Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
I am a great advocate of “lean” as a strategy, and perhaps I should start by explaining why that is. Lean thinking is essentially about reconciling companies and their customers, management and their employees, and performance and creativity. At the heart of this, is respect.
My husband has been involved in the footwear industry for the past 25 years. My first visit, in 1990, to the shoe factory where he is employed, was a real eye-opener. I felt like I had been sucker-punched. The factory was filthy and people sat around amongst the grime and dirt doing single operations, like banging heels on to shoes. I remember speaking to a lady who told me that she had been doing that same operation for 20 years. It was a soul-destroying place. I will never forget how sad it made me feel.
I have watched keenly how the application of Lean principles has transformed that workplace into the clean, happy place that it is today, where workers are thinkers and contributors and how they have become multi-skilled and now work in self-directed work groups.
I have also seen how it has allowed the factory to survive the opening up of our economy, which devastated so much of our footwear industry.
We were not able to compete with the East, because we were inefficient in every way, but because of Lean thinking, this factory has managed to change that transaction. They reduced their throughput time from 27 days to 3 days. They have, through the work of the cluster, been able to convince the large retailers that buying from them makes economic sense. Why? Because when you import from the East, you have to import in bulk, which means warehousing and distribution costs, the absorption of rejects and returns and the inability to turn over stock in response to demand – if you order 10 pairs of size 5’s and you sell them all in the first hour, then there is no way to replenish that stock.
Because of reduced throughput times and increased efficiency, the factory can now respond to their customers’ needs and supply what they need “just in time”. So even if it looks like a pair of shoes is R2 more expensive per pair, in reality, it isn’t.
I don’t mean to imply that they have by any means “arrived”, they simply persevere on a journey of continuous improvement, and their transformation is remarkable and a source of inspiration and hope and it has made a believer out of me.
Our chamber is passionate about making a real difference in the lives of our people, about economic and enterprise development and about serving our business community, and we see the hosting of our annual Lean conference as a way of inspiring growth and change.
It is my favourite event of the year and I am absolutely thrilled to share the fact that we have once again secured an exceptional line-up of speakers for this year’s event. Keynote speakers include internationally renowned author of the book Toyota by Toyota, Samuel Obara, as well as internationally recognized speaker and author, and winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award, Jim Benson.
Obara holds a Master’s Degree in Technology Management and has lectured in universities such as Stanford and Harvard. He learned the Toyota Production System (TPS), on which Lean methodology is based, while working in Toyota Motors in Japan. For three years he underwent intense practical training at the Honsha Overseas Engineering Division in Toyota City, and for thirteen consecutive years, he implemented Lean in several of the Toyota facilities in Japan, Brazil, the United States, and Venezuela. Samuel has gained experience in other industries, including healthcare, construction, retail, and government, helping over 300 companies in their Lean journey.
Benson, CEO of the collaborative management consultancy Modus Cooperandi and founding partner of the Modus Institute, is a pioneer in applying Lean and Kanban to knowledge work. He is a fellow in the Lean Systems Society and recipient of the Brickell Key Award for Excellence in Lean Thinking. He is the creator of Personal Kanban and co-author of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life and his other books include Why Plans Fail, Why Limit WIP, and Beyond Agile.
I would encourage business people to take advantage of this congress and all the learning and inspiration that it has to offer. Mark the dates off in your calendar now – 28 to 30 September 2016 and contact us for more information if you’re keen.