Enterprise Excellence Ireland 2019: ‘Above all, it’s about improving value’
Team approach turns graffiti into a business process improvement tool
The Enterprise Excellence Ireland event will feature more than 32 expert keynote speakers.
Next week, Ireland plays host to Europe’s leading operational excellence event. Enterprise Excellence Ireland 2019 is being held at Croke Park on May 22nd and will bring together 1,000 delegates from the Irish manufacturing and business sectors who are responsible for the efficiency, development and financial performance of operations in Ireland and across the world.
Commonly defined as the execution of the business strategy more consistently and reliably than the competition, operational excellence is being utilised by a growing number of Irish companies in order to boost competitiveness. At its heart lie continuous improvement methodologies such as Lean thinking and Six Sigma.
Organised with the support of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, the Enterprise Excellence Ireland event will feature more than 32 expert keynote speakers who will provide delegates with an insight into the management philosophy that pursues the continuous elimination of waste in all business processes though the implementation of Lean management practices.
Ruairí Ó’hAilín leads the Enterprise Ireland team, which assists Irish companies to address their competitive challenges and growth opportunities through the implementation of operational excellence strategies.
“Operational excellence applies to all areas of a business,” he explains. “It’s about the flow of value to customers. It’s not a question of someone just saying let’s do operational excellence and that’s it. You have to look at all things done in a business and ask which ones add value to customers and which ones do not.
“You also have to figure out who the customers are; they can be internal as well as external, it’s not simple. Once you see things through that lens you can use all kinds of tools. You can call it operational excellence or Lean or anything else, but the journey should be about figuring out who the customer is and what adds value to them.”
The key to success is the team approach which involves everyone in the organisation and effectively turns graffiti into a business process improvement tool. “You have to visualise what’s going on in the business,” Ó’hAilín explains. “That means putting it up on walls and screens in the building. You can’t just do a process map and put it into a file and forget about it. It needs to be alive and the only way it will live is if it’s on the wall and is visible to everyone. And you allow people to take a pen and make improvements to it.”
He has first-hand experience of how effective that approach can be. “I did that in my own department,” he says. “I put up the vision and mission and so on and then found that other people were improving it. That wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t all on the wall. It’s not about graphs and fancy business intelligence metrics. You have to be able to see the business processes and people have to be empowered to make suggestions and ask what would happen if things were done differently.”
The visual presentation is vitally important. “That’s how you engage people,” Ó’hAilín points out. “If you give people a 50-page document to read, no one is going to be engaged by it. If you plaster the walls with the information, it becomes a living document. What you’re trying to do is get everyone in the organisation to change their mindset to one where they are looking for continuous improvement. You want people to think about Lean and to look for Lean wastes to eliminate.”
The Lean wastes he refers to are summed up in the acronym downtime. This refers to defects that require resources to correct; overproduction of a product before it is ready to be sold; waiting around for the previous step in the process to complete; non-utilised employees; transporting items or information that is not required to perform the process from one location to another; inventory or information that is sitting idle; moving people, information or equipment unnecessarily due to workspace layout or ergonomic issues; and extra processing activity that is not necessary. Taking out these wastes improve efficiency and lower costs.
“Above all, it’s about improving value,” Ó’hAilín adds. “The difficulty with Lean sometimes is that it can sound negative. The idea is to make things better. If you start out with a cost-cutting programme, you will demotivate people straight away. It’s about delivering value to customers and once you do that the business becomes more competitive and this, in turn, leads to increased sales and profitability. It all flows from value.”
Enterprise Ireland has established Lean Business Ireland to help businesses adopt Lean principles and increase productivity and competitiveness. “We set it up with IDA Ireland and other stakeholders to help businesses address competitiveness issues by building the capability of their people to identify problems and improve operations. We have also set up six regional Lean networks to bring businesses together to share best practice. The best way to see how it works is to see it in action.”