Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital, a catalytic converter manufacturer and a well-known car sales dealer have one essential thing in common. They have all managed to radically improve efficiency across their operations over the past few years.
The three examples were showcased at this week's Lean Summit Africa 2018, in Cape Town, which adopts the ‘Lean’ approach to help companies reduce waste and costs and boost productivity.
UK-based Lean Enterprise Academy CEO Dave Brunt told delegates at the summit that he had set out to achieve the goal of profoundly improving efficiency, through a series of experiments at the Halfway Toyota Ottery dealership in Cape Town. He worked with mechanics and other operators, with the goal of slashing the time it took to service cars. The key was to work with the operational staff, who came up with solutions to problems.
“The team learnt how to improve the work themselves, and that was so important.”
They came up with more efficient cycles to do predictable work, through a two-stage fixed-time service.
“The way cars are serviced at Ottery is completely different to four years ago.” He said in a traditional workshop, four to five vehicles a day get serviced. The team managed to dramatically improve their flow of work, eventually servicing up to 32 cars a day.
“This comes from the value of thinking in a different way, eliminating the waste and getting things to flow,” said Brunt.
He said Lean leadership and management principles could be applied across all industries, with massive potential to improve productivity.
“Lean transformation is about profound change. It’s about taking the organisation to a new level of performance that they didn’t think capable of before.”
Johnson Matthey Technology and Manufacturing Sites Lean superintendent Pompi Mahlangu, meanwhile, described how changes were made at the company's Germiston factory, one of 14 sites across the world which manufacture catalytic converters. The management was concerned that shift changeovers were averaging above the target. They did a waste and loss analysis.
Videos were taken of work on the shop floor when workers were unaware of it. Operators were interviewed and photographs were taken. A multi-disciplinary team across all departments was set up, which included people from engineering, maintenance, the operators on the floor and human resources.
“The first thing we did was to identify the problems and got all departments to work together to achieve the same goal.”
They mapped the changeover tasks and created an agreed standard. Simple but crucial problems were identified and resolved.
“We developed a changeover tracker across all shifts and purchased a new tool box for the tool room so that there was no delay between shifts. We also agreed that each operator would have a specific task during the changeover of shifts,” said Mahlangu.
“One of the most valuable lessons we learnt was that is very important to respect the operators, because most of the time, the solutions come from them. Managers coach the team, but we don’t solve their problems. We work as a team. It’s also important to explain the values of the company to employees.”
The teams started to align and focus more on achieving the results, and the efficiency has vastly improved.
At Groote Schuur Hospital, one of two central hospitals in the Western Cape, widespread changes have also been implemented. The hospital treats 70 000 patients a year, as well as 500 000 outpatients. The hospital has seen a 25% increase in patients in the last ten years.
“We have to provide services within a diminishing budget in real terms,” explained hospital CEO Bhavna Patel.
Patel and her team adopted the lean management approach, with the help of Lean Institute Africa’s Dr Anton Grutter based at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.
They started small, slicing waiting times by nearly half in its eye clinics. The programme was later expanded to encompass 50 projects across the hospital. The hospital did in-house training and team building, with regular brainstorming and discussions with a range of staff members, as well as coaching and mentoring sessions.
“We wanted our frontline staff to own the problem and the solution,” said Patel. For example, multi-disciplinary teams, such as physiotherapists, dieticians, speech therapists and others worked together on how to improve referral processes. Lessons were learnt and applied elsewhere.
“We were able to tackle big problems. We now have a standardised process for referrals,” said Patel. Across the hospital, costs have been cut and efficiencies achieved.
These include dramatically cutting down waiting and service times for patients, boosting the turnaround time for patients to get scripts and medicine and cutting coal consumption in its boiler room by 45%.