Richard Hart started at IFG Drake (Huddersfield, UK) as Production Manager in July 2023.  Bringing with him a wealth of experience from a range of manufacturing firms, Richard has implemented a series of changes since his arrival, all with the aim of improving IFG’s manufacturing processes. 

We chatted to Richard about his first few months in the role, the best practice he has brought to the company, and his plans for the future: 

Tell us a bit about life before IFG. 

“Before starting with IFG in July 2023, I was working for a company that specialised in PVC compounding and extrusion.  Given that the extrusion process was similar to that at IFG, it was all very familiar!  Prior to that I have worked for a number of food & FMCG manufacturing companies, including HJ Heinz, McVities and Nice-Pak International.  They all have Lean manufacturing processes embedded in various stages, and the Lean process is something I am developing further with the IFG team, using the most appropriate practices taken from my experience.” 

How are you implementing Lean Manufacturing into IFG’s processes? 

“The key thing is to work out where the company is at on its Lean journey, what’s working and what’s not, and make changes and additions which complement and enhance what’s already in place. All staff are encouraged to bring ideas and suggestions to contribute to improvements.  Because of this engagement there is lots of enthusiasm amongst the teams for the new ways of working and implementation of related projects, with an overall goal of achieving a Lean Culture.” 

What training have the team had to undergo to facilitate this transformation? 

“Utilising an external Lean specialist, we have 10 delegates from the company undertaking a 12-month Level 2 Lean Operative Manufacturing course, including four shift managers and their deputies. This is due to finish in Summer 2024.  Part of the course includes each delegate implementing a Lean improvement project, which is leading to many improvements as a result of the training.” 

 What are the key components of a Lean Culture? 

 “We are concentrating on two elements that will give us the biggest leap forward in terms of a Lean culture. These are 1) Leader Standard Work, and 2) Daily Accountability Improvement Process.  

 1) Leader Standard Work (LSW) involves defining the key activities that a leader needs to undertake on a day-to-day basis.  This includes elements of safety, quality, people, process and production management, utilising a pre-defined worksheet.  The benefits of this ensure that the key tasks required to have a successful day or shift are completed, and it also gets all managers working in the same way.  Adopting LSW throughout the production teams reinforces structure, consistency and routine to manage effectively.  Knowing that the basics to achieve a successful shift are covered, it frees up leaders to be more creative, adding value via Lean improvement projects. 

 2) The Daily Accountability Improvement Review is a review of the preceding 24 hours’ production in a very structured meeting.  By discussing a number of performance metrics versus targets and standards we are able to identify whether production and its associated metric are on track or not.  In the event of a metric deviating from target or standard, an improvement will be agreed to rectify the deviation.  Since we started this process 3 months ago, more than 60 improvements have been raised and implemented.  One of the benefits of focusing on improvements as opposed to issues is that it creates a positive culture of accountability rather than a blame culture.” 

 What benefits have you seen from implementing these processes since you started? 

 “It’s clear that there is already a very positive and collaborative working environment within IFG, and everyone works together and supports each other.  The structure that comes about from implementing these processes allows for a calmer, more organised workplace with clear indication as to whether we are on target or not.  The way of working that has been created allows the senior management team to focus more on strategy and ‘the bigger picture’ without getting too involved in the detail.  The team are encouraged to work autonomously which generates a positive atmosphere throughout the business.  The team are able to achieve a high degree of job satisfaction by seeing their ideas put into action.” 

 So what are your next plans? 

 “Over the next 12 months we are introducing a new training programme, to improve the skillset of the production team.  We will introduce a ‘topic of the month’ in which all the team members will be trained.  In total we have over 40 people taking these training modules which range from health and safety, environmental and HR topics.” 

 Are you enjoying the role? 

“The role is a really motivating one and it is a very interesting time to join this organisation where it is, on its Lean journey.  The way to advance the organisation rapidly is to make many small improvements, via a structured improvement process, and never stop learning. This advances the maturity of the company in terms of Lean with everyone pulling together and moving forward. 

 The team here are truly receptive to change and improvement.  Long may it continue!”