Birtley Group goes Japanese
Birtley Group Operations Director Terry Carmichael talks about the kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement.
Q: Terry, you’ve been in post since February 2015. Where were you before?
TC: I was Global Operations Director at Thorn Lighting.
Q: What would you say was your greatest achievement in your last job?
TC: Probably when Thorn won the UK Best Factory Award for its Spennymoor site in 2009. That was a career highlight for me because the process is exceptionally rigorous. Cranfield School of Management, which provides the judges, is highly respected in the manufacturing world.
Q: You have introduced a number of kaizen projects since joining Birtley Group. Can you explain what that means?
TC: Kaizen is a word in both Chinese and Japanese that translates as ‘continuous improvement’. Put simply, it empowers people in the workplace at all levels to spot opportunities for waste reduction or process improvement. Often the individual improvements are small, but when they’re all added together you can get fantastic results.
Q: What benefits has the technique produced within Birtley Group so far?
TC: We’ve already seen a noticeable reduction in product rejects and a big jump door manufacturing productivity. But kaizen isn’t just about the hard business numbers. It’s about our people and showing them just how much their expertise and understanding of their own processes is valued. It’s them who ultimately drive the improvement – not me. That gives everyone a greater sense of pride and it shows in the generally high level of morale. There’s a real buzz because the team feels successful every day!
Q: Where will kaizen take Birtley Group from here?
TC: The whole point of kaizen is that it never stops. It is a continuous process. We’ve already changed line layouts according to lean production principles and looking ahead I want to keep running more kaizen projects. The hard work of our teams will go on increasing efficiency. By reducing costs and making us more agile to react to changing industry needs, Birtley Group will become even more competitive in the marketplace.