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Leadership & Mentoring

Introducing Production Leader: A course for team leaders on their way to excellence

Manufacturing Advisor Nick Brandwood introduces our new Production Leader programme, a five-part, 12-hour online training course developed specially for production managers at Greater Manchester SMEs who are on a journey to manufacturing excellence. 

Just over a year on from the launch of our hugely popular online Made for Manufacturing programme, I’m excited to reveal Production Leader – a fully-funded development course designed for line managers and production managers.


What is it?

Delivered over a series of three-hour online workshop sprints, the course helps production leaders to develop the leadership skills they need to drive forward a culture of learning in their organisation.

Delegates learn about:

  • What ‘good’ looks like
  • How to measure ‘good’
  • How to identify the actionable steps to get there
  • The lean tools to implement change
  • How to engage others and coach appropriate behaviours
  • How advances in digital technology can drive improvement.


Why Production Leaders?

Whereas Made for Manufacturing is aimed at senior decision makers, the Production Leader course has been developed specifically for managers who link senior management to the shopfloor.

There’s a very important reason for this. At the most fundamental level, manufacturing excellence always comes down to leadership and engagement, but it’s not good enough for these skills to just exist at the top – they must be consistent throughout an organisation to be effective.

When I look at manufacturers that are successful and compare them with those that are struggling, it’s often the strength of the production leaders who tend to make the difference. They may not have the wider responsibilities of senior managers, but they are the glue that keeps everything together; the keystone that bridges strategy to the frontline.


The value of a good leader: A cautionary tale

I once visited a factory that was struggling to achieve the output it was expecting. When we did a minute-by-minute analysis, we found that there were significant non-value-added activities taking place on the shopfloor that weren’t being accounted for (we call this phenomenon the ‘hidden factory’). The production manager took away my analysis, reviewed manning, made a good case for recruiting someone to take responsibility for these tasks, and re-designed production schedules to achieve the desired output. The business turned things around completely.

A few weeks later, I went into another factory in exactly the same situation. We did the same analysis and the production manager was given the same tools to work with. But when I returned to check up on progress, this time nothing had changed!

The key difference between the two businesses was the production manager. One had the aptitude to implement the tools at their disposal and lead change, and the other didn’t.

Never underestimate the value of the production leader role in your organisation.


Five key pillars of learning

 Our Production Leader course introduces delegates to five strategic building blocks of manufacturing excellence:

1. Role of Production Leader

A ‘learning’ organisation is one where the pursuit of standardised and sustained continuous improvement is valued more than the ability to firefight. The role of a production leader in this environment is not ‘chief firefighter’ or ‘super operator’ but to embed appropriate behaviours and coach others to do the same, every day.

In this pillar, delegates will learn what a learning culture looks like, what the appropriate behaviours are to enable this, what the objectives of a production leader should be, and how to achieve them.

How to avoid the pitfalls of firefighting

2. Setting the bar high through measurement

Every excellent manufacturer can translate ‘good’ into a number that can be measured, tracked and benchmarked. This pillar will take delegates through understanding high level measures and linking them to departmental KPIs, identifying good actions based on data, quantifying and confirming improvements using this data, and standardising successes.

How to get started with data

3. The continuous improvement process

Continuous improvement is all about maintaining a constant, never-ending journey from best current method to new best current method. This requires problem solving skills and ‘thinking scientifically’ in everything you do – taking hypotheses, testing them, analysing the results and drawing the right conclusions.

Delegates will learn the key steps of continuous improvement, how to educate their team and get buy in for implementing changes, using continuous improvement to create competitive advantage, and drive key measures in the right direction.

How to think scientifically

4. Tools of continuous improvement

There are various tools and approaches for implementing continuous improvement in a manufacturing organisation. The course will explore some of the most valuable and relevant to SMEs, including (but not limited to):

5Digitalisation - is there a better way?

Once the values of continuous improvement are embedded in your organisation, you are then primed and ready to capitalise on the vast potential of digital technology and the world of Industry 4.0.

The important thing to remember is this. Digitalisation promises many things, but it will only deliver in the context of good manufacturing practice. In this final pillar of the course, delegates will discover how to understand the digital readiness of their organisation, how to identify their next steps and begin to pinpoint processes that can be digitised, and how to present management with a compelling business case for investment.

Digitalisation through the lense of manufacturing excellence

Is it right for you?

The Production Leader programme is designed specifically to support production leaders in any SME manufacturer, but it won’t be suitable for everyone. The following questions will help you to decide whether the course is right for you:

  • Are you onboard with continuous improvement?
    Production Leader is for SMEs that are dedicated to becoming a learning organisation and are committed to ensuring they have the appropriate leadership skills to get there at all levels of the business. If you have already been through our Made for Manufacturing programme and found value in it, Production Leader is a natural follow-on for your business.
  • Do you find that traditional production management training courses rarely suit your needs?
    Like Made for Manufacturing, the Production Leader programme is designed by and for people who work exclusively in an SME manufacturing environment. That means we will be considering everyday issues that are relatable to SMEs, not just blindly applying methodologies developed by large manufacturers.
  • Would your production leaders benefit from learning alongside others in the same job role?
    Even though this is an online course, there’s a big focus on peer-to-peer learning. Whereas senior managers often have a large external network and peers they regularly speak to, for many production leaders their connections only go as far as the four walls they work within. This programme is a valuable opportunity to find out what life is like for others in their position and work through shared challenges.


Sound good? 

If the Production Leader programme sounds suitable for your business, sign up now. Remember, organisations eligible for Production Leader are also eligible for Made for Manufacturing, so your production leaders and senior managers can benefit simultaneously.

If you’d like to discuss these courses with an advisor in more detail or find out about our wider support for SME manufacturers in Greater Manchester, get in touch with us via the link below.

Sign up now
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.

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