Lean Manufacturing Business program reaps big results

Eleven businesses in East Gippsland have collectively made $5.4 million in productivity improvements thanks to their participation in an East Gippsland Shire Council program.

The Grow Your Business Group Program 2022 delivered simple, measurable and effective business improvement training opportunities at no cost to the businesses. Multiple employees from each business participated in the course, which centred around group learning and incorporating individual projects focused on real business needs to transfer learning into their business.

The $5.4 million in savings is the best result from the four previous occasions when Council has run the program.

Marking the end of this year’s program at an event on July 27 were 11 participating businesses including Wood Street Windows, ZCG and Kennedy Trailers.

Cr Jane Greacen OAM attended on behalf of the Mayor and said Council recognises the importance the manufacturing sector plays in supporting the East Gippsland economy.

“Manufacturing is one of East Gippsland’s largest sectors with a number of very important small and medium size manufacturing businesses supporting our economy. To implement changes that have saved these businesses a combined $5.4 million is incredible,” Cr Greacen said.

“It was terrific to recognise the work of ASBIG supporting East Gippsland businesses to review and refine their operations systems. The businesses saw major dollar benefits obtained from freeing up time and reducing expenditure.

“The feedback we’ve had from the participants about the impact it has made on their individual businesses is very positive,” Cr Greacen said.

The program is part of the Australian Small Business Improvement Groups (ASBIG) model and was delivered by OPTIM Improvement.

Lynden Kennedy from Kennedy Trailers said the program was a great alternative to the full lean manufacturing course he had completed in the past.

“This course was all the big lean manufacturing concepts and ideas in a much shorter, concentrated course. It works really well for bringing new employees up to speed quickly, while keeping the company lean and innovative for the future,” Mr Kennedy said.

One of the participants representing ZCG told Council the ASBIG program helped them make many improvements throughout their production area.

“We implemented what we have learnt in this course, cutting down wastage and making every job/task easier and more enjoyable. I’d strongly recommend this course to all local businesses,” the spokesperson said.

Wood Street Windows’ Julie Barling said her business was always evolving and inviting outside knowledge as it is an everchanging and demanding industry.

“It has been fantastic to be a part of the ASBIG training program. The staff have gained a lot of knowledge and have grown in confidence in making and implementing change in our environment, using tools learnt from the course,” Ms Barling said.

“This is a course any business can be involved in and gain knowledge and better their processes and productivity just like we have. Thank you to both ASBIG and the East Gippsland Shire for allowing us to be a part of it.”

Cr Greacen said Council was very pleased with the level of engagement from the participants.

“We appreciate the commitment from the businesses involved in the program – especially in these trying times where the pandemic and isolation requirements posed challenges the program had never seen before.”

Workshop facilitator, Ray Clark from Optim Improvement, said the course had four false starts in 2021 due to COVID-19 induced lockdowns.

“We eventually started with an online program via Zoom for the businesses that wanted to start making improvements immediately. In 2022, the businesses suffered from labour shortages, sickness and isolating and the inability to recruit new employees,” Mr Clark said.

“On top of this there were supply shortages and delays and even unseasonal weather all making it a difficult period. Amazingly, most of the businesses were able to make substantial improvements to productivity, cost reduction and shortening lead times. This in part was due to the ASBIG program having a small amount of targeted training, the use of simple techniques that were time efficient, and an emphasis on simplicity and easy to implement solutions.”

Council is looking forward to continuing similar small business programs to further assist local industries into the future, by enabling businesses to learn the necessary skills and techniques to optimise their businesses through simple actions that require little capital investment.

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