Benefits of Continuous Improvement Clearly Obvious at Shannon Chamber Lean Workshop hosted by Zimmer Biomet – Shannon


Mid-West Lean Network chairman Claude Costelloe, operations director Zimmer Biomet. Photograph by Eamon Ward


The Shannon Chamber-driven Mid-West Lean Network (MWLN), which has been operational since late 2016, is drawing an increasing number of attendees to its monthly workshops which are held in Network members’ premises.


Eighty people attended the most recent workshop in Zimmer Biomet where the focus was visual management , one of the tools from the Lean Tool Box. The purpose of visual management is to enable an organisation to visualise performance with the intention of improving it. Some of the presentations showed how visual management is a key part of Zimmer Biomet’s CI strategy and in particular how it can enable reduction of work in progress and all the benefits that go with that. This involves placing visualisation boards on the shop floor so that all team members  can quickly see the status of each job in real time and take immediate action to redress any problems that may be causing delays.


Zimmer Biomet’s operations director, Claude Costello, who also chairs the Mid-West Lean Network, in welcoming representatives from a wide range of companies and sectors in the region  said that lean-focused workshops present a great opportunity to share ‘Best Practice on Continuous Improvement (CI)’ in order to improve the effectiveness of those organisations.


“The collective is greater than the sum of the parts. The intention is to use the MWLN to create a centre of excellence for CI within the region and use this as a key driver of growth and investment in the region,” he stated, adding that the Network is one of the few vehicles in the Mid-West for free knowledge sharing.


Key presenters on the day were Zimmer Biomet’s Gerard Grace, associate director, operational excellence; Rob Geary, MES leader; and Cian Kelly, a continuous improvement engineer in the company’s Galway plant.


Continuous improvement delivers quantifiable benefits to Zimmer Biomet and it is part of the culture of the organisation where everyone is involved in both manufacturing and support functions such as HR, finance and supply chain. The benefits to date include: a 50% reduction in lead time from 3.9 to 1.5days; 40% reduction in work in progress; 15% increase in pod output through standard work; 80% reduction in output variation resulting in greater predictability; the lowest back orders in the Zimmer Biomet network; and the highest operational excellence score in Zimmer Biomet, a key metric on the corporate dashboard for investment.


“These are the levels of payback companies can expect if they use CI of which visual management is key.  it’s a simple, easy way to visualise performance to generate improvements,” stated Mr Grace.


“Before you improve, you have to measure. It’s all down to doing things in a consistent way, knowing how you are doing it and how you can make it better. Visual management, as part of this process, focuses on the problem, not the individual and that’s why people look on it so positively. it’s a tool to generate improvements. The results will follow.”


Speaking at the event in Zimmer Biomet, Shannon Chamber’s CEO Helen Downes complimented attendees for their interest in continuous improvement and encouraged them to enter the inaugural Mid-West Lean Network Continuous Improvement Awards, which are now open for applications.


“These awards are aimed at companies who are starting their lean journey. We would encourage companies to enter by downloading an application form from our website. Entries will be accepted up to the end of August and must include a letter of support from the company owner, CEO or managing director as project sponsor. An adjudication panel with assess each entry and visit companies, where necessary, before selecting the final shortlist of three. Each of the three shortlisted companies will be required to make a presentation at the Mid-West Lean Network Conference in November where the overall winner will be announced. It’s a new initiative for the network and we hope to increase the number of categories next year,” added Ms Downes.


The Mid-West Lean Network, the second largest regional lean network in Ireland, after Waterford Institute of Technology’s Lean Enterprise Excellence Group, aims to strengthen and increase the existing culture of lean within the Shannon and the wider Mid-West region. Its aim is to enable each industry to broaden and strengthen their competitiveness through knowledge sharing and bench-marking against each other and different industries.


Companies wishing to join the Network, which is free of charge, can do so by logging onto