Category Archives: supply chain

Subtracting limitations: Lotus Cars presents to CQI Greater Peterborough and Cambridge branch


In part two of a new series of monthly blogs covering CQI branch events, CQI Greater Peterborough and Cambridge branch member Keith Breeze gives a behind-the-scenes look at a recent presentation by Lotus Cars.

The CQI Greater Peterborough and Cambridge branch held their annual event in Norwich. The event was held at the John Innes Conference Centre and presented by Lotus Cars continual improvement team manager Trevor Croutch.

A quote from the founder of Lotus Cars, Colin Chapman, promoted the seminar: ‘Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.’ The presentation delivered an overview of how Lotus Cars subtracted the limitations from their manufacturing process.

The presentation started with the question: ‘what is LEAN manufacturing?’ and swiftly went into a description of the 5S process and how it was implemented through the workshop, stores and offices. To enable the buy-in of 5S, the acronym was turned into 5Cs: clear out, configure, clean and check, conformity and a customised workplace. The 5Cs were accompanied by a proviso that improvements were to add value and were not to be implemented superficially.

Each event was designed to add value to what the customer is willing to pay. Eliminating waste and processes that did not ‘add value’ would provide more time and resources to value added tasks – making them more efficient. The seven wastes were discussed with the suggestion that overproduction, idle time and quality were the focus of many events. Lotus used shop floor operators to design improvements using a ‘bottom-up’ approach utilising the shop floor tacit knowledge and ‘norms’ that could be transferred into processes that added value. Each process was then subject to a standardised plan–do–check–act process, which was a key factor in developing their LEAN environment.

British cycling coach Sir Dave Brailsford believed in a concept of ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. He believed that if you improved every area relating to your cycling by 1 per cent, those small gains would accumulate to a remarkable improvement. Using this concept, Lotus believes one per cent improvement will result in one per cent gain in production time.

Another tool that Croutch used to communicate the seven wastes is the ‘sea of inventory’ illustration. As discussed, overproduction was one of Lotus Cars’ focus points. Holding too much inventory is expensive and it hides the inefficiencies embedded within the manufacturing process, while the production ‘ship’ will continue to sail obliviously. Reducing that inventory will result in the ship hitting these inefficiencies. Once identified, they have to be addressed for production to continue. Reduce the inventory again and another waste will be made prominent – stopping production again.

Lotus used seven key measures to categorise waste: not right first time, delivery schedule achieved, people productivity, stock turns, overall equipment effectiveness, value added per person, and floor space utilisation. Croutch expanded on not right first time and the correct level of quality being based on adding value and describing the key function of the quality department, which has the ‘value added’ LEAN principle at its core.

The informative evening was concluded with several questions from the floor and a vote of thanks from committee members.

Keith Breeze is the quality assurance manager at Tml Precision Engineering, Norwich.