Attendees, including Reagecon employees, at the Mid-West Lean Network workshop in Reagecon with (front centre): Reagecon’s lean specialist Jennifer Stratton and IT and Supply Chain director Michael O’Riordan and, Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber. Photo: Eamon Ward.
Reagecon Diagnostics may only have introduced structured lean principles into the company one year ago but the strides they have made in that short twelve months in taking their lean undertakings to a new level were plain to see when they hosted a recent Mid-West Lean Network workshop in their Shannon premises. The workshop was open to companies in the network to give them an appreciation of how lean was introduced and has benefitted a small to medium-sized company, manufacturing a broad product range and exporting worldwide.
Founder, Chairman and Managing Director John Barron has taken the company to a position where it is now the world’s largest producer of physical and chemical standards and reference materials, producing over 10,000 physical and chemical standards and currently employing 100 people at its manufacturing and development centre in Shannon.
Keen to embed lean, also referred to as continuous improvement, in the company, Reagecon has now assigned responsibility for this task to Lean Specialist Jennifer Stratton, who began her career with Reagecon as a production technician, moving to production cell lead before taking on her current role.
Describing her journey with Lean over the past two years as a fast learning curve, when she attended the series of workshops and the annual lean conference organised by the Mid-West Lean Network, Ms Stratton states: “It was important to understand how other companies were approaching lean and to take the parts of lean that would work for Reagecon.
“I learnt so much from the 2018 conference as it focused on the people aspect of lean. I knew it would be imperative to encourage all employees to embrace lean as it only works if it is embraced by the entire team.”
“One year into our structured lean journey and we have achieved a lot. We started the journey in our production department, using projects that we could define and measure. Teaming up with lean consultants LBS Partners has enabled us to train 10 employees as green belts and implement five strategic green belt projects; we are now working on yellow belt training. We have also initiated daily PIT meetings, which monitor performance, issues and targets in production, quality control and the warehouse. Our plans for this year include expanding visual management, training all staff to white belt, twenty in yellow belt and undertake fifteen yellow belt projects. We will also complete five more strategic green belt A3 project and continue to expand our PIT Meeting process.”
Outlining challenges associated with introducing lean into a company, she added: “Co-ordinating projects and getting people to do things differently can be a challenge but our internal culture makes the transition easier.”
Also speaking at the workshop, the Company’s IT and Supply Chain director Michael O’Riordan concurred that culture is critical to lean: “If you don’t have culture right, you don’t have a stable basis for lean. Everyone in Reagecon understands the company’s strategy, in which culture is a key component, and appreciates that lean eliminates wastes, encourages creativity and a lot of new ideas.
“Whilst our lean journey started back in 2005. when we appointed a lean co-ordinator prior to bringing in consultants in 2012, grant support through Enterprise Ireland’s LeanPlus programme in 2019 enabled us to dedicate a full-time executive resource to lean, introduce the very structured programme we now have and spread lean across the company. We are witnessing the benefits already.”
Commenting on the value of the network and the annual schedule of workshops, which are hosted in companies’ premises in the region, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “The value of attending the workshops is clearly evident from Reagecon’s experience of doing so. They attended, soaked up the information given at each session, networked and then devised a process to suit their specific needs. They are the perfect endorsement of the value of a network that is industry led, ensuring that the workshops are delivering information that companies need and can use.
“The network is open to companies or all sizes and in all sectors, be that manufacturing or the services sector. Simply check out the details at www.shannonchamber.ie/services/shannon-chamber-forums.”
About the Mid-West Lean Network
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 companies in Shannon and the wider Mid-West region.
It is industry led, with a committee comprising lean/continuous improvement specialists from Analog Devices – Chair Jony Kelly, Enterprise Excellence Manager; Zimmer Biomet, Atlantic Aviation Group, LBS Partners, Ingenium, Molex Ireland, Holmes O’Malley Sexton, Cook Medical Ireland, Advanced Technical Concepts, Microchip Technology Ireland and Edwards Life Sciences, supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. The day-to-day operational/administration of the Network is undertaken by Shannon Chamber.
Reagecon employees who participated in the Mid-West Lean Network workshop held on site at their facility in Shannon. Photo: Eamon Ward