Lean Fundamentals

This paper sets out to describe where the Early Equipment Management(EEM) principle embedded within the TPM philosophy can bring substantial improvements to a company’s existing new product development and introduction processes involving capital physical assets. EEM is driven by a belief that behind the plant and equipment used in any production process there are three functional groups that are essential partners for optimising new product and equipment introduction, namely:

  • Commercial (sales, marketing, and finance)
  • Engineering (design, product, tooling, equipment, process and procurement)
  • Operations (operators and maintainers).

Beyond The Buzz

Join Ishan Sellahewa as he talks through ‘Beyond The Buzz: Building your Future through Digital Transformation’

Contact Ishan with any questions: ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com

Managing Process Variations


Join Ishan Sellahewa as he talks through ‘Managing Process Variations’

Shingo Journey Guide

Check out our latest guide to your Shingo Journey – an approach to truly sustainable Enterprise Excellence.

How to align, engage and improve using effective Tiered meetings Webinar Recording

Join Sonja Allen and Megan James for this bite size webinar where they will share how to improve the effectiveness of your tiered or cross-organisational meetings using the tried and tested AEI (Align, Engage, Improve) System. Discover the principles, features and key benefits of deploying an AEI system​.​

Download the recording here.

How to align, engage and improve using effective Tiered meetings

Start your Digital Transformation Journey today…

Listen in to find out how you can begin your digital transformation journey today. Ishan Sellahewa shares how to align both your digital transformation with your Enterprise Excellence journey.

Contact ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com with any questions

Align, Engage, Improve – Tiered Management System

Discover how the Align, Engage, Improve (AEI) system can support your organisation to deploy an effective and engaging Tiered Management System

Contact juliette.packham@sapartners.com or keivan.zokaei@sapartners.com with any questions

Lean Fundamentals: The Problem with Problem Solving

Across various industries, there has been a consistent demand to improveproblem-solving skills within businesses. Organizations often prioritize theuse of problem-solving tools and approaches, considering probleminvestigation and resolution as critical aspects of regulatory compliance.However, the prevailing culture associated with compliance-drivenproblem solving often leads to shallow investigations, rushed resolutions,and recurring issues.

Pocket Guide to: Changeover Optimisation

Manufacturing organisations are under pressure to increase productivity and improve flexibility & responsiveness to customer needs. Changeover optimisation is a means of improving performance to create a more flexible manufacturing environment. Equipment flexibility & responsiveness are core requirements of all modern manufacturing thinking and largely determined by process changeover capability.

To download click the download button above

Your IT department might be unknowingly undermining your culture

We all know humans are inherently lazy – we tend to take the path of least resistance. This makes sense; both mental and physical activity takes a lot of energy, something that was scarce at the time when we had to hunt and gather for our next meal. For a more recent example, if you put more bins out in the street, people are less likely to litter.

The Shingo Model© reinforces this thinking. The second Shingo insight states that system design influences the behaviour of individuals operating within a system. The model also states:

“Cultural transformation requires a shift in behaviours and systems drive behaviour. In the end, an organization will most likely need to adjust old systems, create new systems, and eliminate systems that no longer drive desired behaviour or are misaligned.”

Harvard Business Review suggests culture “guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.” (Groysberg, Lee, Price and Cheng, 2018).

Shingo would say that these group norms are heavily influenced by the systems of work that exist within organisations.

However, a neuroscience study published on eLife online suggests that theory could go one step further. It suggests our decision-making abilities can be swayed by the level of difficulty involved in reaching the result. That doesn’t mean we knowingly settle for less because it’s easier – we see the easier result as being more desirable in the first place.

The study explains:

“Imagine you are in an orchard, trying to decide which of the many apples to pick. On what do you base your decision? Most research into this type of decision-making has focused on how the brain uses visual information – about features such as colour, size and shape – to make a choice. But what about the effort required to obtain the apple? Does an apple at the top of the tree look more or less tempting than the low-hanging fruit?” (Hagura, Haggard and Diedrichsen, 2017).

So, what on earth does this have to do with your IT department?

Most IT departments will play a central role in selecting and configuring digital systems deployed in organisations. These systems are having increasingly wide-reaching impacts on businesses, creating rigid frameworks and workflows that inform how teams can work. However, these digital systems can also contain loopholes.

Say, for example, that you have a system through which you manage the procurement of parts. The ideal employee should log the purchase by entering information such as part number, part name, and quantity, which then becomes a purchase record in a database, over time this builds a history of purchasing patterns. This part number should in theory be the individual part number, but the part number isn’t always easy to identify, there’s no system to look-up the part number, and their manager is currently pushing to minimise the time to place the order.

This leads someone to create an umbrella code for miscellaneous parts. There’s no control against this and no guidance in the system to advise against it. Now, despite a fixed system, you have a workaround that allows the purchasers to place the order in half the time. Only problem is, three years down the line, you have no record of what was purchased, severely restricting your ability to make informed decisions.

There are two things happening here.

Firstly, the lack of available solution for easily and rapidly identifying the part number is creating a challenge for the end-user to overcome – it’s making the standard process hard to execute. Secondly, the lack of control within the digital system is providing the option for the end-user to bypass the standard. The human mind is generally not capable of consistently selecting the harder option when an easier option exists, particularly in the face of pressure, stress and other challenges. You have now created an implicit behaviour where the team is favouring efficiency over data integrity.

Now, imagine this is happening in other processes. In other systems. There are implicit behaviours being created in all corners of the business, influenced by challenges and loopholes in digital systems. We are now building a set of behavioural responses and group norms, which brings us neatly back to our definition of culture. The cherry on top of this cake is that all those difficult processes might actually be impairing our ability to make accurate judgements about what our customer values most.

So, what can we do about this?

Leaders and managers should communicate priorities, take time to understand challenges and have open conversations with teams to truly understand the way work is working in their areas. These are opportunities to surface problems and opportunities to improve. By asking genuinely curious questions about ‘how work works’ they should encourage an environment where it is safe for team members to surface frustrations and corner cutting.  It’s also important to map and understand the workflows that flow through digital systems. Once standard processes and expectations are in place, governance and improvement meetings should be wrapped around these workflows, enabling teams to provide feedback where there are challenges.

It’s important to engage the IT department – and any other teams that are responsible for maintaining and controlling digital systems in the business – in the improvement meetings and related activities that work teams use to act on problems and opportunities. This should create a healthy tension, connecting IT service providers with the reality of work, and work teams with the potential and constraints or unintended consequences of IT based changes.

These challenges can then be addressed by optimising, removing waste and simplifying those processes. Automation and specific digital solutions can be applied to remove work from teams or solve complex challenges.

Continuous improvement should be a continuous and open conversation, which delivers results when leaders mobilise teams to identify and address challenges as they are encountered. It’s more important than ever that the IT department is onboard and engaged with these efforts as they now hold the keys to more doors than ever before. It might be time to take your CIO for a coffee…


Jack Worboys

Analyst Consultant




Nobuhiro Hagura, Patrick Haggard, Jörn Diedrichsen (2017) Perceptual decisions are biased by the cost to act eLife 6:e18422 https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.18422

Harvard Business Review 2018, The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture, accessed 26th April 2023, < https://hbr.org/2018/01/the-leaders-guide-to-corporate-culture>


S A Partners Launches Online Learning Capability

Well, ok we may be a bit slow starting but I promise you that we have caught up fast. Over the past three years with the impact of COVID19 we have seen a significant shift in the way we all learn, we have become more comfortable with the use of technology in how we develop our skills and knowledge.

We have seen the traditional classroom replaced by the home office, flipcharts replaced with Miro boards and delegate folders replaced with online playbooks.

Over the past 30 years we have delivered exceptional courses to our clients pushing the boundaries of thinking in Shingo, Leadership, Improvement Coach and Six Sigma

As a business SA Partners has learned so much in this space, we have adapted our training, coaching and accreditation approaches to make this a fully flexible customer experience.

Our trainers and coaches have adapted really well to this technology, receiving fantastic feedback from Customers across the World. They are now fully comfortable delivering all our courses either face to face, online or as a blend of the both depending on your specific organizational needs.

We have developed our own Role tracker System that is capable of tracking candidate learning journeys, managing documentation flow and benefits generated from development programmes. We have further adapted this resource so it can be fully integrated into role development looking at specific role skills as well as formal training programmes. Finally, the System also has the capability to manage and track your performance reviews, so providing the complete learning package.

In addition to the Role Tracker System, we have partnered with an online learning organization that can develop and customize our existing training packages so they can be delivered fully online. Please try out our free Certified Lean/CI awareness course

To back up the whole process we have developed online diagnostics that can analyse your organization and help provide feedback around how your drive towards the next level in your improvement journey. Please look at the below links for more details.

TPM Online Assessment

Enterprise Excellence Online Assessment

Its all really exciting times and we will continue to develop our knowledge and skills.

Food Sector: Is it too busy too improve?

As someone who has worked with many, many Food companies around the world on their Continuous Improvement and Business Transformation journeys, there is not a lot that surprises me or unnerves me. As the old saying goes “I probably have seen it all”. I have worked across Branded Name and Own Label Food Manufacturers across every Food category you can think of. I have seen successful and sustainable Improvement journeys in companies I would have least expected it. I have seen disastrous Improvement journeys that have totally failed in others.

I am not going to define here, from my own 25 years plus experience, what makes a successful Improvement journey – there are lots of good books on that subject (including our own!) and plenty of solid case studies on the S A Partners Food sector page (https://sapartners.com/food-drink-resources-and-testimonials//. But what I would like to explore is what has changed over the past 2 years and what unnerves me in the Food sector as we move out of the covid pandemic.

You don’t need me to tell you that the UK Food labour pool has shrunk dramatically since Brexit or that covid has compounded the negative impact on available labour; or that there are not enough drivers out there to transport in bound/outbound materials to or from our Food Manufacturing sites etc, however, you may be surprised when I tell you that I am coming across many Food companies who are now using these issues as a reason to NOT continue with their Improvement journey!!- its this mentality that worries me.

I was even told by the MD of a multisite Food Manufacturer recently that “we won’t be able to commence our planned Transformational Improvement journey this year as we have lots of problems we need to fix!”

What I believe is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle, is that due to the macro level impact Brexit and Covid have had on the Food Sector, their Transformational Improvement maturity has regressed.

Typical Maturity Pattern for Organisational Transformation in the Food Sector

What therefore needs to happen now is a vastly different approach to transformation which focuses back on Phase 1, which wouldn’t have worked in Phase 3.

There is an old saying when playing Golf (not that I do btw), that you need to use “different clubs for different challenges”. I sense a lot of Food companies are now still trying to use their putting club when in reality they are now back in the rough and require a different club, or worse still, they give up trying to play the game and just go home (or to the clubhouse)!!

In summary, never stop your Transformational journey, just reflect and realise your maturity has gone backwards and you just need to i) accept this fact and ii) refresh your roadmap to get you out of the rough

We are, as always, here to support you on your journey.

Jeff Williams

Head of Food & Drink Sector

S A Partners LLP