TM's editorial team are out and about at a wide variety of industry conferences, debates and factory tours month in, month out. Let’s get a snapshot of the most interesting events they got to in November.
Skills that make sense
On November 14 The Skills Show, celebrating vocational training as a route into careers across all sectors, officially launched for the first time. Jane Gray recounts the excitement and its significance.
The Skills Show represents a consolidation of existing skills initiatives from the National Apprenticeship Service and it may mark the beginning of a wider move to concentrate and simplify communication on vocational training and career opportunities according to the show’s CEO, Ross Maloney. He told TM that The Skills Show is already in talks with EngineeringUK – organiser of the successful STEM skills event The Big Bang – about how they could align for clarity of messaging to employers, educators, children and parents about the value and practicalities of vocational training – including apprenticeships.
The Skills Show’s organisers indulged in an extravagant opening ceremony which also co-hosted the National Apprenticeship Awards and National Training Awards. The ceremony was attended by finalists in both of these contests as well as show sponsors and exhibitors and celebrity guests – Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis for example. Government was represented by Business Secretary Vince Cable who made a clear statement of his belief that vocational training can and should be seen as equal to university education for vocational careers.
The launch of this skills event is significant as a statement of determination in building on the massive success of the WorldSkills contest which was hosted in London last year, attracting more than 200,000 visitors over four days. It became the largest event ever hosted at the ExCel arena.
WorldSkills is an international biennial competition which pits the best young talent in a broad range of vocational disciplines against one another in a kind of skills Olympics. The Skills Show brings together the selection process for WorldSkills’ Team GB for the first time – previously these national heats have taken place as disparate and rather low key affairs.
Manufacturing and engineering skills received special attention at this first Skills Show. There was a snappy pavilion which housed interactive displays from BAE Systems, JCB, JLR and more. This pavilion was a hotspot for excited school children visiting the event. Exhibitors were in no doubt of the value of engaging with young people across a broad age range and emphasising the excitement that an industrial career might hold for them.
JD Edwards is back. “But we never left!”
On the UK leg of its European roadshow, Will Stirling finds out the Oracle-owned platform has a loyal following and is pushing hard to lift perceptions in the UK.
When it was bought twice – by PeopleSoft in 2003 then when Oracle bought that company in 2005 – rumours circulated that JD Edwards, the ERP system with a strong manufacturing genesis, would wilt away in the shadow of the world’s third biggest software company.
“There are competitors who try to play on that,” says Lyle Ekdahl, group vice president general manager at JD Edwards, speaking at the company’s Reading convention in November. “Referring to eight years ago, they say, ‘JD Edwards was bought, they’ll go out of business and won’t be relevant.’ In fact we’ve proven them wrong, time and again.”
In recent years, JD Edwards has scored some big successes among global and mid-market companies. For example, customers for its EnterpriseOne ERP product include speaker-maker Sennheiser, United Streetcar and Senco Brands. A typical JDE customer is in mixed-mode manufacturing. “If you run some process, some repetitive, some discrete lines, then JDE will make a good fit,” says Mr Ekdahl.
Customers that have remained loyal to JDE say they feel they have a well-designed base product for manufacturing, with modules which easily scale up “both functionally and technically” as a business grows. “We are a full suite Tier One ERP at a price point that is more in line with a Tier 2 ERP,” says Mr Ekdahl.
That has resonated with JD Edwards’ European business, where it has had some of its best years ever – wine making in Italy and food and beverage in the Benelux stand out – despite being less well known in the UK.
“We can do better here, and we are doing better,” Ekdahl says. “We had about 150 visitors to this conference a few years ago, now we’re getting over 312 registered participants.” Look up JD Edwards in your next ERP review.
In mid-November 2012, Lean Management Journal (the sister publication of TM) teamed up with Porsche Consulting to provide a two day continuous improvement course at Porsche’s Leipzig factory. Tim Brown went along for the ride.
On day one the 10-strong group arrived at the striking 32-metre high Porsche customer centre affectionately known as the diamond due its small base, slanting angular sides and broad roof. Attendees had come from far and wide including Canada, the Czech Republic and…Bristol. But everyone was keen to see how a supercar company implements lean.
We were quickly ushered in and welcomed by the Porsche Consulting team and the course commenced with a look into the development and functions of the Porsche Production System. For those who were not familiar with Porsche’s history over the last two decades, it was a surprise to learn that Porsche hadn’t always been so efficient and successful. Indeed, in 1992 the company haemorrhaged €122m.
At that time, the company enlisted the help Japanese consultancy firm Shingijutsu to help with the turnaround. The results were remarkable and only a decade later in 2003, the firm turned a profit in excess of €1bn – a striking reminder of the true potential of process improvement.
In the afternoon, the group were treated to a lesson on personal development. The session demonstrated how formulaic military-style briefings can be used to effectively communicate plans to managers or the wider workforce.
The second day was a more hands on experience including a simulation of the Porsche supply chain and logistics operation using the components of toy trucks to represent the production line. Following a presentation from head of Porsche Consulting, Holger Ludwig, the group were then taken on a gemba tour of the Leipzig operation where what they had heard over the past day and half was illustrated in practice.
Overall it was an insightful programme showing not only how the best in world operate but how the application of lean principles can successfully create growth.