Collaboration within industry is a key way for New Zealand’s manufacturers to successfully compete in a global market. And this was the motivation for a Lean Learning Hub which saw nearly 50 people from 21 companies including DB, Griffins and Fonterra, gather together last month to swap and share experiences.
The hub was hosted by Tru-Test Group, the world’s leading manufacturer of livestock scales, milk metering and electric fence equipment, and Competenz, the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for the Engineering, Manufacturing and Food & Beverage Manufacturing sectors.
Back in 2006, Tru-Test Group embarked on a massive journey – removing the waste in its operations so it could continue to manufacture in New Zealand and compete with Chinese-made goods. And now five years on, the company is passing on the message that we can be lean and we can compete internationally.
“To us, lean isn’t a project you start and finish,” says Jason Kiteley, Group Operations Manager at Tru-Test Group. “Our initial sole driver was survival. But after a period of time we saw that the real results were culture driven.”
To guide their lean journey, the Tru-Test Group followed TRACC, a continuous improvement programme. In 2010 Competenz joined the party – offering staff the chance to achieve the National Certificate in Competitive Manufacturing.
Now, after an average of 60 hours training per person, 122 staff have graduated. And the positive results of their training are clear to see, both in the attitudes of the staff and the physical manufacturing environment.
A large expanse of empty floor space lies in the Tru-Test Group factory, after lean initiatives saw efficiencies in overall operation and inventory reduce by 50%. “We’re ready to support the company’s ongoing growth, both organically and associated with acquisition” says Jason.
“We’ve increased our efficiency significantly, saving tens of thousands of man hours per year, and have increased our revenue and margins,” explains Jason. “We hope that by collaborating and sharing our journey we can inspire other New Zealand companies to take the (further) steps required to become strong competitors on the international market.”
And Tru-Test Group shared many of the steps it has taken along the road to improvement. “Moving Lean beyond manufacturing is an important step for us. ThereÕs no recipe – it’s really about applying the key lean principles, which are relevant across the organisation. For example, visual management has been a great Lean principle to apply wider,” says Teresa Steele-Rika, Group Marketing Manager at Tru-Test Group. “Making things visible helps the teams gain true clarity and understanding. Physically interacting with visual management tools is also great for engagement and teamwork. ”
So in terms of their Lean journey to date – what would they do differently? “Nothing,” says Jason. “Everything we’ve done has contributed to the journey. Have faith that if you put the processes in place, the results will come.”
Competenz wants to introduce manufacturers to more companies like Tru-Test Group so they can see the level of performance they should be aspiring to. Lean Learning Hubs are planned for Napier, Waikato and Auckland.