Companies seeking efficiencies in their work processes are advised to consider lean as a means of streamlining workflow, eliminating waste and gaining financial savings. This was the advice given at a recent Shannon Chamber workshop, which featured presentations from lean specialists LBS Partners from Limerick and Shannon-based Element Six, who have successfully adopted lean.
Shannon Chamber’s CEO Helen Downes, explaining the rationale for the workshop, said: “We wanted to give companies a greater insight into the types and levels of lean training available and to illustrate, through practical case studies, how lean is implemented. With almost 100 companies now enlisted as members of the Mid-West Lean Network and a new Continuous Improvement Awards launched earlier this year, we noted that an increasing number of SMEs are considering lean but lack the wherewithal to do so. This workshop has given them the confidence to look towards lean and perhaps enter a project into the Awards, as entry is still open.
“While lean may be regarded as simple common sense, it requires a willing and collective mindset within an organisation to deliver the company’s desired results. That’s where training comes in. It enables staff at all levels to become involved in projects that can deliver cost-savings. When staff take ownership of a project, new practices become embedded and the benefits gained are long term,” added Ms Downes.
LBS Partners’ director of sales and marketing Vincent Leonard explained the levels of lean training available. Classified as ‘belts’, companies can train their staff to attain white, yellow, green and black belts and, the ultimate Master Black Belt.
“Companies commencing or enhancing their lean journey can start by selecting staff to attain the white belt; this is a basic introduction to lean and is suitable for frontline staff, operatives, reception and interns. The level two yellow belt is suitable for operatives and supervisors who have no formal problem-solving training or experience but who have management potential. The green belt is suitable for those who have already completed their yellow belt or managers and supervisors who are with the organisation over three years and require advanced problem-solving capabilities. Black belts are attained by more senior level staff who have the knowledge and capability to lead problem-solving projects and train or coach project teams, whilst the Master Black Belt is for the most accomplished lean leader.
“There is a programme to suit all companies and each staff level within the organisation, be that a manufacturing or service operation. The ultimate payback is improved processes, reduced wastage, greater capability, responsible leadership and a change in mindset within a company,” added Mr Leonard.
The benefit of lean belt training was qualified by Stephen Linnane, HR manager with Element Six, who has witnessed the gains attained since the company adopted lean in 2010. Whilst involved in lean for eight years, Element Six’s first green belts qualified in 2018, having started the process in 2017.
“Our concentration at the earlier stages of lean was on standardisation, visual management and practical problem solving with substantial gains being seen. Our approach to standardisation became particularly significant when it came to improving and transferring processes in the recent past. However, we recognised that our approach to practical problem solving wasn’t delivering the consistent results we expected. When introducing the lean belt training, it was important to us that the focus was not just on business improvement but also on ensuring that people were enabled and motivated to improve their area of work. Ensuring that a recognised qualification came from applying the training was also key for us as we wanted to ensure people were acknowledged for the important improvements they make.
“Our advice to any company embarking on this lean belt training is to keep it motivational and the results will flow.”
For information on lean training available through Shannon Chamber Skillnet, call 061 475854.