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Positive thinking

A new FM Special Interest Group met on Tuesday 10th April at the offices of the British Quality Foundation to explore ways in which some of the business tools that have revolutionised manufacturing, offer a much more positive alternative to recent concerns around unsustainable industry practices

Lean (or Lean Six Sigma) is the ground-up and human approach which has led Toyota to the top of the tree in world-wide car production – and a relatively recent field of knowledge (the concept of Lean achieved global awareness following the publication of a landmark book – “the Machine that Changed the World” in 1991). In 25 years, the concepts have been copied and applied in manufacturing industries around the world, spurred and accelerated following the Global Financial Crisis.

Making inroads into healthcare and financial industries including banking and insurance, Lean has yet to make an impact on facilities management – and offers a way forward which, by the application of sound, tested principles provides for a bright future.

Key attendees from FM companies, FM professional bodies, the specialist media as well as representatives from the BQF and the Chartered Quality Institute met at the first of two Launch Events for this Special Interest Group (SIG) to hear presentations on broad concepts.

After a welcome and introduction from Ian Swain, CEO of the British Quality Foundation, the group heard presentations from Chris Craggs on the direct relevance of Lean to the FM industry and some insights on tools and culture; a presentation produced by Jon Lightowler on real-life application and lessons in the cleaning sector; Geoff Prudence talked on the need for leadership to drive these new approaches and Diane Dibley , Director of Services for the BQF, outlined the ways in which seminars, workshops and training programmes are already in place to provide insights and powerful tools, whether to novices or the more experienced practitioners.

Event organiser Chris Craggs said: “The four of us were delighted to be able to launch this initiative to show a much more optimistic future for FM than recent industry talk on the race-to-the-bottom. Linked to the imminent launch of the new ISO41001 Facilities Management standard, we believe a new approach is possible – and with buy-in from customers, FM companies and their specialist contractors, working collaboratively and constructively to build value and drive out waste in the supply chain, there will be a sustainable, positive future.

“Each part of the industry needs to play its part – not least the professional associations, setting, leading and accrediting exemplar organisations and individuals. This is the start of a journey – I believe we will look back in five years’ time and see the impact of a quiet revolution.”

Two examples from the presentations included:

  • The famous Washington Monument Mystery – the reason the monument is deteriorating is because of tourists – but the path is more complicated than first sight and a great example of root cause analysis.
  • A systematic analysis of an office building cleaning task which resulted in more than 70 per cent saving of manpower with no detriment to scope or quality.

“I am really pleased to be involved in this FM Lean initiative, said speaker Geoff Prudence: “We are working to make sure that great examples of Best Practice provide insight and guidance and opportunities for all parties – Clients, Professional Bodies, FM Companies and the thousands of people employed – to build a sustainable, robust industry with integrity, learning from the best models and techniques, really demonstrating Leadership value in our field.”

The SIG group, via its website FMLean.com, provides a forum and a bulletin board for information and news on practices, events and training which are already widely available. In time, the information library will build and move from the current situation where most case studies are from manufacturing to case studies from FM.

One of the features of Lean has been the transparency and pride with which practitioners share their own learnings and journeys – from Go-Look-See visits to Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood to countless videos on YouTube. In five years’ time, we look forward to having best practice videos on the website which showcase best practice around the industry – from catering, cleaning and maintenance through workspace planning and provision of security and reception services.

Attendee Estelle Clark, Policy Director for the Chartered Quality Institute commented: “It’s great to see yet further understanding that Lean and Six Sigma are valued outside of manufacturing and being applied in the FM world. I’m also happy that the very recent launch of the Improvement (including Lean and Six Sigma) Trailblazer Apprenticeship Schemes give organisations another, cost effective way, of equipping their staff with these skills.”

Jon Lightowler added: “Whilst it was great to see so many people from across the sector who were already involved with the delivery of Lean initiatives I would suggest that anyone looking to fast track their management career or who is directly accountable for winning or retaining customers should come over and understand why this should be especially relevant to you too!”

For those who missed the first event, there will be a further launch event on 22nd May at the British Quality Foundation in London.

The second round of this Look-into-Lean series will be held on Tuesday 26th June with a presentation from Adam Buckley, Lead Consultant from the Growth Organisation on Shingo Principles – Shigeo Shingo was one of the architects of the Toyota Production System and the annual prize named after him has been called the “Nobel Prize of Manufacturing”.


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