Results from Business Excellence Cases

  • The application of "Lean philosophy" is magically effective outside production operations in industry. It is effectively applied to "Brainwork", "Public Service", "Financial Services" or "Service" in Health Care, Government and Commerce.

  • Lean businesses achieve higher returns than their competitors and grow their businesses significantly faster . 
  • Capital outlay is not normally required to boost business profitability, which is normally achieved by relatively painless streamlining of business processes. The investment of employees' time is typically "paid back" within a month.

Financial Services benefit from Lean

posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:35 AM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Feb 7, 2017, 6:39 AM ]

Business Excellence has over the last few years been invited to support some Luxembourg based financial institutions on the implementation of "Lean" to reduce their level of risk, increase the quality of their activity and achieve improved on time completion of customer related activities and settlements.

Lean from deal to settlementAnalysis of the % value added to total lead time of financial value streams show improvement opportunities of similar magnitude to industrial value streams. Typically in an end to end financial process less than 20% of the start to end "lead time" of the process involves value being added to the transaction; so the potential is to accelerate these processes by up to 500%, achieving capacity increases and on time "delivery" exists. Business Excellence has developed a "Lean Financial Services" approach to engage organisations in "Lean Financial Services" implementation. Our experience is that Financial Services become even more enthusiastic about opportunities to cut waste out, fix underlying quality issues and realign resources to achieve at least 50% reductions in lead time and associated improvements in on time settlement.

Value Stream 300% acceleration

posted Feb 7, 2017, 6:15 AM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Feb 7, 2017, 7:05 AM ]

Building on a first pilot to showcase "Lean" impact on rapid service provision, an industrial client worked with Business Excellence to introduce cellular manufacturing from end to end of the value stream for the manufacture of complex tooling. Previously the production was in 3 stages with average lead time of 10 days for Stage 1, 11 days for stage II and 16 days for Stage III, totaling 37 working days for delivery of a complex tool. The conversion of the 3 stages to 3 separate lean manufacturing cells with average lead times of 4, 5 and 3 days respectively or 12 days total has resulted in a 300% acceleration of flow in the Value Stream. This enables the client to be more responsive to market opportunities and win more profitable business. 

FIFO Sequencer

The cells have been implemented with a minimal investment approach; essentially rearranging and reorganising existing production to respect lean principles of built in quality and just in time flow. There has been extensive work in cross training team members to ensure resilience to absences, which has paid off in the winter "flu" season, which in the past seriously impacted on time delivery. Particular emphasis has been paid to ensuring laminar one piece flow using homemade "sequencers". Here the importance of visual control is seen with colours used to make late or advance highly obvious, so enabling the team members to manage flow without requiring management resources or IT solutions.

HR issues in improvement

posted Jun 13, 2016, 9:14 AM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Jun 15, 2016, 12:06 AM ]

HR is key to sustainable lean transformation.

The originator of "Lean" Toyota bases it's whole existence on just two principles:
  1. Respect for people
  2. Continuous improvement

A recent case of lean implementation via an autonomous team of workers at an industrial client had great results on the "hard" metrics:

  • Quality "Right first time" up 30%
  • Delivery lead time reduced by 73%
  • Productivity increased by 1.3% per week over a 36 week period (47%)

The story was different on the "soft" metrics:

Initially as the "Autonomous team" of factory operators formed, cross-trained and then stormed, achieving the hard metrics above, moral went "through the roof" and enthusiasm soared. The operation had been a headache for management in the past; whereas now they just visited once a week for a presentation by the operators of the incredible progress made. Management attention soon focused on the next challenges and the operators began to feel neglected. There was never any tangible reward for their achievements, as the HR system was locked into collectively negotiated inflexible pay-scales with no provision for "Autonomous Teams" of workers, although workers were given the chance to do projects in their freed up time in addition to their normal work. The HR system maintains a great divide between blue collar "Operators" and white collar "Staff". For example new job opportunities for staff are not filled from the pool of talented operators but from outside.
As it became apparent to the operators that there was no career prospects for them despite their great achievement and the risk they had taken embracing new working practices disenchantment set in. The gain is unlikely to be sustained in the long term unless the management team grasp the HR nettle and understand that new ways of working which blur employee categories require new ways of rewarding and retaining the emerging group of bue/white collar team members. 

A massive challenge in any lean transformation is to engage the HR leadership in the process and to ensure three foundations for sustained lean improvement and retention of key technical and improvement competencies:
  1. Redeployment guarantee that any productivity improvement made by lean will result in redeployment into useful work for employees surplus to requirement; especially when they have themselves driven the productivity gains.
  2. Careers of workers are considered as carefully as for staff with possibility to break through the blue / white collar ceiling.
  3. Compensation adequately reflects autonomous work groups and cross trained operators

Only then will the two principles of Toyota work their magical synergy.

  1. Respect for people
  2. Continuous improvement

Cellular Manufacturing achieves massive reduction in delivery times

posted Oct 5, 2015, 11:28 AM by Frederick Portal

Business Excellence has introduced lean type cellular manufacturing at a renown Luxembourgish precision toolmaker. 

The pilot project, kicked off in September 2015 has been conducted on a shoestring budget to demonstrate the potential gains from lean in a high value added precision business.

The pilot cell was designed by a team of the customer's employees trained and coached by Business Excellence, who has also accompanied the team in the deployment.

Initial results are a reduction of typical repair times from 15 calendar days to just 3 to 5 working days.

Laminar flow in the manufacturing cell is represented by FIFO sequencers on the machines. Given the shoestring budget the sequencer was made from wire and paperclips, but included colour coded tickets to make on time and late highly visible to enable any late work to be caught up to deliver on time. (See picture).

Shoestring FIFO Sequencer

The ability to more than halve the lead time for repairs is a strategic advantage for the toolmaker and his customers who are consequentially able to offer enhanced customer service to their own clients and win higher margin valuable business.
The collateral benefits of faster reactivity to quality and reliability of equipment issues as well as improved team spirit in the "natural work group" are also emerging as bonus benefits of cellular manufacturing.

Profitability improved by Design

posted Apr 10, 2015, 8:20 AM by Frederick Portal

PROBLEM: A manufacturer of complex electro-mechanical systems had grown rapidly to the point where the demand for their products outstripped their ability to manufacture on time to target cost.

SOLUTION:  Business Excellence provided training in French on “Design for Manufacture and Assembly” to a multidisciplinary team of Product and Process Engineers and then facilitated a series of workshops to improve the design of a new product range to enable the same or better functional performance to be achieved with a drastic reduction in component cost and assembly times.

RESULTS: The client was able to deliver a massive order quantity of their latest design of product on time below target cost as a result of the application of the DFMA methodology taught by Business Excellence and the initial coaching and final in-house adoption of design for Manufacture and Assembly methodology.

DFMA is one of a several Engineering tools used by Business Excellence to enable organisations to improve profitability of engineered products.

Six Sigma quality improvement

posted Apr 10, 2015, 7:52 AM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Apr 10, 2015, 8:01 AM ]

PROBLEM: A renowned Luxembourg manufacturer of precision tooling manufactured to state of the art tolerances has been confronted from the start of production over 25 years ago to the present day by quality defects.

SOLUTION:  Business Excellence was mandated to half the occurrence of the defects by the application of “Six Sigma” or “Variability Reduction and Control” methodology developed by Motorola in 1986. Business Excellence’s consultants have experience of Six Sigma dating back to 1989 and so Business Excellence was able to put together a small team with a Master Black Belt and a Black Belt from Business Excellence together with a team from the customer's organisation to work on this persistent problem. The team faced significant challenges measuring the production as the tolerances required measuring to the micron.

RESULTS: After substantial measurement and analysis, simple improvements to prevent the root causes and requiring almost no investment have been implemented, resulting in very substantial savings as the target was met.

Six Sigma is one of a wide variety of quality tools used by Business Excellence to assist organisations to improve customer satisfaction and service levels.


Profit Enhancement from Target Costing

posted Mar 12, 2013, 2:25 AM by Frederick Portal

PROBLEM: Loss of market share and erosion of margins from low cost imports damaging profitability of long established French manufacturer of electrical fittings

SOLUTION: Business Excellence worked with the client to focus the organisation on meeting target profit margins by redesigning existing product lines and leveraging the knowledge to develop next generation products. The process involved training the Purchasing, Engineering and Manufacturing staff in "Target Costing" and then assisting them in setting up and running their Target Costing process over 3 workshop sessions conducted in French aver  a 4 month period. Training was also provided in Value Engineering, Design for Manufacturing and in applying lean best practice in production operations to meet target costs.

RESULTS: New products developed in France for production in France at market competitive rates meeting corporate profitability targets have transformed defeatism and despair into action-orientated "business excellence".

Business Excellence Processes drive Results

Simplification of Export Supply Chain

posted Mar 12, 2013, 12:50 AM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Jan 3, 2014, 1:26 AM ]

PROBLEM A Luxembourg company exporting globally repeatedly failed to deliver on time due to wrong product in stock, incorrectly forecasted by customer service planning; despite having the equivalent of one year’s sales in stock in Asia. Turnover was lost to competitors.

SOLUTION Business Excellence worked swiftly with the organisation's production, logistics and sales department, applied lean principles to design a self-regulating intercontinental supply chain using "Kanbans" to manage customer needs through the supply chain. Employees were trained to use the system in one day.

RESULTS Cost invested in stock was reduced by 70%. Customer satisfaction from on time deliveries is at 100% no missed deliveries have occurred since. The capital investment to implement the project, which replaced multiple complex computerised systems was less than 300€ and 700 000 € of working capital has been freed up for further expansion of global exports.

Long Supply Chains 

Exports from Luxembourg
Problem: Stock out of control
    Easy to get out of control with classic MRP software
Managed with Kanban System (Prototype after Workshop) 

Lean Product Development

posted Oct 14, 2009, 11:51 PM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Mar 12, 2013, 1:54 AM ]

PROBLEM: Late deliveries were the norm in this Automotive sector Technical Centre. Late designs led to dissatisfied O.E.M. customers, botched production launches with poor product quality, over budget production costs and disorganized supply chains.

SOLUTION: Lean "Business Excellence" principles were applied to identify and structure the division's product development processes. Creative and nebulous product development activity was re-designed "waste free" to enable laminar work flow to eliminate"looping" back to rework tasks.
RESULTS:  Product development times were reduced by 30% and productivity was improved by over 40%. Product Launches became flawless and resources previously deployed "trouble shooting" production ramp up issues were deployed to pursue new business to strengthen the bottom line.

Lean in Financial Services

posted Oct 14, 2009, 11:50 PM by Frederick Portal   [ updated Mar 12, 2013, 1:38 AM ]

PROBLEM: Financial Reports generated by a multi-national organisation in Luxembourg for control of a 50 million € Engineering budget in 5 countries for 70 service providers were not fit for purpose, leading to cost over-runs, spending spiraling out of control and cuts to essential spending on new projects.

SOLUTION:  Business Excellence "Lean Principles" were applied to redesign the financial forecasting, budgeting and reporting processes in a series of workshops involving the stakeholders from both the Finance Department and 70 Budget Responsible Directors to achieve a coherent, integrated and streamlined process, enabling real time financial planning and control within target budgets.

RESULTS: Total Business Excellence "Lean" cost reduction of over 170 million € of Engineering costs over a 10 year period. Profit margin on sales was increased by 7% on annual sales of 500 million €. 

SUSTAINABILITY: The cost of producing the reports was halved and the quality infinitely improved as the new output was configurable at the point of use, replacing "Telephone Directory" sized reports in account number jargon with dynamic pivot tables, so the decision makers can filter for their specific requirements. 50% of Finance department's FTE redeployed. Ecological impact of moving from printed reports to on screen displays.

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