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22 March 2011

People power key to continuous improvement, Best Factory Award winners say

People power is pivotal to the success of a continuous improvement programme, Britain's top factories have told the Best Factory Awards (BFA) Conference 2011.

Manufacturers must maintain staff focus on schemes or risk seeing initiatives fail, industry experts warned.

Tony Wallis, operations director at Toyota Material Handling UK -- overall sponsor of the awards -- told delegates: "When it fails, it's because it has become flavour of the month. People stop setting aside the time to focus on continuous improvement ."

The comments came as Wallis revealed the secrets of his company's famed Toyota Production System. Toyota's success had been driven by ring-fencing time for staff to focus on improvement, Wallis told 150 BFA Conference delegates at the Chesford Grange hotel in Warwickshire.

He said: "We create the time for people and leaders to give us continuous improvement…The difference between success and failure is time."

The importance of harnessing staff expertise was echoed by Terry Carmichael, operations director at Thorn Lighting.

Rallying the workforce behind continuous improvement had been critical in driving the company to its 2009 Best Factory Award, he told delegates. Carmichael said: "We ensured involvement of our workforce in our improvement journey. We encouraged our people to design their workstations and what a far better place we now have."

He added: "The motivation is fantastic because people believe they can make a difference."

The BFA Conference is held annually and sees Britain's Best Factory Award winners share best practice with the wider sector.

Max Gosney

Cranfield University
Thorn Lighting Ltd
Toyota Material Handling UK Ltd

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