Climb the learning curve

Posted on 7 May 2010 by The Manufacturer

The Manufacturer’s sister magazine, The Lean Management Journal (LMJ) attended IQPC's Process Excellence Summit and Awards as media partners and to share in the learning and celebration

Running from April 26-29 for the 11th time the Process Excellence Summit brought together the good and the great of change management and process improvement from across sectors and from around the globe. Workshops, case studies, demonstrations and motivational keynotes, punctuated by lively networking sessions brought the theory of improvement into the real world.

Keynoted by the inspirational Rene Carayol and Chaired by LMJs board member and head of Credit Suisse’s operational excellence programme execution, Brenton Harder, the event gave momentum both to the less tangible qualities inherent in organisational transformation and the technical knowledge necessary for waste identification, process rationalisation and measurement of progress.

Presentations catered to all levels of lean expertise with examples from companies just starting out on their journey through to boundary stretching explorations by organisations with years of experience behind them. Speakers came from an impressive range of industries and included; BNP Paribas, Ministry of Justice, Boeing Defence UK and Shepherd Neame Breweries.

The impressive diligence with which the speakers put together their material resulted in fantastic value for delegates. Each presentation was methodical in tracing the steps that organisations had taken to gain their wins so far. The use of traditional lean tools and six sigma techniques were detailed but there was an overwhelming acknowledgement that the often overlooked cultural side of change was still an area of differentiation between exemplary success and superficial improvement. In addition the suspicion and misunderstanding often apparent in the use of enabling technologies was explored. Enterprise software, business process management (BPM) programmes and data analytics all proved their parts in the case studies. A story of particular note came from New Balance who used Nimbus BPM technology to overcome the hurdle of deploying lean guidance to office staff. A challenge which had caused numerous initiatives beyond their manufacturing shop floor to falter previously.

In these difficult economic times when the paradigms of competition are shifting beneath feet of commerce and industry it is easy to think of attending events like this as an extravagance but Peter Watkins, lean enterprise and business excellence director at GKN emphasised to LMJ that he thinks it is imperative for organisations to get out of their offices and off their shop floors. “The key thing is to keep learning. There is always new perspective to be gained through listening to other people – often this is especially the case when you hear about what people are doing in an organisational environment very different from your own. It allows you to think more creatively about how you can apply the lessons they have learnt to your problems.”

One of the key lessons learned throughout the two conference days was the importance of celebrating success to sustain lean wins and keep the engagement of deployment teams. Different ways of doing this were unique to each organisation and relied on understanding organisational culture and workforce behaviours. What unified many of the attendant companies however was their desire to lay claim to one of the prestigious IQPC Process Excellence Awards that were presented at a gala dinner on the evening of April 27.

DHL walked away with the headline prize for Best Process Improvement Programme while an innovative prize for the best improvement project launched and concluded in under 90 days went to Shepherd Neame. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic niche brewer takes this quick win forward to propagate further improvement across the business. The company’s business improvement and supply chain manager, Ben Wright was confident that the award was only the beginning of a bright future; “Winning an IQPC for this Project, which was a first step in a programme introducing Lean Sigma thinking and methods into the Supply Chain, has been a real encouragement to the team. It has given renewed focus to our efforts to build a first class production and logistics capability at Shepherd Neame”.

DHL agreed. Holger Winkelbauer, executive VP Corporate First Choice says “First Choice lives from participation and this award goes to all the team who have used First Choice methods to push for perfection in Deutsche Post DHL. This award shows that we are a learning organisation; one that strives to improve itself continuously for the benefit of our customers, for our employees and for our investors.”

Many of the award winners and speakers from this IQPC event are regular attendees and participant at a range of excellent events. They are also contributors to LMJ. If you would like to hear more from the likes of Brenton Harder and Peter Watkins these seasoned improvement professional will be speaking both at LMJ’s flagship event on May 20 and at IQPCs Lean Leaders event in July.