Making it ‘Lean’ pays dividends

18 October 2019

Implementing a series of management principles made famous by the Toyota Motor Company has helped turn a NZ East Coast business into a “lean logging machine”. Since Stubbs Contractors overhauled its traditional business model for a new approach based around “Lean” manufacturing principles, owner Robert Stubbs said the company was now winning accolades, attention and new business.

Robert Stubbs and Trev Hall from The Lean Hub both talked about their journey of improvement and results to harvesting contractors drawn from across the region at the HarvestTECH 2019 event that ran in Rotorua in June of this year. The message has also just been relayed and discussed with sawmilling companies in New Zealand and Australia as part of the just completed, WoodTECH 2019 series.

Designed to give the “shop floor” more stake in businesses, “Lean” manufacturing principles have been used by Toyota since 1990 and, through consulting firm The Lean Hub in Gisborne, Mr Stubbs said he started implementing the principles to help improve the middle management and crew leadership in his East Coast logging business.

“The more my leaders knew about what they were doing and the responsibility of running a crew, the less micromanagement they would need,” he said.

Trev Hall from The Lean Hub says: “Businesses don’t have time to reinvent the wheel when it comes to gaining efficiencies, so with our depth of experience across a wide range of sectors it makes improvement of a business a lot cheaper and a lot faster by having us quickly zone into what needs to improve.”

Through the government’s Callaghan Innovation for Better by Lean funding, training on the Lean way of doing business is provided in Gisborne by The Lean Hub. Initial sessions had Stubbs Contractors’ whole team working on team-building exercises, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses within each crew and giving them an understanding of teamwork.

Mr Stubbs says The Lean Hub then became part of their business, working side by side with crew leaders, supervisors and himself on planning and organisation, understanding their roles as leaders, how to measure production, and how to measure, understand, and prevent wasted time, money and product.

“With The Lean Hub’s help we have now created an environment where staff are happy to be,” Mr Stubbs said. “Staff turnover has reduced, and until very recently the company hadn’t needed to advertise for staff for a period of six months. People are constantly walking in the door looking for jobs. So, we must be doing something right.”

Since starting his Lean journey Mr Stubbs has employed two extra mechanics to look after his plant and machinery, so breakdowns can be fixed immediately. That reduced downtime, improved uptime and enabled each crew to consistently hit production targets.

Stubbs Contractors has also employed office administration staff and a full-time health and safety manager, moved from a home-based office to a more suitable office and workshop facility in Gisborne, and started a new roading construction and earthmoving crew. Last year, Stubbs Contractors took out the special award for Business Excellence and placed in four categories of the Westpac Gisborne Business Excellence Awards, and won Outstanding Health and Safety Management at the 2018 Forestry Awards.

“The Lean Hub’s ‘Lean Logging’ process engaged the crews, and lifted safety, professionalism and productivity beyond our expectations. Any keen logger should engage these guys if you want ‘next level’ logging or you really want your business to exceed your expectations.”

Source: Gisborne Herald