvement and Lean. Whilst Colin Lawther of Nissan expressed their commitment to purchasing more in the UK to rectify their currency imbalance which is excellent news for the UK Supply chain.

Changing customer demands was also raised as one of the key drivers in future growth. Lawther from Nissan noted that customers used to go to the dealer seven times before buying a car, now due to social media and available information they go once. He believes as manufacturers they need to be in a position to forecast accurately what people are going to buy. He was also quite clear that productivity whilst a useful measure is not necessarily the most important when considering future growth.

So in summary, the key points:

  • Skills shortage still a major concern for Manufacturers
  • Real income is set to decline which will further reduce consumer confidence.
  • Productivity rates remain stagnant and one of the worst globally.
  • Brexit – unlikely to be any resolution in the short term but to survive essential that companies manage what they can and have a clear growth strategy that they can control.
  • The larger manufacturers will be looking to UK supply chains to rectify currency imbalances.
  • The government is seeking engagement of manufacturers in the Industrial Strategy.
  • Politicians never disappoint in their ability to avoid answers!

For a summary of the key points of the Industrial Strategy visit


New partnership to support UK Manufacturing

The Manufacturing Institute and Onsite Insights have today announced a partnership which will benefit the UK manufacturing industry.  The organisations are committed to the expansion of the already successful national visit programme to encourage the adoption of best practice and lean in organisations across the UK & Europe.  An increase in visits will benefit UK industry as the visits provide an opportunity to see first hand how successful organisations operate, to steal with pride ideas and solutions to common business challenges.

The visit programme was founded in the 1980’s by the Government as part of the robotic grant scheme. It’s early years saw engagement primarily from the manufacturing sector but over the years this has diversified – visitors now come from the service and public sectors.  The programmes best practice sites are predominantly still manufacturers – as it is easy to see process improvement when applied to a line or production area. By encouraging the sharing of innovation and best practice between organisations, the programme aims to supports the development of world class practices in the UK.  

The Onsite Insights programme already includes award-winning organisations such as Siemens, Fujifilm, Vale, Mars, Toyota, Milliken, Mitsubishi and Princes Foods.  The new partnership is aimed at increasing the number and therefore availability of these visits to companies across the UK.

The Manufacturing Institute is an established presence within the Manufacturing sector providing support to a wide range of businesses and sectors through its extensive training and charitable activities.  The Make It challenge and FabLabs have driven awareness of manufacturing across communities in the North of England.  

The partnership will also see these charitable activities being extended to the South of England, where Onsite Insights has a strong presence.

Ailsa Carson the Programme Director of Onsite Insights commented: “this will bring an exciting new chapter to the visit programmes development, leading to improved access for businesses across the country, a wider selection of company visits and the continued sharing of great ideas between companies.”




Ailsa Carson

Programme Director

Onsite Insights Limited

Phone: 0783 222 3453

Email: ailsa@onsiteinsights.co.uk

Website: www.onsiteinsights.co.uk



Onsite Insights – further information

Contact: Ailsa Carson

Phone: 023 9246 8978

Email: ailsa@onsiteinsights.co.uk

Website www.onsiteinsights.co.uk


The Manufacturing Institute – further information

Contact: Mark Leeson
Phone: 023 9246 8978

Email: mark.leeson@manufacturinginsitute.com

Website www.manufacturinginstitute.com