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Made for Manufacturing: A problem shared is a problem halved

Our Made for Manufacturing programme has helped a wide range of SME manufacturers implement a series of waste-busting continuous improvement projects that have made a huge difference to their business. Nick Brandwood and Rachel Baldry summarise the benefits gained by those now sitting happily in our ‘Hall of Fame’.

Our Made for Manufacturing programme has helped a wide range of SME manufacturers implement a series of waste-busting continuous improvement projects that have made a huge difference to their business. Nick Brandwood and Rachel Baldry summarise the benefits gained by those now sitting happily in our ‘Hall of Fame’.

 


Over the last year, we have welcomed 39  manufacturers from across Greater Manchester into our Made for Manufacturing programme – a ten-week journey of virtual workshops and peer-to-peer learning designed for leaders looking to achieve manufacturing excellence.

Made for Manufacturing was a first for us, but it’s been so successful that it will certainly not be the last. Those in our ‘Hall of Fame’ made lasting changes that have unlocked continuous learning and improvement long into the future.

Now is a great opportunity to take stock of what we, and these businesses, have learnt along the way.

In the boat together

We welcomed a hugely varied group of manufacturers over the course of our four Made for Manufacturing cohorts. From steel fabrication to printing, food, plastic extrusion, blow moulding, injection moulding, precision engineering, chemicals, joinery, packaging, tooling… you name it, we had it.

Each one came with its own unique characteristics. Some had 10 employees, while others were global companies with 200+ staff. Participants ranged from their mid-20s to their early-60s and included team leaders, production managers, all the way up to managing directors. Some were relatively new to continuous improvement and lean thinking, while others were further along the path to manufacturing excellence.

Yet we discovered, over months of delivering the programme, that no matter how diverse the product, experience or position, most delegates were in the same boat, suffering from the same problems.

Almost every dilemma could ultimately be boiled down to the nature of leadership and coaching; how to engage with team members to embed effective problem solving behaviours. Many commonly shared issues, such as a lack of standard process or constant firefighting, could usually be traced back in one way or another to this fundamental need to develop a culture of learning.

Managing by Walking About

Given the sheer diversity on each cohort, it was no wonder that delegates gained so much from learning how their peers approached these shared challenges. In fact, it was one of the things that businesses loved most about the programme. They were able to bounce ideas off each other, relate to those in a similar position and build confidence in the knowledge that they weren’t as far behind the pack as they thought they were.

 

“It was interesting to see how other companies face similar firefighting challenges – it’s good to see it’s not just us. I am now focusing on a more formalised structure, taking time to measure and improve.”

Andy Mosely, Production Manager, Manchester Manufacturing Group, Manchester

Examples of small projects with big impacts

As Nick has highlighted previously, excellent manufacturers are excellent problem solvers, sometimes solving seemingly small problems can have a massive impact.

Arden Dies in Stockport is a great example of a company that took on several small, yet effective, continuous improvement projects during the programme.

Previously, when a tool wore out, operators had to stop the process to make a new one. Now, they have implemented a simple rota for batch-making tools at convenient downtimes, eliminating the time spent waiting when they wear out. Another time-saving project included a new storage and sorting system for sandpaper, making it easier to find the right sandpaper for each job and ensure each type was always in stock.

“The programme has taught me to change the way I think about things and given me a good basis for how to go about solving problems. I am now thinking ahead and planning things in advance rather than waiting to be reactive. We are now working on a couple of projects which will make a huge difference to the productivity of the business.”

Tony Lynch, Works Manager, Arden Dies, Stockport

C&C Baseline Architectural in Wigan managed to significantly reduce walking time between workstations and the storeroom by making a portable trolley for components that could be wheeled around to each workstation – a great example of low cost, low effort lean thinking.

Sometimes the projects just focused on increased communication and being present on the shopfloor. Multiwood Products in Bury implemented a daily review process to ensure every workstation was to standard – something that all staff now see the benefit in to the point where they are coming up with their own suggestions for improvements.

“The sessions were jampacked full of useful information, insights and experiences. I almost didn’t do the course because I didn’t think I’d be able to fit it in, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve been trying to introduce continuous improvement into the company for the last 18 months, but I feel the course has given a structure I can follow and resources I can tap into.”

Ben Allan, Creative Director, Multiwood Products, Bury

Another of our alumni now timetables a period every week to work on the line, allowing them to coach others on the job while at the same time getting first-hand experience of any problems operators are facing.

Frying bigger fish

After discussing their situation with ourselves and their cohort peers, some of our alumni have gone on to solve significant challenges.

For example, Aiden Berry, Director of Bridgewater Laminates in Salford, raised concerns about a connectivity issue between CAM software and a CNC machine. After some discussion, and further support from our Manufacturing Team and a digital intern sourced through the Made Smarter programme, a solution has been implemented which is expected to increase efficiency by 15 per cent.

Bridgewater also went on to install a panel lifter, part-funded by a Small Business Grant, which has freed up one person who was having to leave their job several times a day to help lift panels onto production machinery.

Taking in everything else learned during the course, performance per employee in

Q2 of 2021 was 44 percent higher than Q4 of 2020.

“Throughout my career I have attended many training courses around people and process management, so when I attend a new course I don’t expect a raft of new knowledge. However, Made for Manufacturing was particularly useful as it brought likeminded people together to discuss difficult topics we all face on a daily basis. It was both reassuring and confidence-building to hear from people with the same issues and how they deal with them.”

Aiden Berry, Director, Bridgewater Laminates, Salford

Getting the expert view on the big problems

One of the additional perks of Made for Manufacturing was that every delegate went home with their own copy of Grow Your Factory, Grow Your Profits by Tim McLean, Director of TXM Lean Solutions and a renowned expert on lean manufacturing.

Thanks to Tim’s hugely varied 33-year career, much of it working in or with SMEs, Grow Your Factory, Grow Your Profits is applicable to almost any manufacturing business.

We’ve had constant feedback that this book alone has been of real value to delegates. In fact, it was so useful to one leader that he bought copies for his entire team!

We were lucky enough to welcome Tim to a final session for all our Made for Manufacturing alumni in September, where he outlined how smart thinking can help to weather the storm of even the biggest global challenges facing manufacturers, including:

  • Supply chain disruption in the aftermath of recent global events
  • The widening skills gap and difficulties finding new talent
  • Getting left behind in the transition to digitised manufacturing.

 These challenges are beyond the ability of any one company to solve, but as Tim explained, small internal improvements can make a big difference.

For example, one of our delegates raised an issue with debilitatingly long lead times from a large supplier. Tim’s valuable advice was to align ordering with their supplier’s production cycle to match their needs to when goods were being produced (the same principle applies to shipping schedules).

Similarly, for those struggling to find highly skilled workers, standardising tasks and acting on the 8 wastes may ultimately remove the perceived need for that highly skilled worker in the first place.

These are the sorts of lessons we can all learn from, and without Made for Manufacturing, they might just be stuck on a dusty bookshelf.

Interested?

If you’re interested in taking part in a future iteration of Made for Manufacturing, make sure to get in touch with our Manufacturing Team. In the meantime, our specialist advisors are able to offer tailored one-to-one advice and guidance that will put you on the route to manufacturing excellence.

Need support? Get in touch
Nick Brandwood

Nick Brandwood, Manufacturing Advisor

Nick has over 20 years' experience of implementing Lean and overseeing Six Sigma Improvement projects. 

Originally employed as a graduate Polymer scientist he has subsequently been employed in technological, continuous improvement and senior line management roles in automotive, textiles and secure printing manufacturing organisations. 

Nick is very hands-on and likes to understand and analyse problems, questioning perceptions and speaking with data. He has significant experience in facilitating change having previously worked as a Manufacturing Advisory Service advisor and has undertaken Lean transformations in automotive, aerospace, food and textile manufacturing companies.  

He has also trained over 30 six sigma greenbelts, and specialises in understanding and controlling variation and risk within the manufacturing process.  

Most recently, Nick was employed as the Quality and OPEX manager in a secure print company – ensuring that the productivity, quality and process capability targets for the imminent £20 plastic banknote were achieved to the satisfaction of the client.

To view Nick's full profile including technical capabilities and industry experience, please click here.

Rachel Baldry

Rachel Baldry , Manufacturing Advisor

With a background in Manufacturing Engineering, Rachel has spent her career working in both manufacturing and operational environments.  She has a broad range of experience including efficiency improvement projects, supply chain, inventory control, process mapping and implementation and improvement of ERP systems.

Most recently, Rachel was employed as a Business Process Manager, employed to improve the efficiency, accuracy and profitability of the Business Stream, requiring detailed data analysis, process analysis and improvement, ERP system improvement (SAP) and employee training.

To view Rachel's full profile including technical capabilities and industry experience, please click here.

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