Lean in Small Business! How EKemp is using Lean to “Help People Today for A Brighter Tomorrow!”
In this interview, Elaine Camm, owner of EKemp in Bury, UK (near Manchester) discusses how using Toyota Way and Practical Creativity have helped her small business become more effective and efficient in meeting customer needs!
Karyn: Elaine, can you tell us a little about EKemp, your role, and why EKemp became interested in lean?
Elaine: I am the owner of EKemp. We specialise in providing services to insolvency practitioners in fulfilling their obligations in relation to the employees of insolvent companies and to directors of insolvent companies who might be seeking to claim redundancy. We initially became interested in lean after a member of our team read Karyn’s book, The Toyota Way to Service Excellence. The examples given in the book really opened our eyes to what is possible with a lean mindset.
Karyn: As a small business, how has using lean principles, practices and tools helped EK’s customers and team members?
Elaine: First and foremost although we have only been on a lean journey for a comparatively short period, the change in just about every aspect of the business has been phenomenal. To mention just a few, the office is very tidy (5S), our filing cabinets have become a visual management system and we hold a daily stand-up meeting to surface and address problems. This has culminated in a lead time reduction from 47 days down to 7 days on a core process. The result? Happy clients and frequent positive feedback from intermediaries.
Karyn: What has the biggest challenge been using lean practices in a small business?
Elaine: Whilst making changes is relatively straightforward, making them stick (i.e. standardising) is somewhat more difficult. This has become our next obstacle to work on i.e. how to standardise our new processes to sustain our gains. Karyn introduced us to TWI methods which are proving hugely helpful, particularly Job Instruction Training. This comprehensive methodology has made us acutely aware of our previous shortcomings when it comes to our training approach. We are now in the process of preparing/implementing job breakdown sheets as a way of overcoming this obstacle.
Karyn: How have you involved the team in making changes?
Elaine: As mentioned previously, we hold daily stand-up meetings during which we discuss problems and opportunities. We have also begun cross-training the team to better meet client needs whilst at the same time providing them with greater variety in their work. This has led to a greater degree of teamwork generally. For example, we recently spent half a day having an office clean up. Overall, I feel that this has led everyone to take greater pride in “the customers” work.
Karyn: What do you think that the biggest benefit of having coaching on an ongoing basis is?
Elaine: Remote coaching has been fantastic for us. As Karyn often points out, she is teaching us the lean mindset. She is helping us to think for ourselves rather than providing all the answers. I think the progress we have made in such a short space of time under Karyn’s guidance is testament to the fact that remote coaching can and does work providing that you are willing to fully embrace the lean approach. It really is a fantastic journey and we really couldn’t be happier to be on it with Karyn by our side (or rather on our computer screen)!
For further information about EKemp, please contact Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org.