Thanks to the generosity of the Industry Leaders Fund, I travelled to Japan to partake in a Lean tour with Shinka Management. During the course of a week, through formal classroom teaching and factory tours, we were able to gain insights into Lean Thinking, which is largely based on the principles of the Toyota Production System and the management teachings of Taiichi Ohno.
This philosophy of thinking is largely centred around the removal of waste within a business, and with it comes a lot of specific terminology such as JIT (Just in Time), Kanban, 5S, Poka-Yoke and so on, which whilst daunting at first, quickly became second nature due to the quality of teaching. After formal class room learning from Lean experts at a Toyota manufacturing plant, we were able to view these principles in action at the car manufacturers themselves and at various suppliers to the plant.
Throughout this time, we were encouraged to document ideas of how we could implement such thinking into our own business. As a result, an open and honest mindset was required in order to adequately assess our own areas of weakness, as well as translate any learning from one type of industry to another (in my case, automotive to food production). We learnt how the principles of just in time production, one-piece-flow and a level production system allow us to expose the seven types of waste that are inherent to many businesses which are listed as follows:
Seven types of waste
- Wait time
- Unnecessary transportation
- Excess inventory
- Unnecessary movement
We were then taught about various tools and improvements to processes that would enable us to eliminate these types of waste. Whilst incorporating Lean into a business is not a simple task and is different for each business, the trip enabled me to both see and understand the principles of its philosophy first hand from its very designers.
The second part of my scholarship involved the completion of a Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt certification courtesy of the Executive Education Unit at the University of Adelaide. Whilst the first part of my scholarship focused on Lean management, this part had a strong focus on Six-Sigma, which is a management approach that focuses on statistical analysis of business processes to produce predictable outcomes with known monetary savings. Whilst different, Lean and Six-Sigma are highly complementary to one another.
As I had previously completed a Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt, I already knew the opportunities that exist to create savings within a business. My previous Green Belt project had created ongoing yearly savings to my business of approximately $24,000 per year through quantitative and statistical improvement of the production of one of our food products, resulting in less waste.
For my Lean Six-Sigma Black Belt, we learnt more complex methods of statistical analysis, such as multiple linear regression techniques, statistical process control, Gauge R&R, ANOVA and how they can be used to analyse specific types of business problems. For my project, I was able to build a predictive ordering system for one of our products, which when incorporated across all products in our business, will provide freight savings of approximately $60,000 per year.
We all operate in highly competitive markets where globalisation means our competition is now not just in our state or our country, but right across the world. As a result, the requirements for change are greater now than ever before in order to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage for the business. In my opinion, it is our ability to cope with change that defines the business leader. I therefore think that as these experiences are specifically linked to embracing the change required to enhance what competitive advantage my business now has, these experiences have directly enhanced my abilities as a leader. I would like to thank the Industry Leaders Fund for giving me this tremendous opportunity to enhance my leadership skills and would recommend this organisation to anyone wanting to grow their business and enhancing the future economic prospects of South Australia.