Our first Lean/CI Conference in Auckland. September 2015.
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Our first Lean/CI Conference in Auckland. September 2015.

Last month I endured the 24 hour flight and inevitable jet lag to join our team in Asia Pacific for a week of events in Australia and New Zealand.

Having launched the business quartered in Auckland with Richard Steel heading up our operations back in March. At that point we thought that a great way to bring the latest in Lean Thinking to Aotearoa would be to arrange an inaugural one day Lean/CI Conference and we were invited to host this at Massey University.

The event was held at their Campus in Albany Auckland and sponsored by MPOWER (Massey People Organisation Work and Employment hub) and chaired by myself as the main facilitator and link to the keynotes and panel discussions during the day. This is a great facility and luckily we had chosen a week when the students were away from the campus so very quiet and uncrowded.

Keynote Speaker, Brenton Harder from Commonwealth Bank
Keynote Speaker, Brenton Harder

It was really pleasing to see so many Lean/CI practitioners engaged by the presentations and sharing and networking with the other delegates who were from a wide range of sectors and organisations big and small. I sensed that there were a lot of practitioners who were struggling to stay motivated when they arrived and left feeling re energised and full of new enthusiasm.

My opening presentation set the scene with an introduction to the concept of Enterprise Excellence and the benefits of the Shingo model and underlying principles. I think it was fair to say that few in the audience were familiar with the Shingo model but interest in this approach is growing in the Asia Pacific region.

Later I chaired the open panel discussion with the key note presenters and awarded the first ever SA Partners Continuous Improvement prize to two leading Massey students who had applied Lean Thinking to their design and manufacturing projects as part of their degrees.

Next up was our first Keynote Speaker, Brenton Harder from Commonwealth Bank who engaged the audience with a very personal and candid story of his recent experience leading the work well underway at CBA to embed a Continuous Improvement culture.

Brenton Harder in discussion with attendee's
Brenton Harder in discussion with attendee’s

He described how he began by establishing credibility with some carefully selected successful CI projects, built internal capability and embedded a Productivity mindset with four productivity habits, Visual Management, SOP’s, Huddles and CI.

In a very straightforward way he also showed how Productivity was having a direct impact the banks performance when measured by the ratio of cost to income. Everyone seemed very energised by Brenton’s presentation, there was lots of discussion over coffee. After two presentations from a Brit and an American the audience cheered our next Speaker, finally a Kiwi voice!

Rob McGee shared the challenges and successes that had helped Auckland Council Leisure and Aquatics to turn around their culture and performance over the last 2 years.

Then Dr Nigel Grigg and Hans Doevendans presented their research in to the application of Lean/CI in the pip fruit industry in New Zealand.

Learning about the application of lean
Learning about the application of lean

They found a lot of opportunity for applying Lean/CI in the industry but many of the producers had not been able to realise the full potential of Lean/CI because of the nature of the industry – small disconnected independent producers dealing with the seasonal demand and a transient workforce.

As well as the keynote speakers delegates also had a choice of one of 3 breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon session. This gave them the opportunity to choose what interested them, and with a variety of industries represented, ranging from small apple growers to healthcare, to parks and recreation, banking to food processing there was a good range of organisations represented.

After lunch Martin Baker from Tegel Foods described how his Lean journey began with a safety focus but he was soon able to switch the focus to value adding and preventing wastefulness.

He was honest about things that had not gone so well and that there was a need for humility and to create a culture where it’s Ok if things don’t go right first time.

Through rigorous elimination of waste they were able to accommodate a new production facility within an existing facility without extending the building.

  • My highlights from the keynotes were
  • Need for humility, engage your colleagues and accept that you can be wrong.
  • Persevere. Implementing Lean is challenging, Accept that it will not all go well all the time
  • Engage teams and think of Lean/CI as a cultural change that is ongoing not a programme with an end.
Martin Baker describes how his Lean journey began
Martin Baker describes how his Lean journey began

There was a great ‘buzz’ on the day and the delegates said they hoped this would become a regular event. Our team also felt that it had been a worthwhile event so thanks to all our Speakers who generously shared their stories in a frank and open way, and to our friends at Massey University for inviting us to their campus and supporting the event.

We enjoyed it so much that we have already started planning our 2016 Conference which will be on the 16th March in Sydney and I hope to be there to. Further details will follow soon.

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