March 4th, 2013
Building a strong knowledge base
When Bluelab Corporation saw the success lean principles were having in the production area, a strategic decision was made to apply the same principles across all departments in the company. But management quickly realised that the level of knowledge and exposure to lean principles varied greatly within the company, resulting in a decision to offer all permanent staff the opportunity to enrol in the Competitive Manufacturing Introductory, Level 2 qualification.
“It was crucial to ensure the organisation had a consistent knowledge and skills base to develop a competitive manufacturing company,” says Mandy Jarvis, the Production Manager and Lean Champion for Bluelab. “Commitment from our senior management team and CEO was vital. Their enrolment in the Level 2 course signalled to all staff the commitment to upskilling the company has.”
And so, assisted by industry training organisation Competenz, Bluelab commenced training with 95% of its permanent staff in September 2012.
Bluelab is a leading manufacturer of hand-held meters and control equipment for measuring and controlling parameters such as pH, conductivity and temperature of a liquid. Up to 98% of Bluelab’s product is exported, meaning optimal efficiency is a must to compete on the global market.
Bluelab has learnt that creating a more competitive business can come down to the simplest of things. As part of the initial Level 2 training, all staff were required to demonstrate a culture of continuous improvement. A ‘quick wins,’ initiative was started – encouraging staff to look at simple improvements that are quick, that do not involve extensive capital and are self-driven.
The quick wins have become a competition between staff and departments, with all vying for the best cost cutting, time saving, and productivity boosting idea. One quick win included questioning why Bluelab shrink wrapped its export boxes sent to the other side of the world. Deemed not to be necessary, and having no impact on the customers, this process was stopped, saving $2,500 per year in components and resources.
“It’s about teaching people that the simple things to make your working environment easier and more efficient are the best things – not just the ones that require a cheque book or a pneumatic drill!” says Mandy.
To date, over 85 quick wins have been registered with estimated savings of over $19,500.
As part of the qualification the company has also been split into 6 cross-functional project teams – each assigned a different existing problem. Level 2 training to date has taught skills to enable each team to manage their project. “Root cause analysis, waste identification, A3 storyboards, fishbone analysis, and team management skills have been part of the learning process to date,” explains Mandy. All teams have made significant progress on their projects resulting in some impressive companywide improvements.
It is anticipated that Bluelab staff enrolled in the Level 2 qualification will have completed this by April 2013, and some staff may progress on to Levels 3 and 4, or even to the Level 5 diploma qualification.
“At times it’s been tricky trying to fit in training amongst normal everyday challenges in the workplace – the rewards however have been significant and the staff are to be commended for their commitment and enthusiasm to ensure Bluelab has the best possible skills to meet the competive market head on,” says Mandy .