Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Colour and Value Steam maps

A team was mapping the site activities required to deliver to the customer, so a Value Stream map for all of the complex customers of a modern site, as well as the "users". One of the team came up with the idea of using a different colour for the actual product... it created a tiny pool of pink amoungst a sea of yellow. A Very visual way of seeing where the value is!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

China bound

At the end of November I will be travelling to China to deliver training on problem solving and Value Stream Mapping. My first trip to China, working with Chinese and British people. Should be really good.

Currently working with a client to put in place a Business Continuity Planning project for one of their key buildings. Excellent involvement by all departments and some very well thought through plans.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Site development - first phase of Going for Gold expansion plan for Penn Pharmaceuticals

Specialist pharmaceutical company Penn Pharmaceutical Group, is embarking on the first phase of a five year long £12m expansion programme which will see the complete redevelopment of its manufacturing site in Tredegar, South Wales, and which will, when complete, increase capacity as well as improve operating efficiencies. The expansion programme will create 133 jobs and safeguard the future of a further 100 jobs at its Welsh headquarters.

Following an operational efficiency review carried out by Machan Consulting, four major improvement initiatives were identified under the 'Going for Gold' theme, fitting perfectly with the company's sponsorship of Paralympic swimmer David Roberts CBE, who is an eleven-time gold medallist. The four initiatives are Site Development, Materials Management, Quality Improvement and Organisational-wide Training, all of which have overlapping elements.

The Site Redevelopment initiative will play a key part in improving operating efficiencies. The site layout will be redesigned in order to improve the flow of materials and staff. It will involve much large scale groundwork and will transform the shape and appearance of the site.

Penn Pharma has already invested in some additional capacity, including an off-site storage and distribution facility near its headquarters, and in the extension and refurbishment of its laboratories.

Penn will move existing stores to a site at Oakdale to allow the expansion of its clinical trials supplies and manufacturing facilities. Further redevelopment phases will include the extension of existing buildings, the refurbishment of the staff restaurant and the laboratories.

"All the phases of the work will make significant improvements to the appearance and operation of the site," said Peter George, CEO of Penn Pharma. "In the longer term it will also allow for expansion of the site on a single level, in line with a longer term site development strategy; a improved environment for our workforce and improved material and people flows."

The site development project is the most visible of the four projects which have all now started.

Monday, 29 June 2009


In December this year, I have been invited to provide a lecture to some Masters students on the topic of Management Consultancy at Cranfield University in the School of Applied Sciences. If any students attending that course read this then please email me with a few points on what they would like to learn from the session.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Black Swans in a post six sigma world?

Black Swan is the name of a book by Nassim Taleb. His life work on the topic of randomness raises good questions for us all in the current situation. Before Black Swans were discovered, accepted wisdom was that all Swans were white. It's a short hand metaphor for surprisingly likely, unusual, extra-ordinary events that can have enormous impacts, unpredictable in a six sigma, normal curve mindset.
Think of monitoring a production line using control charts, working on reducing variation, identifying special causes and then.... the Power supply line to the whole factory is cut by contractors (its happened to me, in my case it was a continuous steriliser in a food factory, and manual control of the steam became essential).
It's outside of your "system envelope", unpredictable, but with a massive impact.
Nassim Taleb shows us that we can't predict these black swans, but we can identify what types of endeavours are likely to suffer them, and hence we can prepare, and maybe react quickly.
On the other side of this are the unexpected, big win black swans. The sort of big impact, highly unexpected wins that are beloved of entrepreneurs. Again we can't predict them, but you have to be in the game to win them...working hard at getting lucky!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Operational excellence

Operational Excellence: Pharma’s Missed Opportunities by Thomas Friedli, University of St. Gallen and Prabir Basu published in March's edition of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Magazine (Link above to the article) is well worth a read.

It is drawn from a europe-wide benchmarking study conducted by the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the International Association for Pharmaceutical Technology (APV). It reveals that an average pharmaceutical plant could save up to € 6.5 million per year by achieving the degree of operational excellence equivalent to that achieved by the top 10% of the sample. About 100 pharmaceutical manufacturing locations all over Europe were analyzed in this study.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Measurements and distance

Despite my previous Athletics Coaching experience, I'm not referring to Long jump measurements here.

Performance measures are good, applying stats to them is good, looking for trends is good. Why wouldn't you want to track key numbers?

However, I have recently seen examples where performance measures are being used to substitute for closeness to key operating areas and customers. Don't rely on performance measure to replace time spent understanding what is really going on. The Japanese call it going to the Gemba (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Operations-and-Supply-Chain/lm/R3E73X9KNKKDJP/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full).

Put in place and use Performance measures to ensure that you are achieving your strategy, but let them guide you to where you should be spending your valuable time.

Some of you may have seen our recent Spring Newsletter. In this issue we point to the article in the March edition of the Manufacturer that was based on Hugues Charrat's work at Cranfield, an MSc student that we worked with. His Thesis is on the resources page of our website ("Operating in the UK as a strategic Choice"), and the article can be found at http://snurl.com/e4ua5

This work builds on Greg Bacons Thesis from 2007 (see again our resources page and click on "Offshoring: An Industry insight into the benefits and challenges").

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A system for Success?

Last month, Oliver Burkeman wrote a column in The Guardian (click on the link for the full article), that quoted the question "Can there really be a system for success?"

The thrust of his argument is that the promise of a successful system is that it will render self-improvement "automatic, bridging the excruciating gap between knowing how to change and actually changing."

Although Oliver is talking here about dieting, time management and the like, the parallels with Industrial and Operational improvement improvement ideas are uncanny. The promise of Lean, Six Sigma, ERP, 360 degree feedback, Management by Objectives, "Managing by Walking about" all promise a little of that.

In practice of course, making change is a combination of knowing what to do, and then employing a lot of graft, keeping a clear direction and sometimes the helping hand of someone who has been there before. Successful change is frequently predicated on how you go about achieving it. This emphasises the need to plan what you have to do carefully, remembering we deal with real people.

How you change frequently determines your level of ultimate, sustainable success; not just which system you select.

PS, if you are looking for what is coming next, there is an excellent article by Dan Gilmour on Lean Manufacturing 2.0 and TLS (Theory of Constraints, Lean, Six sigma) Follow this link: http://www.scdigest.com/ASSETS/FIRSTTHOUGHTS/09-02-05.Php

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Works Management Magazine Jan '09

Annie Gregory interviewed me for the January '09 edition of Works Management Magazine on the topic of the next steps for Lean. Here is the intro to the piece from Annie:

"Joined-up thinking

Once the basics are in place, what’s the next logical step for lean?
As Annie Gregory discovers, the lean path runs best when it heads
straight for your customers’ door"

In the article I was quoted as being a committed advocate of pinning lean’s second steps to the voice of the customer (VOC). “Especially in difficult times, the pursuit of lean should mean more than just removing waste. Pockets of lean good practice need to extend to the customer, so that not only is the stream focused on delivering the right value but that customer sees your value stream as being better than their other choices.”

I also point out that it is relatively easy to copy products but incredibly difficult to emulate the things that make a value stream special.

Click on the link to find a PDF copy of the mazazine and read the full article.