Mid-West Lean Network Instrumental in Challenging Cook Medical to Formalise Continuous Improvement Process

In the three years since its initiation by Shannon Chamber, the Mid-West Lean Network has not only gone from strength to strength in terms of the number of companies that have joined the now industry-led network but it has been instrumental in encouraging the uptake of lean processes within companies.


This fact was borne out by Cook Medical when it staged its first-ever workshop as a member of the network, something the Company’s vice president and general manager Pat Burke stated when speaking at a recent workshop held in Cook Medical’s facility in the National Technology Park in Limerick: “We would not be where we are today without the network. Being part of it has enabled up to soak up information at the various workshops we have attended and then, through applying lean principles, to change the way we work. We have also been able to benchmark ourselves against other companies’ lean endeavours and exchange ideas and information. We are now really engaged in continuous improvement and have learned so much already on this journey.”


Outlining the key drivers which led to the adoption of lean in Cook Medical, he added: “A desire to become more efficient and a key resource to attract new talent to the company.”


Continuous Improvement (CI) manager Teresa Prendergast, who has been involved in the company’s CI journey from the outset, starting with visual and daily management to benchmarking exercises and progressing to now having a robust CI strategy and a formal process to manage projects, has witnessed first-hand the benefits that have been derived since formalising the process in 2018.


“We have won our first award for improvements achieved in our health and safety processes and, we have moved from attending to hosting an event, a huge milestone for us.


“While leadership is providing the direction, it is the teams of people in the company that identify how we get there in terms of making improvements. Our CI processes are very much strategically driven; we know where we want to be in five years, how far we will go each year, which projects and initiatives we will introduce and who is going to work to get us there.”


Sharing the learnings gained so far, Ms Prendergast added: “The determinants of success in any CI undertaking include cross-functional involvement, focus group utilisation, a visible and accessible process, a regularly reviewed CI strategy, continuous communication and understanding that the process involves trial and error.”


Shannon Chamber chief executive Helen Downes commenting on the value of the Mid-West Lean Network to companies in the region said: “The fact that over one-hundred companies have joined the network in the past three years demonstrates the value they are deriving from it. We are witnessing increased collaboration between members, each eager to assist the other on their CI journeys. The progression in Cook Medical was a live demonstration of the benefits companies derive from attending the workshops, each dealing with a specific aspect of Lean, in Cook Medical’s case, the topic was Strategic Policy Deployment.”


The next Mid-West Lean Network workshop, which will focus on how data should be used to drive a business, will take place in the Gateway Hub, Shannon Airport House on Thursday, Oct 24, commencing at 9am. This will be followed on Wednesday, 30 October by a workshop in Roche Clarecastle, which will look at how Roche created an environment for learning. The annual Mid-West Lean Network conference will take place in the University of Limerick on Thursday, November 14.


Full details of all workshops and the conference is available at www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training/