Pía's presentation was lean. That is if you only go by the number of slides. There were just ten of them. But who's counting slides, right?
What really counts is what Pía had to say on the topic of lean and how you make it a success. She shared her experience with academics and lean trainers at this year’s European Lean Educator Conference at the University of Buckingham, UK. Her short presentation focused on ‘Lean education outside of manufacturing’ — a topic ideally suited to Panalpina, which is applying the tried and tested lean techniques of the manufacturing sector in a logistics environment.
In the true spirit of lean, Pía kept things short and straight to the point. Here are Pía's five easy to remember take-home messages for successfully putting lean principles into action in a company outside the manufacturing industry:
1) Lean is a way of thinking and behaving. It’s a culture, not a tool.
2) Lean seeks ways to do things easier, better, and more efficiently to enable profitable growth.
3) Lean is for everyone. From associates to managers to executives, we should all think lean.
4) Lean keeps things simple and easy to understand. Always think user-friendly.
5) Lean goes on and on. It never stops. Lean is a life journey of continuous improvement.
The question Pía posed to her audience was: Is lean a program that can be bought off the shelf and deployed in many different companies in a plug & play fashion or does it need to be customized to suit a company’s needs?
There is no right answer to this question, as it depends on the purpose and the reason a company wants to become lean. “If a company is just implementing certain improvements with a few employees becoming experts, it might be more suitable to buy a standardized lean program or send your specialists to get trained on lean/Six Sigma,” explains Pía. “But if you want to create a culture, raise awareness, and change the way of thinking in the entire company, as we do, then the program must cater to our specific needs as a business and the needs of those that will implement it.”
Pía, María Pía Caraccia by her full name, is based in New York. The LogEx (Logistics Excellence Program) manager has over 10 years’ experience working in logistics, having held positions at DHL and Exel in project and account management and continuous improvement. She joined Panalpina three years ago and while knowledgeable about lean, she admits what she knew about the subject was from a theoretical rather than practical perspective.
At Panalpina, Pía explains the approach to lean is different to other companies. It is not about cutting costs. It is more focused on developing latent opportunities that exist within the business. LogEx is designed to maximize Panalpina’s capacity to grow the business, which Pía is witnessing first hand while working with her team to gradually implement the program in all of Panalpina’s facilities across the globe. “LogEx is about supporting our organization to become better. By understanding what our colleagues need locally and setting the right framework, we can let them add value to their operations. It only works with a bottom-up approach,” says Pía, adding maybe a sixth take-home message.
Rolled out in 2011, LogEx is a global initiative to instill lean principles and customer focus into the DNA of Panalpina’s entire operation. The program is certified by Cardiff University under the industry recognized Lean Competency System,and brings together a collective set of goals that empowers people on the ground (not management) to achieve operational excellence. There are three levels in the program – building the basics (bronze), creating an improvement culture (silver) and pursuing sustainability (gold).