Tag: business strategy

9 Challenges to achieving operations excellence

Jitendra Badiani

In our line of business, we are privileged to have business leaders share their experiences, methods, and practices utilized to implement and operations excellence. This inside peek gives us an excellent opportunity to develop a useful list of the challenges faced by business leaders when trying to implement operations excellence practices.  Below is a short list and I encourage you to share with us challenges you might be facing in your implementation that are different.  You can send your challenges to info@focusedimprovement.ca.

  1. Linking process improvement with top-level business strategy – However well-intentioned business leaders are in implementing operations excellence practices; it is very important to link the process improvements with the top-level strategy of the business. Improvement of processes will not have its intended effects if they improve processes that do not align with the strategy of the business.
  2. Sustaining change – Sustaining change is a big challenge for business leaders. Therefore, to ensure sustained change, it is important to incorporate a culture of continuous in the company’s “DNA.”
  3. Overcoming too much short-term focus – It is very difficult for companies dealing with day to day business challenges to focus on process improvements. Process improvements typically lead to long-term impact and take more effort to sustain the change. It is important for business leaders to learn to overcome the short-term focus and keep motivated to pursue operations excellence measures.
  4. Cost/budget limitations – sometimes implementing operations excellence requires a large outlay upfront. Although the process improvements will pay for themselves, it is important to keep in mind that the business must effectively finance this process improvement in the short-term, which is not always the easiest thing to achieve.
  5. Overcoming resistance – Since implementing operations excellence ideas requires changing the way people do their jobs, it is common to experience resistance from all levels of the organization. Being able to overcome this internal resistance then is key to ensuring the success of the process improvement measures.
  6. Maintaining executive buy-in – Of utmost importance is to ensure and maintain executive buy-in to the implementation of an operational excellence program. If the executive does not buy-in, the entire organization will have trouble buying into them, and sustained change/improvements will inevitably fail.
  7. Ensuring a customer-centric focus throughout the business – One of the central tenets of Lean thinking is to have a customer-centric focus throughout the business. A focus on the customer is challenging to maintain in practice since a lot of processes; methods are ingrained into peoples routines/daily work.  Bringing a customer-centric focus necessitates changing those ways of working.
  8. Deploying new technologies – Deploying new technologies can be challenging due to the investment required up front for implementation as well as the changes in ways of working and personnel that it normally entails.
  9. Skills shortage – Recognizing what skills are lacking within the organization and have the wherewithal and capability to fill those gaps can be quite challenging for business leaders.

At Focused Improvement Consulting, we recognize all the challenges that are faced by companies looking to implement operations excellence measures and specialize in getting our clients to face these challenges head-on and achieve operations excellence despite these challenges. For more information on how we can help your business achieve operations excellence, please get in touch at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

5 reasons why Lean transformation can fail

Jitendra Badiani

Implementing a lean transformation within a company comes with a multitude of challenges. In the face of these challenges, it is easy for some business leaders to abandon the transformation midway, or not maintain the improvements identified in a Lean transformation.  This lack of commitment leads to employees reverting to old ways of working and ending up as a costly mistake. Listed are some of the reasons that can cause such a failure:

  1. Lack of support throughout the organization: A successful Lean transformation requires buy-in from all levels of the organization. A top-down approach where management imposes new rules and ways of working does not work since employees do not buy-in to the methodology which makes sustaining improvements impossible. A bottom-up approach can also lead to failure since successful implementation requires significant investment in labor and without buy-in from the management, the Lean transformation is bound to fail. A successful implementation involves gaining buy-in from all employees throughout the organization.
  2. Initial failures: For companies implementing Lean for the first time, one of the most common reasons for abandoning the transformation midway is if the first project or improvement does not deliver expected results. Therefore, it is essential to select the right area to pilot/start the transformation. If a company focuses on the most challenging area to begin the Lean journey, they can potentially face difficulties leading the entire organization to reject Lean. Instead, it is essential to identify and celebrate quick wins at the beginning of the transformation and using these wins to motivate the entire workforce to showcase the value of this transformation.
  3. Concerns about using the Lean methodology in a specific industry: Since Lean methods originated in manufacturing, a common misconception is that these tools are only suited to the manufacturing industry. However, the principles behind Lean can be utilized to solve business challenges and improve flow within almost any industry. Any industry that has defined processes for working, provide a service to a customer, or generate any value can use these tools to improve their performance by increasing productivity and reducing costs.
  4. Data Issues: One of the most significant challenges for improvements via Lean methodology is issues within the data being currently captured or a complete lack of requisite data. For example, if there is manually recorded being utilized in many of the processes, it is difficult to make sure that the data has been consistently recorded therefore some of the improvements that might be suggested using that data could be misleading. Another issue can occur if the data is skewed due to human interactions and assumptions or the data has been incorrectly captured. It is important that these considerations are considered to prevent the failure of a lean transformation.
  5. Priority focus on processes vs people: It is important to keep in mind that in order to have the transformation be successful and improvements be sustained, the focus should not only be on implementing new processes but also on the people within the organization. Sustainable change is always driven by people and if there isn’t a focus on developing the requisite skills within the organization, a Lean transformation will not be able to achieve the gains that might have been otherwise possible.


Focused Improvement Consulting specializes in helping companies navigate a lean transformation process through an organization by working with stakeholders within the company to make sure these common reasons for failure are avoided. We work on building a culture of continuous improvement within a company which can lead to a successful implementation. For further information on how we can help your business through a lean transformation, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

Using the 5S Approach to Organize Your Workplace

Jitendra Badiani

5S has its origins in the Toyota Production System (TPS), and it is an effective tool to help you create a safe, organized, and efficient work space through standard operational practices. Through 5S, your company will eliminate waste that results from an inefficient and unkempt work area (e.g. wasting time to find a tool).

The approach is a methodical way to organize a workspace for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.

The 5S approach:

  1. Sort

It all starts with organizing and cleaning your workspace. This means going through everything in each work area, organizing your items, and discarding the unnecessary items. Just remember, don’t hold onto things simply because you might use them, eventually.

Not only does a neat and organized workspace make it easier to find things, it also frees up additional space and helps you spot maintenance issues easier. Which do you think is easier? Spotting a water leak in a clean, organized work space or a cluttered and messy one? By making the workspace easier to maneuver and maintain, 5S sorting also improves workplace safety.

If you’re having trouble sorting your workplace, try following these steps:

  1. Sort through your items and decide which items are necessary and which are unnecessary. Dispose of all unnecessary items.
  2. Classify the necessary items in a manner that makes sense for your operation. Examples include “Tools”, “Materials”, “Cleaning supplies”, and so on.
  3. Determine the ownership of all of the classified items and return them to their respective owners. Finding the owner is important because that person is the most qualified to decide where to place it in the next step. If an item’s owner is unknown, ask around or place it into a pile of owner-less items. Potential owners should look through these items and claim them within a defined period of time (e.g. 30 days). All unclaimed items should be discarded at the end of the timeline.

  1. Straighten, streamline, or set in order

Now that you’ve discarded all of the superfluous items in your shop, it’ll be a lot easier to start to re-organize and streamline your work place. The basic principle is that you should put things in a logical location for your process.

Tips and Tricks

  • Arrange all items in order so they can be easily picked for use
  • Make it easy to find and pick up necessary items, using labels, signage, and “shadowboards”.
  • Follow a first-come-first-serve basis
  • Make work flow smooth and easy
  • Don’t neglect your floors and walls which can also be cleaned and labelled to make it easier to spot parts, tools, and maintenance issues.
  1. Shine

It’d be a waste to sort and organize your workplace just to let it fall apart in a few short months. Shine refers to keeping your workplace clean! But it doesn’t just mean regular cleaning; it’s the belief that at the end of the day, you should return your workspace to the state you found it at the start of the day. That means that every day (and ideally throughout the day), you return tools to the proper location, pick up dropped parts, dispose of junk, and so on.

Regularly shining your workplace will also function as an inspection for maintenance problems and diminishing supplies. If you’re putting your tools and parts away at the end of the day, it’d be hard to miss that you’re running low on materials or that one of the machines is leaking oil. On top of that, it’ll prevent machinery and equipment from deteriorating prematurely.

  1. Standardize

Make these steps easy to accomplish and follow by creating standardized processes. Setting high standards of housekeeping and workplace organization will instill a culture of cleanliness in the company.

Tips and Tricks

  • Create cleaning checklists, job cycle charts, and/or schedule 5S breaks where all employees must shine the area that they’re responsible for.
  • Use visual cues to make organization simple. For example, use shadowboards to organize frequently used tools
  • Clearly label all storage areas, workplaces, equipment, tools, and etcetera.
  • Provide cleaning and maintenance instructions in convenient locations (i.e., on the respective equipment).
  1. Sustain

Sustain is likely the hardest step. It means you must keep your workplace in working order by following the now standardized procedures. It also implies that you must train and retrain your employees on the principles of 5S to instil its importance in them.


Beyond 5S: Your work is never done

5S is entrenched in the Lean manufacturing philosophy, and that means that it’s a part of continuous improvement. As such, you mustn’t become set in your ways. Continually seek to improve the organization and cleanliness of your workplace. Indeed, going through the 5S from start to finish annually or bi-annually may help you remove additional barriers that you didn’t notice the first time. Alternatively, it might reveal that you’ve accumulated more tools than necessary, or your processes have changed rendering your initial changes less efficient than they first were.

For help on implementing 5S or other Lean tools within your company or more information about how these can be implemented within your organization, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.

Find Your Hot Dog Bun!

Jitendra Badiani

Hot dogs: the classic food that North Americans can’t help but associate with good memories of sports, campfires, and family barbecues. Most people might find it hard to believe that someone had to “invent” the hotdog bun, which the two didn’t just magically appear in the world in perfect union.  There’s a bunch of stories on how the hotdog met its bun, but the most plausible story comes from Josh Chetwynd’s book, How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink.

“… the best story comes out of St. Louis in the 1880s, and there was a street vendor who was selling [hot dogs]. At the time they weren’t called hot dogs, they were called either red hots or frankfurters. And while selling them, he would give out white gloves, because when someone would buy the red hot, they wouldn’t want to get their hands scalded or wouldn’t want to get too greasy. The problem was that a lot of the patrons were running off with the gloves, and this was hurting his bottom line. What he ended up doing was going to a brother-in-law of his and saying, look I have this problem, and he was lucky enough that his brother-in-law was a baker and suggested the soft roll.”

What did the bun do for the hot dog?

From the story above, it’s clear that the bun adds value to the customer: it prevents grease/condiments from getting on their hands. But that’s not all. For the inventor, it reduced the waste — people walking off with the vendor’s gloves — that cut into his bottom line while simultaneously increasing the portability of the hot dog.  No longer did people need to scarf down the hot dog to avoid getting grease on their hands, and no longer did the customers need to eat right by the vendor so they could return the gloves. No, the bun provided a convenient, waste less packaging for the hot dog to be consumed in a variety of situations — in cramped sitting quarters, like at a baseball game without a plate, or on a stroll along the boardwalk without dealing with greasy, burnt fingers.  Finally, the hot dog bun made the hot dog more customizable.  You could top the hot dog with condiments that provide a lot of value in the eyes of the customer (ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles, mayo, onions, sauerkraut, the list goes on) but barely affected the bottom line.  Condiments are cheap after all.

What’s the point?

One problem I see is in manufacturing is that people feel they need to do something for everyone and everything.  They will run into an issue on the production line, say a bottleneck, and they will quickly come up with a laundry list of solutions: perform the 5 whys, improve efficiency at the station, hire another employee to run a station in parallel, separate the step into two serial processes, and decrease the input into the bottleneck.  What will happen if you implement all of these solutions all at once?  You will likely cause your bottleneck to overproduce, which will lead to bottlenecks further down the line. Additionally, and most importantly you will frustrate the people working on the line, process or service and give your Lean or Continuous Improvement program bad rap.

The point of the story is this: find your hotdog bun. Quit messing around with a bunch of different things, different products, solutions, add-ons, etc. Find the solution that will solve your problem in the simplest, practical and most effective way possible.

To help you identify and find your “hot dog bun,” please contact us at info@focusedimprovement.ca.  We are here to help you succeed.

Trade War? NAFTA, US Corporate Tax cuts, what must Canadian businesses do?

Jitendra Badiani

David Dodge, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, claims “Canada has a competitiveness problem.” This situation has been building over the last few years which has seen Canadian investment in the US triple while US investment into Canada in 2017 was $40.6 billion.  This investment is just about half of what it was almost four years ago. While corporate Canada lobbies the Finance Minister to match the lowered US corporate tax rates, a better strategy for Canadian manufacturing companies would be to look at inwards by improving productivity to compete against not the only US but globally.

What does it mean to increase productivity and how can your company achieve it? Research shows that Lean thinking can be used to focus on the customer needs and eliminate waste to improve productivity.

The first step of a Lean transformation is to establish a baseline.  The goal is to understand where you are and develop benchmarks/KPI’s to compare against as flow improves and eliminate waste.  After benchmarking, it is important to review every process step to identify from a customer’s perspective, the value generating steps. Only maintain processes that contribute directly to adding value. Eliminate all steps that are non-value added.

A crucial step towards improving productivity is to share the vision and get employee buy-in from all levels. To gain such buy-in, start with a pilot project.  As employees see first-hand the results of process improvement, they will see its value and will help drive a culture of continuous improvement.  This culture of continuous improvement will help build and sustain the process change and ultimately reduce waste to increase productivity. Additionally, it encourages employees to continuously engage in trying to improve processes and look to further increase productivity.

Focused Improvement Consulting specializes in helping companies develop strategies for increasing productivity and drive for operations excellence. We have developed a unique system which can allow companies to achieve operations excellence and build a culture of continuous improvement. In this increasingly uncertain geopolitical environment, with changing tariffs and trade, it is essential not to be distracted by these factors which are not in direct control and instead to focus on factors such as productivity which can be affected by right business decisions, such as implementing a Lean transformation.

For more information on how Focused Improvement Consulting can help your business navigate the future with confidence, please reach out at info@focusedimprovement.ca.