Lean Forward

Article by Ian Madden CEng FIChemE

We should sell Lean Manufacturing to the food industry, says Ian Madden

IMAGINE you are a sales executive and you have been given the job of selling an extraordinary machine to senior executives within the food industry. This machine does not produce any food product but has the capability to not only turn every £1 you put into it to at least £3 within a year but also to make your organisation better in terms of safety, quality and delivery performance with a substantially more motivated and engaged workforce.

The machine is not new, although it’s massively improved;  its founding principles have been around since the end of the Second World War. So you’d be forgiven for assuming that every food company must have one by now and that there would be very few customers for it left.

Figure 1: The lean machine ‘flywheel’

(Lean) has the capability to not only turn every £1 you put into it to at least £3 within a year but also to make your organisation better in terms of safety, quality and delivery performance with a substantially more motivated and engaged workforce

Imagine further that I tell you that there is still a huge opportunity and that the take up is surprisingly low. So what is this machine? This ‘machine’ is Lean Manufacturing” (see Figure 1). Of course, it’s a philosophy rather than an actual machine but as a system of behaviours and methodologies, I think ‘machine’ is a good way to describe it.

I add that many of your prospective customers will have heard of it and, indeed, many will have tried it and either adopted it in a fairly limited manner or reverted back to their previous ways of doing things after a fairly short while.

I’m afraid that selling the Lean Manufacturing machine to the food industry is a hard sell, but I have some tips that will help you.

Where do you start?

Assuming they are interested in the business case described above, first ask the senior executive to complete the checklist in Figure 2.

What happens if they answer “no” to any of the questions or are not sure? Explain to them that before they progress any further they (the senior management team) have to achieve a solid “yes” to all of the questions. Tell them they will need to work with a Lean teacher (or ‘sensei’) to teach them about Lean principles and how to think differently. The sensei will convince them that they will need to change their behaviours because without their leadership, continuing involvement and discipline, the whole Lean implementation will fail.

Figure 2: The Lean checklist: yes or no?

Article by Ian Madden CEng FIChemE

Lean Consultant, Torrs Consulting

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