The Client

Description: Multinational Aluminium and lightweight Metals, Manufacturing
Location: Runcorn England
Products: Aluminium, Extruded Profiles, Building and Construction Products

The Situation
The company had acquired a manufacturing facility and had started to make impressive inroads into the unitized curtain wall products industry. They were already renowned in the marketplace for producing high-quality aluminium doors, windows and extruded profiles which guaranteed aesthetically pleasing finishes suitable for marine environments.

A solid reputation for producing quality products resulted in a healthy order book. However, the reputation of the business was in jeopardy if it could not continue to service the growing demand and complete all of its orders on time in full.

Internally there were several concerns with respect to quality, lead times, planning, work in progress controls, and having visibility of orders. At a high level, the fundamental reasons were a lack of management systems and processes that were aligned to a single methodology or rules. Therefore whenever you place additional pressure on any system that has flaws, cracks begin to form and failure results.

Fortunately, the company group had successfully implemented LEAN, at many of its facilities outside of the UK. So it was decided LEAN, was to be implemented at the facility to assist the business to achieve its business goals and ensure its commitments to its customers were achieved.



Our consultants were asked to facilitate the implementation of the lean methodologies which were based upon the Toyota Production System (TPS). The two key principles of lean greatly affected the way the business was managed.

Just-in-time (JIT)

  • Just-in-time (JIT)- meaning “making only what is needed, only when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed”.
  • For a JIT environment to be realised it requires confidence in the reliability of the systems and processes to deliver quality products, first time, every time.  The focus on JIT exposed many weaknesses which affected communication, material flow, and huge amounts of waste.


  • Jidoka – (Automation) meaning “Automation with a human touch”
  • Jidoka required a substantial cultural shift. Managers had to rethink the work that they were doing because waiting for decisions to be made by management was identified as causing significant delays and constraints on the workflow.
  • Managers had to break down the barriers of communication that existed between shop floor employees and management. Fundamentally management had to realise that the performance of the operation required input, decisions and controls by those executing the work.
  • The shop floor employees had to also recognise the need for more open communication, their involvement and ownership on the necessary improvements to ensure the business remained competitive and their working environment improved.

It was essential that everybody learnt the language, principles and the rules of LEAN. To assist in a collaborative working environment 3 simplified overarching principles were communicated and clearly showed what needed to change from the traditional or current state.

 Traditional  New Way
 Make To Inventory  Make To Use
 Waste Is “Built-In”  Eliminate Waste
 People’s Full Abilities Are Underutilised  People Linchpin The System

metal sales

Waste elimination, Stability and Orderliness

Focusing on seven key wastes and building in standards for housekeeping ensured not only a visible impact which helped the employees recognise the benefits of the change to their own working environment. It also achieved bottom-line benefits and most importantly it exposed hidden waste.

Drawing maps of process layouts and flows of material helped all the employees recognise how a reorganisation was required to give them visible stability reliability and predictability with respect to the flow of work and information.

Demand, equipment, suppliers, people, processes, work, organisational structure and accepted practices were all reviewed with the new way manufacturing in mind. Significant changes quickly took place as the benefits of change became evident.

Using 5S to organise the workplace allowed visible changes and rules to be used while understanding the importance of working sequentially in order to achieve the desired effect. (Seiri 整理(Sort), Seiton整頓 (Set), Seiso清掃 (Shine), Seiketsu 規範 (Standardise), Shitsuke躾 (Sustain). Fundamentally describing the standard of orderliness allowed ownership of those working in the specific areas by enabling them to decide and execute their vision.

Continuous Flow

Focusing on queueing, work in progress or inventory identified reasons that were affecting rapid production movement through the plant and the various processes. By following the orders and material flow enabled problems to be exposed and their root causes identified using (Ishikawa cause and effect analysis. Further countermeasures were brainstormed allowing the constraints to be resolved.

Looking at the facilities to enable standardised work, lot sizes, batching and planning enabled inventory to be reduced significantly. Specific focus on lot sizes and changes in tooling allowed quicker changeovers to occur.  LeanManufacturingTimers

Takt time and Cycle time

The introduction of cycle times enabled a predictable rhythm and sequence to be seen throughout the plant. A heightened awareness of expected material flow from one department to another ensured opportunities to prepare work areas and enabled a smoother flow of material or work was achieved.

Due to exposure or awareness of predictable rhythms including where waiting times of material had planned to stop for a period of time, resulted in a heightened awareness or focus when unplanned stoppages occurred. This allowed the management and production support to focus on the reasons for disrupted flows, enabling further continuous improvements.

Operators of machinery and equipment were also able to identify if problems were occurring in terms of the production rate and also able to ask managers to assist in helping them resolve problems affecting performance.

Standardised Work and Kaizen

To ensure the changes or improvements were sustained they were documented, communicated and introduced to a health check audit which assisted with the self-discipline, ensuring the new way of working became embedded within the organisation.

Some areas of standardisation were initially considered to be too difficult to standardise. These areas would be where batching or continuous flows were not an option due to a product being required in unusual volumes. These bespoke products still required some form of norming or standardisation. Historical information or production flow rates were not available however the operators and fabricators themselves were able to reasonably estimate many of the profiles of products they had to make. These were then categorised and values in respect to production time and complexity were produced. This enabled the planning of standardised work through the most complex arrangements to be achieved. Furthermore, it gave absolute confidence to the customer, the sales team, the management and the fabricators or machine operators that the volumes of work could be achieved within predictable lead times.


Pull System

Introducing the Pull System resulted in probably the largest cultural shift and collaborative working environment. Rather than the historic brute force of who shouts loudest gets served first as a method for the different functions to produce or achieve their targets, a few simple rules were introduced.

The planners and the management team had been using complex computer systems and plan to understand demand and supply. Instead, the introductions of simple self-regulating work commands were given to drive naturally adaptive schedule changes.

Visual and Clear communications almost to the point of binary indicators resulted in a predictable flow of material, whereby confidence could be given to work with the progress in a timely manner.

Some storage was used in creating a pull system, however, specific rules in terms of what to produce, when to produce it and in what quantities via the use of introducing Kanban systems, ensured stock was kept to a minimum and related to demand.

If key stock fell below certain levels then this signalled a potential issue which again enabled management to react in a timely manner to ensure the material flow was not impacted and to address the root causes.

To ensure that times were reduced and the flow of material consistent the number of setups and changeovers were increased significantly. As realistic demand started to drive the production requirements, longer batch processing was no longer required. Instead, a better understanding of the work required to set up for a different product started to drive, not only the way in which different products were sequenced and scheduled but also SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) allowed management and employees to work together to enable quicker changeovers to be realised.

systems and processes


From start to finish the project demonstrated a reliance upon all the employees. It was recognised that the rules and the methodology helped identify and resolve issues. It was clear the advantages of using LEAN methodology was a better flow of material, reduced inventory and clear timely information. However, none of this would have been achieved without the participation and collaborative working environment between shop-floor employees and management.

It was recognised that people make the system work. The rules that were put in place not only made sure that people were respected, but that they were actually valued as intellectual assets. Ultimately delivering a cohesive and consistent framework that is LEAN.

The Results

Culturally introducing the lean methodology to this manufacturing business allowed barriers to be broken that have formed over a period of time primarily due to frustrations rising from uncertainty, ambiguity, commitment failures and misplaced authority. In a relatively short space of time with the right type of facilitation, respect and admiration grew through understanding and recognition of the problems the business and the individuals have been facing for many years were not intentional and could be fixed.

The training and development of both management and employee and the clarification of how each level of the organisation could truly add value helped decisions to be made in a timely manner by those who could directly have an impact. Starting off with a new language, concept or set of principles allows all the key stakeholders to take the advantage of starting at the same start point and experience the journey together.

Changes to the working environment including positive impacts on health and safety, quality, layouts and the removal of congestion and waste, set the business and its employees the right direction for further continual improvements.

The understanding of supply and demand, the introduction of Takt Time, levelling and a Pull environment ensured customers would receive their products on time in full. Furthermore through the reduction of waste and the change in methodology significant improvements to lead times were given resulting in an opportunity for more orders to be added to the order books and grow the business.

Aluminum Rolling Products

Our Experience
En-Sync 8020 is a professional consulting and business services provider. Our experience in business consultation, organisation design, modern manufacturing techniques, mining methods and process technologies allow us to facilitate our client success by ensuring that they have a robust and well-communicated strategy, a healthy structure and reliable systems and processes, supporting the right people in the right roles.

Further Reading
The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an integrated socio-technical system, developed by Toyota, that comprises its management philosophy and practices. The TPS organizes manufacturing and logistics for the automobile manufacturer, including interaction with suppliers and customers. The system is a major precursor of the more generic “lean manufacturing.” Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Japanese industrial engineers, developed the system between 1948 and 1975.
Originally called “just-in-time production,” it builds on the approach created by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, and the engineer Taiichi Ohno.