Case Studies

Case Study 1: Contract Cosmetics Manufacturer


With a growth target of doubling output and a market demanding stable pricing the new General Manager was keen to use Lean Thinking as the platform to develop their skills and processes to change in how the business needed to operate to secure a sustainable future.

A traditional approach to manufacturing with disconnected processes, high WIP levels, historical autocratic management style, and staff “keeping busy”, working hard, not smart was clearly evident.

A Governance Group led the Programme, providing the strategic view of the business priorities and directed the focus on where improvements needed to be made, and the foundation understanding of simply getting better every day helped the teams adjust to some new thinking.


Daily Team Meetings brought people together to share information about the day ahead and immediately became a catalyst for engagement.

Workplace Arrangement and Housekeeping – 5S: Commenced in a pilot area to get the team familiar with the requirements and with some simple visual controls and good leadership the area was well maintained. With the foundations established, work continues and behaviours are progressively changing, reflecting sustainable standards – expanding this to redefined work cells and layout.

Packing Process Improvement – FLOW: Using Value Stream Mapping to teach the Team how to “see” their process and the Waste revealed less than 5% Value Add, FPY of 75%, Manufacturing Changeovers up to 8 hours, WIP = 90% of Customer order quantity, and many aspects of wasteful work including over-production, searching, transport, inventory, waiting and motion. The team considered ways of eliminating the Wastes along with reducing the high WIP. Implementing better process flow provided immediate benefits – less movement, more space, reduced searching, less frustration, better quality management, and much less WIP. These changes saw a clearer understanding of the impact of Waste and the confidence to experiment with process changes. Advances have been exceptional and for the first time in their history the packing team were not the bottleneck – getting closer to a PULL system based on demand. Recent equipment advances have enabled the Manufacturing process to be directly linked to the Packing process, eliminating the WIP on some products. A completely different layout has now been proposed to take further advantage of the rapidly developing process changes.

Manufacturing Process Improvement – SMED: Value Stream Mapping, revealed changeovers of up to 8 hours and large batches. SMED training and analysis followed with potential improvements of resequencing the steps, adding resources, and applying 5S, where theoretically the team could achieve a 72% improvement in Changeover Time. These changes will see the team confidently reducing batch size and impacting the Packing operation and customer response times.

Leadership Development: Supporting the physical changes and changing culture we have begun further advancing leadership skills. Developing skills around teaching, measurement, trust and respect to change relationships, actively participating and leading by example to grow their unique culture.


  1. 5S – More organised, tidier, more confidence from visiting customers, removed Waste, freed up space, better safety, improving team behaviours to maintain 5S compliance and ease of working
  2. Process Development
    1. Auto-packing Process – Improved machine layout, and accessibility to a new WIP location managed by Visual Controls leading to a 13.3% increase in Machine Uptime
    2. Packing Flow Processes – WIP Volume decreased by 75%. Example of production rate increase from 360 units per hour to 620 units per hour with the same staffing level, Productivity improvement 72%, Labelling machine reduced 4 staff for deployment elsewhere in the business.
    3. Manufacturing Process – Changeover time reduction 70 minutes over the 5 hours – 23% improvement so far (targeting 72% as noted during SMED analysis)
  3. Customer – Overall output increased by 25% to better meet customer delivery dates
  4. Quality – Less WIP and better process visibility enables faster response to quality needs
  5. Cost – Labour recovery rate (Labour % of Sales) – 2017 : 29.9%, 2018 : 26.6%, 2019 : 23.3%


Case Study 2: Food and Beverage Manufacturer


This is a leading food and beverage supplier, committed to excellence, active in Continuous Improvement with an Improvement Committee providing focus, governance and support for Lean. Our engagement applied Lean Thinking in the Harvesting, Packing and Despatch processes to identify and deliver improvements in Safety, Quality, Delivery and Productivity.

Simply Lean provided foundation training for leaders and Value Stream Mapping training and practice, identifying improvements and developing capability to become self-sufficient.  Further training and support reflected the needs identified in the VSM.


With a product that needs quick, ‘minimum touch’ flow from Harvesting through to Packaging to ensure product freshness and quality, the initial VSM clearly identified where delays and other Wastes were hampering Flow.  Improvements achieved in the Harvesting to Packing process applied a ‘smaller-batch’ approach to product movement – reducing waiting time before being moved to subsequent processes.  Additional benefits by providing smoother flow at the following process steps – reducing over-burden and under-utilisation of staff and equipment.

Through ‘practicing’ Structured Problem-Solving addressing issues of ‘harvesting downtime’, leaders identified a need to ‘formally standardise’ the approach to harvesting techniques across a variety of environments and to plan operator re-training as required.      

Coached ‘Gemba Walks’ in Packing and Despatch were undertaken with all team leaders. Processes were also videoed as an easier and more methodical way of identifying Waste.  Improvements included layout changes to storage and despatch-processing areas, visual controls to identify product locations and quantity counts, reconfigured duties of team-members on packing machines, and changeover ‘readiness’ to reduce packing line down-time.

The knowledge base is in place and enthusiasm building, with multiple benefits realised. The focus is now on areas that will provide greater business benefit through improved safety, quality, & efficiency.  Systems are being developed to ensure Continuous Improvement is raised in the right forums, ensuring the business continually measures what they do to fully understand the benefits.


A 10% improvement in pack rate of which a significant proportion is directly attributed to the Continuous Improvement initiatives recently implemented, yielding an estimated $180,000/yr reduction in packing labour costs. A more intangible benefit is the renewed invigoration of all business team leaders. Providing the tools and knowledge to contribute to improving the business has already led to increased engagement and higher levels of job satisfaction – which will benefit the business ultimately through increased retention of great staff.


Case Study 3: Joinery Manufacturer


Having initially embarked upon their Lean Journey some years previous targeting the manufacturing ‘shop-floor’, improvements in their operations capability had not been matched in their ‘office’ processes and it was apparent that future business growth would be hampered by inconsistent performance and delays inherent in the office.  The leadership team wanted to apply Lean to their front office processes to complement the approach already taken in the factory.

Refresher training brought the office team up to speed on the foundation principles of Customer Value and Waste, Continuous Improvement and Workplace Organisation (5S) – with focus on the office work environment.   The office Value Stream Map training and application was very practical, employing the ‘brown paper and post-it note’ method to help the team ‘see’ the extent of Waste and opportunity. We supplemented this with Root Cause Analysis and A3 Planning training to identify the necessary actions needed to fix the gaps in order to reach the proposed Future State condition. 


The VSM identified a disproportionately long lead-time for the ‘order to manufacture’ compared with the time available to deliver the product to the customer.  Issues affecting the performance of the process were noted and included in the problem solving. A Future State map was developed, followed by a gap analysis to identify the necessary improvements with Structured Problem Solving clarifying the root-causes of the respective gaps.

Five workstreams were initially identified: People Skills and Accountabilities, Customer Information, Data Management, Work-flow and Standardisation with delivery accountability for each workstream allocated amongst the Governance Group.

An integrated improvements plan was created, prioritising actions using a Benefits vs Effort analysis. A number of Quick Wins were purposefully scheduled early in the sequence to help create some tangible and visible benefits to reinforce the positive message of change to the wider team.  

Early actions included applying 5S principles to customer information capture and filing, ie. single-point data storage with standard file indexing/naming, leading to an immediate reduction, across a considerable number of staff, in time spent searching for customer information, thus freeing up available time to invest in further improvement activities.

As batch-processing practices caused unnecessary delays in information flow and periods of over-burden throughout several office processes, another early action was to increase the rate of flow through adopting short-time-interval processing (Single Piece Flow).

The team redesigned and implementing new processes including customer acceptance, job planning, and purchasing to remove Waste and enable faster information flow.

Regular Governance Group review meetings ensure the agreed actions progress and any new issues are resolved.  In addition, Quarterly Reviews confirm the next 3-months action plan.  


Reductions in office waste – 80% reduction in average searching time for job information. Improved process lead-time – new order processing time reduced from 5 days to within 24 hours. Standard ‘job file’ system enables all information about a job to be saved to a single accessible database, reducing double handling data errors. Reduced volume of late parts through a new sales ‘triage’ meeting. New Sales & Ops Review meetings reduced overall product/service lead-time