Hundreds of manufacturers gathered at Manchester’s Midland hotel for the second Works Management Manufacturing Champions conference.

Sponsored by The Manufacturing Institute for the second year running, the 10 categories ranged from Employee Innovation to Unsung Hero to the top award of the day – the Manufacturing leader award.

Last year’s winner Kirsty Wainwright, who was operations excellence co-ordinator, NCT Leather, was there to hand over her crown.

She has now moved to be Continuous Improvement lead, in charge of 9 sites, at Parsons Peebles based in Dunfermline who design and manufacture electric motors and generators.

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Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a form of big picture analysis, developed to help businesses identify the best areas to make improvements.

It can be described as a high level tool that guides the subsequent use of other lean tools.

VSM has been used by thousands of businesses around the world since its creation in the late 1990’s by Rother and Shook in their book “Learning to See.”

VSM recognises that there are usually few people in a business who understand the entire end to end process.

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Lean thinking has become accepted across manufacturers in all industries as an essential enabler for continuous improvement. Positive, and sometimes spectacular, results through lean initiatives in the short term are commonplace, but more elusive is the achievement of sustainable improvement on the road to true enterprise excellence.

This is because most organisations continue to focus on the use of lean tools and systems and lose sight of the prime purpose – the why? With the tools-based approach, the means becomes the ends. Even those implementing lean management techniques such as strategy deployment, A3 problem-solving and standard work underachieve against their goals because they remain too focused on the tools themselves. Consequently most businesses fail to realise the full return on their lean training investments.

Tools are important, but sustainable performance improvement requires organisational behaviour change which is leader-led. Successful Lean leaders recognise this and consistently exhibit specific attributes, which enable culture transformation. They act as role models and are grounded in guiding principles such as leading with humility, constancy of purpose, seeking perfection and respecting every individual. They also remain doggedly determined and laser-focused on the goal.

At a practical level, lean leaders assume the role of problem-solver. This means directly observing the actual situation by “going to the gemba”, where lean leaders ask about the issue, seek the root cause and show respect for subordinates and colleagues by asking tough questions until good answers emerge. This is a meaningful and structured conversation that engages employees and encourages their maximum abilities in pursuit of the best currently known countermeasures.

Lean leaders also recognise that problems should be solved at the lowest level possible in the organisation, which implies providing the appropriate support beyond the initial training (including coaching, recognition, etc.), and promoting experimentation through Plan, Do, Check, Act in order to establish a team-based, daily, kaizen culture.

This is all enabled and aligned by developing a strong connection between strategy deployment and visual management, and then relentlessly engaging the whole organisation in identifying and solving new problems to close the gaps. When these new behaviours are combined with the right lean tools and systems, amazing results are possible.

By Chris Merriman, principal consultant, The Manufacturing Institute


The Manufacturing Institute is celebrating record customer satisfaction scores across its education, training and consultancy programmes for the third consecutive year.

The average score for courses ranging from the MSc in Manufacturing Leadership to Shingo Discover workshops in the 2015-16 financial year is 92.3% – up from 89.8% the previous financial year.

Satisfaction scores have also improved for both Public and In-Company Education and Training courses which include the Team Leader Development Programme and the Accelerated Route to Lean Manufacturing Programme.

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This year students from across the West Midlands battled it out in the Commercial Vehicle Show Make It Enterprise Challenge. Over the 3 days of the show 23 teams were tasked with setting up their own mini-manufacturing company and designing, manufacturing and building one of two projects: a super-flexible new local and mid-distance van for supporting businesses in their delivery / service / maintenance needs, or, a revolutionary new Long-Distance Lorry Cab.

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