Lean Enterprise Research Centre 25 Year Anniversary Conference

Dr Nicola Bateman was asked by to be a plenary speaker for “The LERC 25th Anniversary Conference Lean Retrospective: Assessing Lean Thinking Evolution, Current State and Future Challenges” alongside Dan Jones, John Bicheno and Nick Rich. Each speaker took their own perspective on the last 25 years of application and research of lean. This blog provides a brief summary of speakers at the event and references Nicola’s own research.

LERC the Lean Enterprise Research Centre was founded in 1994 by Dan Jones and Peter Hines to bring together practitioners and academics to develop lean ideas. I worked there from 1998 to 2007 initially on a secondment to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and then as a senior research fellow. I researched exploring sustainability of lean implementation (Bateman 2005) and then application of lean to a range of sectors including food supply chain, aerospace and the Royal Air Force. I also taught on a range of courses and contributed to the design of the Lean Competency System.

Looking back it was great to be in such a motivated, dynamic and mutually supportive research environment. Everyone was focused around lean ideas although we all had different perspectives, and so members of LERC have gone on to a range of careers including returning to industry, working for other lean academies, consultancy and academia.

John Bicheno is the Professor of Lean Enterprise, University of Buckingham. John is the author of some of my favourite lean books including The Lean Toolbox. He has developed several games which I have used in my own teaching. His talk focused on the technical change tools and how some ideas such as the Kingman equation get forgotten whereas there has been a heavy focus on culture.

Dan Jones is a co-founder of LERC and founder and Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy in the UK. Dan is a leading thinker in lean for many years and is a senior advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute. He has been a mentor for many organisations and institutions applying lean. With Jim Womack, he co-authored some of the influential and popular lean Thinking books, including The Machine that Changed the World, and Lean Thinking. At the conference Dan spoke about how lean is incompatible with the current business model in terms of waste, performance measures. Also how the current business model forces people who aspire to implement the lean model into the role of firefighters and cost-cutters. He then spoke about learning in a lean environment; how it will help resolve these issues with examples from A3’s and leading from the ground up. He went on to outline how lean can be socially responsible and engages with people, new technology and climate change.

Nick Rich is the Professor in Operations Management, School of Management at Swansea University. He has worked in a great range of industries and spent some time between academic activities at the Royal Mint in charge of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic medals. His work in TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) has brought him to focus on reliability of systems and how people and technology work together to generate high performance organisations and highly reliable organisations. Nick gave some examples of how systems such as healthcare would benefit from this approach citing the ability to address the more complex issues. He also outlined some of the challenges of implementation in healthcare.

I spoke about how lean has disseminated from its manufacturing roots and how this dissemination has reached other areas such as public services. The wider acceptance of a lean approach has opened up many more job opportunities (over 5000 on ‘Indeed’ job search 21.8.19) with organisations such as Amazon, Ikea, PepsiCo. There is accredited training available through organisations such as Lean competency system and education programmes for example MSc Lean Enterprise at Buckingham University. I explored examples of use of lean beyond its automotive origins particularly in public services including local government (Glennon 2017) and armed forces (Bateman, Hines and Davidson 2014). Examples from healthcare were drawn from Institute for Healthcare Improvement and of the more “meta” approach of improvement in healthcare-improvement at the Healthcare Improvement Studies. This demonstrated how integrated lean ideas have become in the healthcare sector but also how healthcare is extending these ideas and thus evolving what lean is. I explored a similar evolution with a lean tool – visual management (Bateman Phil and Warrender 2016). Exploring how it has been used both in a lean environment but also extending beyond this to support team decision-making in a range of environments (Verbano, Crema, and Nicosia, 2017 and Bateman, Cluley and Radnor Z 2019).

I concluded by highlighting some of the area’s I assessed as requiring further work by the lean community:
• To address the hard nuts to crack associated with cultural change and soft skills e.g leadership, resistance to change lean should to go back to general management thinking
• Lean accounting standardisation (gap of GAAP). There are accounting methods that can be used in a lean context but they are not Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP). There is a role of the accounting professional bodies to play here
• Visual Management can live outside lean but still works well in it – this is an active area much can be done particularly around digital versus analogue formats.
• Healthcare has embraced lean, then evolved and adapted to own needs. We in lean can all learn from this as practitioners and academics from within healthcare and other sectors too.
• Definitions of lean – do we want a very clear simple definition or is pluralistic more embracing approach suitable? As a lean community we should provide direction and leadership on this.

Dr Nicola Bateman FHEA MIET
Associate Professor Operations Management

Latest paper: Beyond the ostensible: an exploration of barriers to lean implementation and sustainability in healthcare

• Bateman, NA (2005) Sustainability the Elusive Element of Process Improvement, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 25(3), pp.261-276, ISSN: 0144-3577.
• Bateman, NA, Hines, P, Davidson, P (2014) Wider applications for Lean: An examination of the fundamental principles within public sector organisations, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 63(5), pp.560-.568, ISSN: 1758-6658.
• Bateman, NA, Philp, L, Warrender, H (2016) Visual management and shop floor teams – development, implementation and use, International Journal of Production Research,54(24), pp.7345-7358, ISSN: 1366-588X.
• Bateman, N. Cluley V, and Radnor Z (2019) Visualising complexity: using visual tools to facilitate coproduction of complex system design in healthcare settings 26th EurOMA Conference 15 – 19 June 2019 Helsinki
• Glennon R (2017) PhD thesis: “The ‘death of improvement’: An exploration of the legacy of performance and service improvement reform in English local authorities, 1997-2017
• Verbano C, Crema M, Nicosia F. Visual management system to improve care planning and controlling: the case of intensive care unit. Production Planning & Control. 2017 Nov 18;28(15):1212-22.

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