1) Nick, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I began work in materials handling xx years ago. The company I worked for provided a range of live storage equipment. One product which we supplied was Leantek – a steel Tube & bracket system manufactured by Trilogiq in France.
The system was flexible, cost-effective and perfect for implementing lean process change.
I saw a huge potential for this product, but my company was not so enthusiastic. I couldn’t persuade them to take it more seriously, so I set up on my own, and founded the Tube & Bracket company in 2002.
As well as supplying the Leantek system – initially into the Automotive and Electronic manufacturing sectors – we focussed on adding value by helping customers solve their problems. We worked alongside the lean managers to come up with big-picture solutions that improved overall process and the working environment.
We did this across a range of industries, and quickly became the market leader in the UK. I sold the Tube & Bracket company to Trilogiq Group, which allowed us to expand further and benefit from their global logistics network.
I am now Sales and Marketing Director of Trilogiq group, and my mission there is to apply the best practice from our experience in the UK at a global level, and bring our expertise into new sectors.
We have recently developed a composite Tube & Bracket system called GRAPHIT, which has various advantages over traditional steel systems.
2) How do you define Continuous Improvement?
Continuous improvement is when we look at the world around us and imagine how it could be better.
We see a problem, come up with a solution then make whatever changes are within our power.
We look at the results, make judgements about whether they’re good or bad, and the process begins again. We all do this, every day, in every area of our lives.
It’s the reason that – at home – the Tea, Coffee, Milk and Sugar are always in the same place. It’s whatever works for us.
The big question is; why doesn’t this happen more often, and more naturally, in the workplace?
3) Is it true that for the most of us we resist change?
No. I believe we embrace change – but only when we can see its value, and when we feel involved in the process of problem solving.
The resistance comes when change, that directly affects us, is imposed on us.
If we feel like we’re being overruled – that our opinions and experince are not valued – we can feel threatened. This makes us behave in a defensive way, and we tend to push back.
In practice, a good idea can easily be undermined by someone who is against the change – because of the way the change has been implemented.
4) Kaizen/Lean/CI/TPM, why is it important for us?
There are many advantages for the employees and the company as a whole in doing things better. From the pure economics of improving efficiency throughout a process – reducing waste, eliminating non-value added process etc – to much more ‘human’ concerns such as the positive impact of good ergonomics on the health and morale of the workforce.
5) How is leadership important to the success of the leanmanager/director/facilitator?
Leadership is absolutely critical. To make change successful, you generally need the people who are affected by it to be as enthusiastic as possible about the change. You may never get complete agreement, but the more support you have, the better the chances of success.
6) Does a good leader in today’s world need to balance both the goal achievement part with the people skills part?
Yes. Your ability to solve problems on paper means nothing if you cannot get changes implemented in a way which people accept. There are many factors at work here – changes to people’s routines or working conditions, safety, legislation – as well as the straighforward technical challenges.
The other issue, one that Lean Managers sometimes overlook – is that the people directly affected may already have some of the answers – but nobody has ever thought to ask them!