We’re all aware of Lean methodology. We’re all aware that it’s a great way to help companies to shed excess weight in the form of physical materials, activities and processes that do not add value to a product – and that the result is a streamlined company which operates more efficiently for less money. Everyone wins.

But, if Lean’s so beneficial, why do so many Lean projects get off to a flying start – only to crash and burn weeks or months later?

We believe that we have the answer.

What if the countless failed Lean projects across industries flopped because those implementing them were missing the most crucial part of any change project: purpose. 

Without purpose, there can be no staff engagement or motivation; without engagement and motivation, there can be no progress. What, then, is the purpose that could drive an entire workforce to roll out a Lean approach – and make it stick?

Imagine a global crisis we have 11 years to tackle - a crisis which stems, in part, directly from the manufacturing industry, and can be improved by adopting a Lean approach. As Sir David Attenborough highlighted at COP24, climate change is humanity’s greatest threat – and given that 36% of GHG comes from the manufacturing industry, tapping into Lean is exactly what the planet needs right now. If that’s not a sense of purpose that could drive a workforce, what is?

Working out the ‘why’

Environmental benefits sit at the heart of Lean methodology – almost without trying. Just as wasted time and inefficient processes do not add value to the end product, so emissions and waste materials detract value from both the product and the planet. While adopting a Lean approach cuts costs and improves both the finished product and company efficiency, the trend for unfinished Lean projects shows that these motivations alone are not enough to engage and galvanise a workforce. These projects, and those working on them, have all been missing their ‘why’.

The environmental benefits of Lean methodology are a huge missed opportunity. If there is one truth that can unite employees, and one ‘why’ that can drive change, surely it is the future of the world our children and grandchildrens will inhabit – a future that the manufacturing industry has the power to change.

The good news? The benefits of a Lean approach all tie together.

The more streamlined the processes, the smaller the amount of physical waste produced (happy planet!), the more efficient the workforce (happy employees!), and the better the product (happy customers!). Add the reduction of costs to the mix, thanks to cutting out money-wasting processes and unnecessary spending, and businesses, the planet – and your children and grandchildren! - are onto a winner.

Worldwide Fruit finds purpose in Lean to go for gold

Worldwide Fruit (WFL) is a great example of how a team of engaged employees turned Lean methodology into a springboard to improved performance and progress on environmental goals. To improve their profitability and reduce the amount of their food and packaging waste, WFL rolled Lean processes out across their entire operation – from their recruitment process to their production lines. The result:

  • Reduced environmental impact thanks to reducing the amount of packaging waste stemming from their supply chain by 4,200kg;
  • Reduced food waste across the supply chain by over 500,000kg;
  • Over £2.1million in cost savings;
  • 100% growth in volume since 2011;
  • Recognition for their success, as they achieved a ‘Gold’ award against the Marks & Spencer Plan A Food Sustainability framework.

A Lean and green machine indeed.

Turning Lean ambition into reality

So, we’ve established that purpose and engagement are key to Lean success.

Is achieving engagement always simple? Not necessarily.

Is it possible? Certainly – with the right communication.

Sure, getting your company started on its Lean journey might not be plain sailing. Key sticking points to achieving that vital engagement of colleagues across the business are often around how the ‘why’ behind Lean projects is communicated, and how awareness is raised across large teams.

It’s not uncommon for business-wide changes to be met with some level of resistance, as not all staff or investors will see the value in applying Lean principles to non-product areas immediately. But there is hope, as with sufficient planning, clear and consistent communication of the project’s purpose, and the correct level of support, change is possible.

At WFL, to ensure that the whole workforce understood the benefits involved in a Lean approach, the Improvement Team held regular meetings cross-functionally. At these meetings, employees were briefed on the proposed Lean projects, and had the opportunity to ask questions, give their opinions and air any worries they had or challenges they were facing.

As a result, the workforce could see the clear link between Lean methodology and benefits not only for the business, but also for the environment. Their shared desire to act on climate change meant that they pulled together and became a force to be reckoned with to hit their impressive targets. Boom.

Help is at hand!

The good news for companies who are clear on the ‘why’ behind their Lean journey but aren’t sure of where to start – or who need further support to roll out initiatives which are already in place - is that there are support systems out there to help. One of these systems is Manufacture 2030's Bee.

At Manufacture 2030, we are driven by our ‘why’: helping manufacturers to halve their resource use by 2030 for the good of the planet. Our work on rolling out Manufacture 2030 has allowed us to see just how important engagement and behaviour change are as parts of this process. 

So, from our ‘why’ was born our ‘how’ – the Bee tool.

The Bee, for example, is a cloud-based software tool which helps manufacturers to hit their resource efficiency targets more easily, with less fuss. Resource efficiency aligns well with a Lean approach, as it shares the same environmental benefits – reducing the use of energy, water and waste - while improving productivity and cutting costs. So, Bee can help businesses keen to adopt a Lean approach to identify, track and deliver on the actions that will help them to save money, work more efficiently and operate sustainably – rather than harming our one and only planet.

For Lean projects to succeed, they must be driven by purpose. At a time when climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity, and adopting a Lean approach can help, could there be a better ‘why’?

Hear from the experts at our webinar

To find out more about the benefits of Lean projects and how different companies have achieved the engagement necessary to make them work, including case studies from SA Partners and Ball Corporation, listen to the recording of our February webinar - you can find it here!