Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

An Interview with Think Perform Facilitator – Kevin Selwood

Kevin’s Background

I have been a facilitator with Think Perform for over 4 years, and worked with Lean principles throughout my working career in the automotive components industry with ongoing exposure to the Toyota Production System.  My first exposure to facilitation was with Futuris Automotive as the company trained all their staff to a Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices, although much of my working days would be spent mentoring in the workplace.

With Think Perform I have facilitated training at companies such as Iplex, Rocla, Ferrocut, Golden North Ice Cream, Swan Hill Engineering, Alspec, Seeley, Fletchers New Zealand and also mining hospitality sites at Port Hedland and Mildura.

What would be the one thing that you hope participants take away from their Think Perform course?

For me, it is the realisation that they have the power to implement change, it doesn’t need to be big change, they just need to think about their daily work and identify “What bothers me?  What bugs me?  What can I do to make my job easier while improving efficiency and quality?”  Some of the biggest impacts have been the smallest changes because of the impact it has on the individual in reducing their frustration and improving their morale.

Simple, well planned changes that have a positive impact on the employees will have a positive flow on effect on their customers, be them internal or external, leading to improved customer satisfaction and the building of an ongoing rewarding relationship.

What are common problems that participants face when learning or applying Lean concepts and techniques? Do you have any advice to overcome this?

The common problems I see are related to change. Participants are sometimes not willing to share their ideas as they feel they may not be listened to, or even worse, negatively treated by fellow employees. This may be from previous experiences when their ideas were not supported by their management team so they feel their ideas are not valued or appreciated.

The advice I give them to overcome this is:

  • Firstly the management team is investing in the participants by Think Perform being on site, it’s just not the cost of the program, but also the time the participants are away from their workstations, the management team want to see improvements to justify their investment.
  • When they generate an idea for change, they need to word it positively by being “Above the Line” and not just to come up with an idea, but also to generate what the improvements will be, they could relate to productivity, efficiency, reducing waste, safety and employee well being.
  • The final piece of advice would be if they are apprehensive, then we can get together and I can champion the discussion with the management team for, or with them.

What is your favourite Lean/Continuous Improvement tool/technique/concept?

I have always liked 5S because it is a key concept in so many other Lean and Continuous Improvement Tools.  If you are problem solving you need to have your information organised, usually we 5S the information into an A3 or even collecting data on a chart or graph is an example of 5S with data.

Likewise visual management is linked to 5S, just a simple shadow board where tools are stored and returned to, is a great example of visual management and 5S.  My participants have shared many experiences of how they have implemented 5S not only in their workplace but also in their home, just to make things easier.

Everyone will have examples of 5S in their own home ranging from their cutlery drawers, wine racks, perhaps even your sock draw.

What is the best/most unique/most interesting way that you’ve seen clients apply lean/CI tools and techniques?

One of the best and most effective tools/techniques used was at a site which produced plastic injection moulded parts, and one of their processes was to pack boxes from a bulk container, e.g. boxes of 12 from a container of 200 parts.

The issue stemmed from safety signage which stated that hearing protection must be worn in the area, so all employees would stop and put their earplugs in whenever they entered the area even if the machine was idle and not working.

The site then conducted noise assessment testing around the area and redefined the area with a border of a blue and white line.  The signage was then update to read “Hearing protection must be worm when past blue and white lines when machine is operating”.

The solution reduced the needless use of earplugs, resulting in a cost saving to the consumables, and also proved to be more efficient for the forklift drivers, with an estimated half an hour savings per shift per day, while also reducing frustration and increasing morale.

Any last tips/advice for readers?

Make the most of your opportunities to improve, be vocal at your Toolbox meetings, but remember always be “Above the Line” don’t let yourself be the person that always complains, be the one who has ideas, solutions and reasons to improve.  Concentrate on the basics, lots of small improvements implemented over a span of one year add up to a huge improvement at the end of that year, help make your workplace one that values their employees as they strive for Continuous Improvement.

Tesla: Manufacturing South Australia for the future

In July, Tesla and its owner Elon Musk announced that it is building the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia — an installation 60 per cent larger than any other large-scale battery energy storage system on the planet.

In partnership with the South Australian government and French renewables company Neoen, alongside the third stage of the Hornsdale Wind Farm, the PowerPack battery farm will top 100 megawatts of capacity and provide 129 megawatt-hours of energy generation to the region — load balancing the state’s renewable energy generation and allowing emergency back-up power if a shortfall in energy production is predicted.

According to Musk, the battery will keep the lights on in South Australia. This statement is an increasingly important one as it comes at a time where the state has struggled with reliable energy generation and recently suffered from a statewide blackout caused by a 50-year storm last September.

Tesla has detailed its planned development in a recent blog post: “Tesla Powerpack will charge using renewable energy from the Hornsdale Wind Farm and then deliver electricity during peak hours to help maintain the reliable operation of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure. The Tesla Powerpack system will further transform the state’s movement towards renewable energy and see an advancement of a resilient and modern grid.”

In terms of gains in efficiency, the power that this innovative piece of technology has to sustainably and consistently power an entire state is extraordinary. However, while the technology itself may be new and exciting, the processes that Musk and his team will use to deliver them will still need to employ tried and tested Continuous Improvement techniques in order to fulfil the promise of 100 days from contract signature to project completion.

Both Musk and Tesla have a lot riding on this promise. For one, if the project isn’t delivered it will be free for the South Australian government. Secondly, if successful, Tesla stands to cement its reputation as a provider of technologies that can deliver manufacturing into the future, both cheaper and more sustainably.

Tesla has previously claimed it is able to drive down the per kilowatt hour cost of its battery pack by more than 30 per cent by “using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimisation of locating most manufacturing process under one roof”.

Breaking this key statement down, it is a little easier to surmise how Tesla is able to make sure a brash promise of completion in 100 days; Musk is placing his confidence in the use of established Lean and Continuous Improvement principles.

When Tesla mentioned ‘economies of scale’ they are referring to when more units of a good or a service can be produced on a larger scale, with (on average) fewer input costs. By following this key principle of lean production, Tesla will be able to apply this time based management approach to its battery production, presumably by repurposing already existing technologies it owns and produces regularly to construct the new, mega-sized lithium-ion battery.

On the surface, the Tesla Way is to go fast and hope that genius and adrenaline can compensate for a perceived lack stability. But according to Musk, ‘innovative manufacturing’ techniques are essential to Tesla rising to the ongoing challenges and opportunities of production in the technological. While these innovative techniques include the practical side of manufacturing including the reduction of cost per unit, its also a reference to how Musk and Tesla approach manufacturing as an overall idea. They are creating an alternate business model – and an alternate business ecosystem – that allows more control over the entire process from ideation to creation. This includes optimising space and man power by locating the entire manufacturing process under one roof, using one set of principles employed and understood by the entire workforce of Tesla.

The reduction of waste is not only a pivotal ongoing lean principle for traditional manufacturing, it is an integral part of Tesla’s business model for future industries and innovations. The car company worked closely with StopWaste’s Use Reusables program to switch to reusable windshield racks, a project that eliminates about 100 tons of cardboard waste a year. Since the new racks hold numerous windshields and can be worked straight from the line, they have improved the overall efficiency of Tesla’s manufacturing process. The car company also has an excellent recycling and composting program and diverts 79% of their waste from the landfill.


To find out how Lean and Continuous Improvement can be applied to your business, call 1300 667 099.

Continuous Improvement and Digital

Continuous Improvement (C.I) requires thoughtful planning, implementation, follow-up study (checking), planned revisions and more follow-up study before implementation (acting) occurs.  C.I is a widely accepted and expected scientific approach to learning and applying value-adding knowledge in business processes.

However, as with many other best practices, these accepted processes are now being challenged and re-evaluated thanks to the existence of 2 key factors: the digital and the technological.

In an era when not being aware of digital progress can mean the difference between basic survival and growth for many organisations, not paying attention when planning and acting towards Continuous Improvement is short-sighted.

In light of the fact more people both internal and external to your business will be garnering information on your practices and future developments from the digital space, having updated processes for breaking down barriers to quality, productivity, safety and human performance need to be as agile as possible.

The idea of Continuous Improvement in the digital age doesn’t mean the core goal is different. Everybody still wants to get better all the time, but the path we take to get there needs to match the new goal posts we have to encounter along the way. What does it take to be good at digital from a Continuous Improvement perspective? There are a few key elements for all organisations to keep in mind, regardless of their industry, manufacturing background or assumed future trajectory.

  • Keep changes at a manageable rate to understand shifts and improvements:

The trap with the push towards everything becoming more digital is that it can seem that everything needs to be upheaved at once to achieve maximum improvement. However, just as changes to traditional processes need to be done systematically to uncover the root of the lag in performance, so too should it be with digital processes and changes. For example, if your website is in need of an upgrade, think about the job as many elements as opposed to one large whole. Changing the copy, imagery or basic user experience may all add up to a more improved platform, but the real cause of the existing problem can’t be understood if all of these are changed dramatically at once. The more discrete and isolated a change, the easier it is to measure against the rest of your systems and practices.

  • Embrace analytics and testing:

Digital advances are, by their nature unpredictable. A truly controlled environment is almost impossible to encounter as there are too many factors interacting at once. However, the more information you have and the more experience under different conditions you have encountered will help you to better predict the outcome. By embracing the analytical recording of performance of certain content, actions or changes alongside solid A/B testing, you will already have a clearer understanding of what parts of your strategy are working and what others can be phased out over time.

  • Apply a wide angle problem-solving lens to both opportunities and threats:

Digital performance is normally driven by two different systems and analytics: acquisition of traffic and content performance. These measures are continually focused on the movement of audiences, both existing and potential in direct response to your actions. As such, these two systems are inherently linked. Once you introduce other elements such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to the mix, the equation becomes an even more complex one to comprehend.

Organisations that work continuously to understand their audience, the nature of the traffic and the reasons behind the performance of it are one step ahead of the rest. By applying ‘outside of the box’ thinking to audience capture and retention, organisations can begin to better understand how to work towards improving their performance systematically, intelligently and not only reactively to the trends of the day, week or year.

Just as traditional Continuous Improvement needs to be consistent and informed, so too does any digital focus for improvement within your organisation. Take the Workplace Waste Analyser test to see where your organisation could enhance efficiency, competitiveness and profitability.

Australian Manufacturer Increases Competitiveness Through Lean Manufacturing

The viability of Australia’s manufacturing sector is going to depend on finding ways to increase productivity, improve international competitiveness and eliminate waste. Lean Manufacturing has become a way for Australian companies to remain competitive.

Manufacturing accounts for 6.8% of the economy and employs more than three times as many people as the mining sector. Government policy and media commentary has tended to focus on bailouts for large manufacturers, rather than reform initiatives aimed at improving operational efficiency.

One company driving change in this sector and producing positive results is Think Perform. Think Perform is part of the Thrive Alliance group of companies and a certified provider of Lean, Continuous Improvement and Operational Excellence training. Unlike most other RTOs, which simply deliver off-the-shelf training courses, Think Perform immerses itself within a business, identifies inefficiencies and then develops and implements a program to increase productivity.

For family-owned WA-based swimming pool manufacturer, Aquatic Leisure Technologies (ALT), Think Perform underpinned a wholesale transformation of its operations. ALT is one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of fiberglass pools and had been producing them in much the same way for the last forty years since the business started. With increasing competition from manufacturers in Asia and other countries, as well as concrete pool makers, ALT knew it needed to change and change quickly. ALT had even considered shifting manufacturing offshore to remain competitive, but as a family owned business it wanted to keep producing pools in Western Australia.

The company was familiar with so-called “Lean” management, which is perhaps best associated with Toyota’s production system. Lean management is about delivering quality goods and services at the best possible prices as quickly and efficiently as possible by eliminating waste, smoothing out production issues and empowering workers.

ALT built its new factory with Lean manufacturing principles in mind and partnered with Think Perform to drive change at every level of the business. When ALT came together with Think Perform it had already started on its Lean manufacturing journey with the launch of ‘The ALT Way – Business Excellence Initiative.’ ALT had already been exporting pools for more than 30 years, but the transformation program established the foundations for ALT for further expansion in overseas markets.

Importantly, reform at ALT would not have been possible without the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCIWA) and the role it played in convincing State and Federal Governments of the need to continue supporting these types of industry transformation programs. With on-going Government support for initiatives aimed at driving operational efficiency, both CCIWA and ALT believe Australia’s manufacturing industry can prosper and once again be internationally competitive.

It has been unfortunate for the entire training industry, as well as the beneficiaries of these programs, that a few unscrupulous operators have tarnished the reputation of the sector.  However, in line with results being displayed from clients such as ALT, there are providers such as Think Perform who are delivering quality outcomes. Countries such as South Korea and Japan have demonstrated that even in a high labour cost environment, they can establish a competitive advantage in manufacturing through increased efficiency and productivity.

Click here to download a free Lean Management ebook or click here to contact Think Perform and discover how Lean Management and Continuous Improvement Training can be of benefit to your staff and business.

Can You Identify Waste in Your Business?

The most successful organisations in today’s competitive marketplace produce quality goods and services in a timely manner. They produce them for the least cost whilst creating the least amount of Waste. Manufacturers who have previously undertaken a Brisbane lean training course are now forward thinking organisations achieving consistent, sustainable  and profitable results. Lean Waste reduction, through identifying the 8 Wastes of lean, is one of the key initiatives that these Brisbane and Queensland organisations are using to improve their long term viability and profitability.

A high-quality product or service that meets the customers’ expectations is what all businesses aim to provide. To achieve this, businesses have to continually improve the way or the processes they use to make and deliver their products and services to their customers. They must do this for the same cost or for less cost than their competitors, and deliver them in line with customer requirements to remain competitive. Reducing all forms of Waste within production and other processes is the best way to achieve this.


Waste costs businesses and customer’s money. Competitive organisations systematically identify and remove Waste. To remove Waste, people must first understand what lean Waste principles are and where Waste exists. Waste identification and reduction is the core concept of Lean course in Brisbane. All lean tools are designed to either help people see Waste or help them reduce Waste.

An activity does not add value if the customer is not willing to pay for it, or to pay more money for it. Falling short of customer expectations is often caused by Waste. Going beyond their expectations can also create Waste. Often referred to as Non-Value Adding activities (NVA), Waste can be defined as any activity that the customer would be unwilling to pay for. Customers will not pay for quality they don’t need and they will not pay when the quality they require is not provided.

Removing Waste from processes is not only one of the best ways businesses can increase profits, it also improves safety. Reducing Waste can be viewed as pro-active hazard identification and elimination. Removing Waste always produces a safer workplace.


There are eight common forms of Waste. These can be easily remembered using the D O W N T I M E acronym.

D owntime
O verproduction
W aiting
N ot Utilising Employees
T ransport
I nventory
M otion
E xcessive Processing

Every person within a competitive organisation should be responsible for the identification and elimination of Waste. You will be using activity sheets to help you identify Waste within your own workplace. Remember, the most important step to eliminating Waste is learning how to recognise it.

You may find and want to eliminate some Wastes as soon as you identify them. Use the Low Cost/No Cost Ideas activity sheet to record Waste that is easily fixed. If these are simple and easy to fix – just fix them. Don’t Waste time when eliminating simple Waste.

Other Wastes may require further analysis to identify and eliminate the root cause. Do not make superficial changes if the root cause can be completely eliminated. Don’t automate or introduce changes that may only cover up the Waste.

First and foremost, learn to see the D O W N T I M E. As you complete a walk through your work area and a process mapping activity, your Facilitator will assist you to identify both simple and more complex types of Waste. Record these on your Waste Identification Sheet.


The Waste of Defects is one of the easiest Wastes to identify. Anything that makes a product or service less valuable to a customer or leads to rework, replacement, salvage or scrap can be considered a defect. If not addressed, this form of Waste can potentially lead to the loss of valued customers. Defects also create unnecessary costs through the time taken to replace or rework and inspect items a second time. For example, production runs sometimes have to be rescheduled in manufacturing businesses, which then impacts on other scheduled runs.


Overproduction occurs when a product is made or process is performed before it is required. Providing higher quality products or services than required is also considered Overproduction. Overproduction is a Waste because it includes:

• Causes delays in the flow of materials, products and information through the value chain
• Uses up unnecessary resources – raw materials, time, technology and human effort
• Increases the lead time
• Ties up money in unnecessary stock
• Uses storage space
• Leads to product being dumped or sold cheaply



Waiting is the easiest Waste to recognise. In all workplaces any time not used effectively is a Waste. The most common forms are Waiting for materials to arrive, Waiting for information to perform the task, and Waiting for the previous process to be completed. There are other forms of Waiting that can be just as costly. Idle time is created when anyone has to wait for information, approvals and decisions, and when teams have to wait for vacant positions to be filled.

Your organisation may have to pay for raw materials that wait to be processed and for people Waiting for machines, parts, information or other resources. The business can either charge more for what they make or be prepared to make a smaller profit. If customers have to wait for their product or service they may decide to choose another provider.

Once wait time has been identified, eliminating it is usually a straightforward process. Removing bottlenecks is a typical strategy used to reduce Waiting in processes. You may identify more than one bottleneck when you work with your team to undertake a process mapping activity in your work area.

Not Utilising Employees

Not utilising the knowledge and skills of employees is a major area of Waste. When people have greater skills and knowledge than their role requires, their potential contribution to the organisation is Wasted. Ways employees can be underutilised:

• They are not encouraged to identify problems and come up with ideas for improvement
• They are only using their core skill for a small percentage of their work day and wasting the rest of the day, Waiting, searching or walking
• They do not receive appropriate training to carry out the work they are employed to do
• They are not provided with the tools and resources they need to carry out their work efficiently and effectively.

When employees are not involved in improvement activities or problem solving, opportunities are lost. The best people to suggest and recommend changes and improvements to current systems and processes are actually the people doing the job.


Any time that materials, tools, work in progress or completed work are moved, Transportation occurs. While it is not possible to remove all Transportation from processes, it is possible to reduce the large amount of Transportation Waste that occurs in many organisations. Transportation is Wasted when:

• Materials and information are shifted many times – double handling
• Finished work is shifted multiple times
• Goods are Transported to a store before going to the customer
• Items are moved with unnecessary Transportation or in large batches

Transporting products between processes adds no value to the product. However, resources that cost money are used to move them. Movement not only contributes to Waiting time, it can also cause damage. Storage is costly and can sometimes cause quality to deteriorate. The need to Transport materials (and the associated costs of equipment and manpower) should be reduced wherever possible.


Inventory or stock is often identified as the most serious Waste as it hides and often creates other forms of Waste such as Defects, Overproduction, Transportation and Waiting. Stock that the company stores for any length of time can include:

• Raw materials
• Partly finished goods (WIP)
• Finished goods

Some accounting systems view Inventory as an asset, but it can also be seen as a liability if it has not been ordered or pre-sold. When components or parts are made a long time before they are needed, they have to be stored. When parts are made just before they are needed, the time they are in the Inventory is short, which normally reduces the need for Transportation.

As you complete the VSM activity, look for what excess Inventory is evident, and how it could be reduced.


Every time we are forced to move, stretch or go and search for a tool, part or information to do our job, we are wasting Motion. Motion Waste happens:

• When double handling occurs
• When information, tools and equipment are not stored at the point of use
• When products or materials are not stored at the point of use and in the correct quantities
• When you have to spend time searching for items or sorting through items for the correct one

Motion Waste can also cause Waiting if equipment needs to be adjusted or fixed or if products are being changed. It can also create considerable frustration if the correct information, part or tool cannot be found.

To reduce Motion Waste, review the amount of bending, stretching, walking and lifting that you and other team members are doing. An added advantage is that by avoiding unnecessary physical movement, employee health and safety is protected and time is not wasted.

Excessive Processing

In business environment, processing activities are typically viewed as value adding. However, this is not always the case. When you view your current processes from a Waste perspective, you may see that some steps are actually unnecessary or over-complicated. Some simple examples of over processing Waste are the use of excess packaging or creating both paper and electronic records to store the same information. Any steps that are unnecessary or over-complicated create Excessive Processing Waste. Excessive or unnecessary data entry or paperwork is another form of processing Waste. Excessive Processing Waste can include:

• Using excess energy and resources
• Adding unnecessary cost for no return on investment
• Creating yield losses and Waste materials
• Creating wear and tear on equipment
• Using employee time on tasks that do not add value

Creating a process map is one of the most useful tools that can be used to identify and eliminate over processing. When you and your team complete this activity, look for opportunities to consolidate, combine and streamline processes.

Empowering your employees with the required skills and tools to identify waste is a key component of Lean training.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your options.


The Continuous Improvement Process & Organisational Success

Many companies today are engaged in what is known as a Continuous improvement process. This is simply a continuing attempt to reliably enhance an organisation’s profitability, efficiency and productivity by using a proven process known as the PDCA cycle. PDCA is an acronym that stands for plan, do, check and act. What is the continuous improvement process? Continuous improvement systems and processes are strategies designed to slowly shape a company, corporation, or non-profit to the point it enjoys heightened production for less effort and a greater profit margin.

Continuous Improvement Model
Continuous Improvement Model – Plan, Do, Check, Act

What is a Continuous Improvement Cycle?

A continuous improvement cycle is known by a variety of names, such as design, implementation and evaluation, or strategy, application and measurement. Regardless of title, it is a popular and respected means for improving organisational processes, services and products. Its results are small, specific, cumulative, and surprisingly powerful. They occur in intentional cycles, which provide those in authority with time to evaluate and refine strategy as they go along. Studies have determined that an ongoing improvement process is one of the most successful means by which an organisation can achieve its long-term goals.

What Constitutes a Continual Improvement Plan?

There are typically four or more steps to a successful continuous improvement plan. Generally speaking, core elements begin with a straightforward strategy or plan, which is then implemented. When a predetermined amount of time has passed, the process is halted and the results are studied and evaluated. Depending upon the outcome, the plan is tweaked and once again put into play. Regardless of the specific type of organisational structure, a quality improvement plan results in a company that incrementally conforms itself to whatever constraints are necessary for the entity to be as profitable as possible.

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How is Continuous Improvement Strategy Success Assessed?

The success of a strategy is most frequently determined by company profits. Occasionally, as in the case of not-for-profits or civic organisations, it is measured by the attainment of other measurable goals, such as efficiency, the number of contacts made, processed or converted, and similar measures. Continuous improvement processes are commonly structured to include parameters such as quality, safety, and retention. Whenever a product, service, or other attributes measurably increase beyond their baseline recording, it is statistically perceived as a success. Factors like loss reduction, client satisfaction and identification of waste are analysed when determining goals for organisational change. By comparing these types of statistics to baseline measurements, an organisation’s improvements are able to be statistically measured.

Are There Specific Characteristics of Successful Improvement Processes?

Continuous process improvement is a type of perpetual loop. It moves from planning, to implementation, to evaluation, to revision, and then back to planning, reissue and on again. It is precise and methodical. One of its key benefits is that it does not allow for organisational stagnation. Factors such as perceived vulnerabilities, areas earmarked for improvement, employee participation, and client satisfaction are monitored, measured, and manipulated to orchestrate improvement. Many organisations have noted greater levels of improvement when employees who will be impacted by the changes under consideration are included in the planning and evaluation stages of the process.

Nearly all organisations share similar goals, even when their by-products are distinctly dissimilar. Continuous improvement processes work in concert with diverse objectives such as corporate ambitions, educational aspirations, and charitable endeavours alike. The ability to qualitatively and quantitatively document measurements of characteristics like achievement, retention, loss, communication, cooperation and so forth is one that definitely sets an enterprise apart from its competition. Likewise, being able to accurately pinpoint the precise ways in which an entity stands to benefit from change is a means of providing investors, employees, and consumers alike with the assurance this organisation is one that is more than able to adapt to whatever challenges the future might bring.