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Leadership & Mentoring

‘Go Look See’: A peek behind the curtain at our region’s best and brightest

Manufacturing Advisory Nick Brandwood gives us a glimpse of what SME leaders can expect from our Manufacturing Champions 2023 programme, which includes an interactive workshop with a world-renowned leader in lean thinking and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of two of our favourite North West manufacturers.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a fly on the wall in some of our region’s best, leanest manufacturing facilities?

I can describe what good lean manufacturing practice looks like until the cows come home, but there’s no substitute for actually seeing it in action.

That’s why we’ve designed our three-part Manufacturing Champions 2023 programme around the model of ‘Go Look See’ (a lean concept in itself). Between February and May 2023, we’ll be taking some of Greater Manchester’s budding SME leaders on a tour of two of my favourite manufacturing facilities – plus an in-person workshop with renowned lean consultant and author Tim McLean.


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Part 1: Lean thinking with Tim McLean

Before the two site visits, we’re inviting SME manufacturers to Bolton Stadium Hotel for a content-packed interactive workshop delivered by Tim McLean of TXM Lean Solutions.

Tim is an expert in taking the lean thinking traditionally associated with global car manufacture and showing how the same tools and techniques are universally applicable to any manufacturing operation. His popular book ‘Grow Your Factory, Grow Your Profits’ is heavily used in our Made for Manufacturing programme for senior leaders.

Delivered through a combination of Tim’s examples and case studies from over 20 years of lean transformation, the workshop will cover:

  • Why achieving profitable growth is such a challenge for SMEs
  • Core lean principles of Quality, Cost, Delivery
  • Why a ‘big company solution’ like lean works so effectively in smaller businesses
  • Steps to successful lean implementation
  • Survival strategies for SMEs in 2023 and beyond.

The day will finish with Tim’s ‘airplane game’ – a great way for manufacturers to understand key lean concepts by working together to develop a continuous flow manufacturing process for making paper planes.

“With unstable supply chains, shortages and long lead times, rising energy costs and chronic shortages of labour, how do you maintain revenue and profitable growth? Where do you start? TXM will show how the core principles of lean thinking can be applied to your business to make the most of your existing resources for 2023 and beyond”

Tim McLean, TXM Lean Solutions

Part 2: Towards Manufacturing Excellence with Atec Engineering Solutions

Our first half-day factory visit will be at Atec Engineering Solutions in Salford. Atec provide engineering solutions for the defence industry and a range of other sectors, and they’re an award-winning example of what excellent manufacturing can look like as an SME.

When you step through the door, it doesn’t take long to see lots of good examples of best practice. Everything feels ‘in control’, visual management is ever-present and there’s a degree of autonomy all around you. Decision-making is clearly devolved to people on the shopfloor and employees take pride in being able to solve issues themselves.

People development runs right through to Atec’s apprenticeship programme, which won them a prestigious Make UK Award for Developing Future Talent in 2022 (one of four Make UK Awards they won last year!).

On the day, our delegates will have a discussion with Atec’s leadership team before walking around the facility to observe good practice, focusing particularly on how Atec is achieving:

  • Competitive advantage through digitisation
  • Sustained improvement through standard practice and standard communication
  • Increased engagement through daily reviews and empowering people
  • Developing future talent through apprenticeships.

“We look forward to sharing progress and challenges with other SME manufacturers and it is always great for us that other manufacturers find things that we do interesting and helpful. We always appreciate the good feedback and it is good to know people are taking our experience and making their own improvements”

John Bowden, Managing Director, Atec Engineering Solutions

Part 3: Developing a leadership culture with Siemens

Our second and final site visit will take us to Siemens Congleton, a super facility which produces over a million mechanical controls and variable speed drives (VSDs) per year.

If Atec is a good example of an SME doing all the right things, then Siemens Congleton is an opportunity to see what that looks like when applied in a world-class manufacturing facility.

The Congleton site is a sight to behold for many reasons – per m2 it’s one of Siemens’ most productive sites worldwide, and also one of the greenest.

However, one of the most inspiring things about Siemens is the ownership culture instilled into every individual. Siemens are excellent at taking business strategy from the top and communicating it down through the organisation effectively. Everybody acts as if it’s their own business and everybody knows whether they’ve had a good day or not.

So what does that look like in practice? During the tour our delegates will learn about Siemens’ approach to:

  • Developing the values of a learning organisation
  • Culture and leadership
  • Cascading communications effectively
  • Developing individuals and the team.

Even as a small SME, it’s good to align your compass with how Siemens operate. After all, every business no matter the size faces challenges conveying business requirements and KPIs in a way that means something to people.

It’s not every day you get an opportunity to visit a site like this. In many ways it’s a little like being let into Willy Wonka’s Factory (although I can’t promise a chocolate river), so we’re delighted Siemens are opening their doors to us.

“We have had great feedback from companies on how they have been inspired by our sessions to make real change happen in their workplaces – it has been very inspirational for us to hear their passion. It’s great to hear from others and be able to share our experiences on encouraging personal growth and skill development”

Sal Swindells, Engagement and Development Partner, Siemens UK

Bringing your learning home

At the end of the programme, our delegates will have an opportunity to take what they’ve learnt and apply it to their own operations with one-to-one support from our expert Manufacturing Team.

If you’re an SME manufacturer based in Greater Manchester and want to learn more about how we can help you emulate organisations like Atec and Siemens through lean thinking, get in touch today for an initial diagnostic.

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