Mid-West Lean Network workshop shows how Element Six uses Lean to deliver efficiencies

Steve Linnane, general manager, Element Six, welcomed Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber, Jennifer Stratton, continuous improvement engineer with Cook Medical and chair of the Mid-West Lean Network (MWLN) and Chamber members to the on-site lean workshop. Photo by Eamon Ward.

Operating from a 22-acre site at Shannon Free Zone for the past sixty-two years, Element Six continues to focus on adding new dimensions to its Shannon operation. This was apparent when the Shannon-based team, led by general manager, Steve Linnane, presented at a Shannon Chamber Mid-West Lean Network workshop, held recently at the company’s facility.

The purpose of these workshops is to give Chamber members insights into how companies are deploying lean principles to deliver operational efficiencies. The workshops, which are hosted in member companies’ facilities, encourage collaboration and sharing of knowledge at a cross-sectoral level.

The Element Six team, which comprised of engineering manager Richard Park and continuous improvement specialist Michael Darcy, gave workshop attendees a thorough overview of how lean methodology has enabled the company to coordinate its engineering teams across different locations.

Having first introduced lean in 2012, Element Six has, more recently, further developed how its engineering staff operate, moving from working in different buildings on a singular process and managed at departmental level, to now being part of a single value stream with responsibility for an operational function across the entire organisation.

“The decision to move from a departmental structure, which had been in place for many years, to set up cross-functional teams was a light-bulb moment for us,” explains Park, who energetically describes lean as being part of the diary, with site manager meetings, which take place at 8:30am, and cross-functional team meetings, which take place at 2:30pm, now part of the normal daily routine.

“We now have a team responsible for driving improvements. They assess how core measures, such as production, quality metrics, throughput, and recoveries, are preforming daily,” he adds.

Explaining why lean is being successfully deployed in Element Six Shannon, continuous improvement specialist Michael Darcy says it’s all to do with ‘belts’, the language of lean where staff undertake white, yellow or green belt training, learning how standards work, how to undertake practical problem solving and the most advances six sigma, a set of techniques and tools for process improvement,” he says.

“It’s part of the company’s culture and it’s a route to talent development for employees.”

Speaking about the value of lean-focused workshops, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes says they are wonderful for knowledge sharing among executives from different companies and different sectors and for learning about the payback that can be derived from lean.

“As we learned from the insights shared during the event at Element Six, companies that don’t have a standard and don’t have a plan end up in a mess. We saw the impact of not having a plan when, as attendees, we were divided into groups, with each group asked to collaborate on drawing an animal, given to them only by name. Starting with the first group member who drew one part of the animal, the rest of the group had to follow through to complete the task, without any idea of what the result would look like. As we were told on completion, the drawings were all a mess as no group had a plan. Lesson learnt,” she adds.

Further Mid-West Lean Network events will be published at www.shannonchamber.ie/events-training/ leading up the annual conference, which will held in Dromoland Castle Hotel on 20 November.


Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber pictured at the Mid-West Lean Network (MWLN) workshop in Element Six in Shannon with (from left): Jennifer Stratton, chair, MWLN; Robert Hernon, Enterprise Ireland; Steve Linnane, general manager, Element Six and workshop host; Richard Park and Michael Darcy, Element Six. Photo by Eamon Ward.



Steve Linnane, general manager, Element Six, and Jennifer Stratton, chair, Mid-West Lean Network (MWLN) with the Element Six team who acted as facility tour guides during the recent MWLN workshop (from left): Krzysztof Rudnicki, Jennie Mullins, Laura Sheehan and Michael Darcy. Photo by Eamon Ward.