The Spring 2017 Lean and Sustainable consortium tour at Welsh Water (known locally as Dwr Cymru). They are a not-for-profit water utility company located near Cardiff, Wales. The tour provided attendees with two different examples of Lean implementation within the same organization.

The first part of the tour was held at their water treatment processing site at Cog Moors, that uses large equipment and very few staff. This was completely different from the retail and customer service implementation, conducted within the Linea office setting with many employees.

During the first part of the consortium, Mat Jackson (Lean Programme Manager) provided an overview of their Lean programme, and how they are using it to accomplish their goals to improve customer service and reduce costs. He shared some history on previous improvement initiatives, and how it was “forced” onto the employees, or outsourced in other areas. They had to overcome these negative experiences before they could move forward.

They presented some major success stories, especially around 5s improvements and process mapping. One key project highlights the importance of lean concepts, and how they can seem counter-intuitive initially. When they slowed down the process and stopped overloading a key piece of equipment, they saw an overall improvement in output with less machine downtime, even though there was less material going through the machine at any given time.

He also talked about their Lean Leadership programme, which is required for all leaders. The topics discussed in the training include: Fake Lean vs Real Lean, Why Initiatives Fail, Proactive vs Reactive Workload, Talk as a Tool, Best Practice Deployment, Current State Maturity Assessment and their Business Excellence Model.

Within the Business Excellence Model, they focus on these 5 core lean principles:

  1. Understand customer value
  2. Engage colleagues
  3. Understand end to end process
  4. Create flow and pull
  5. Excellence in everything we do

Another success was when they implemented Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which helped them get funding for improvements, as the low scores showed how much downtime and lack of capacity that was available.

As part of their training, they use the statapult device to teach data collection, standard operating procedures (SOP) and simple problem solving tools. Usually these devices are used to only teach designed experiments (DOE), which is a more complex tool to learn. The training goal is to achieve 2% black belts, 10% green belts, 100% yellow belts, and have all leaders take the Lean Leadership training course.

Cog Moors Tour

During the Cog Moors water treatment plant tour, there was a strong emphasis on safety.  After the safety briefing, we observed the stand-up board, where they review metrics and goals, to make sure everything is running smoothly. In the break room, there are multiple status boards showing updates on action items, along with a list of tasks that need to be completed each day, week or month. They have developed excellent standard operating procedures for each key task, in order to create consistency.

From a simplistic level, the facility receives in water, processes and filters the water, and sends the water back out to the ocean. Variation in supply of water can depend on day of the week, seasonal changes (tourism), special events (rugby/football/festivals), and weather (rain) events.

From a sustainability perspective, they have implemented solar panels throughout the facility. In addition, all the leftover “cake” material is combined with liquids to create a compost, so almost everything that comes into the facility is recycled (except for incorrect items put down the toilet or drain).

Linea Office Tour

At the retail and customer service offices, we were given an overview of the “Service Excellence Journey,” which is focused on a simple and structured behavior changes using a workshop approach and clear roadmap. The 10 tools they teach are:

  1. Vision
  2. Visual management
  3. Huddles
  4. Problem solving
  5. Planning and control
  6. Standards
  7. Process confirmation
  8. Operating rhythm
  9. Coaching and capability
  10. Celebrating success

These 10 tools are presented over a 12-week period. Prior to the start of training, there are 4 weeks of preparation work, in order to define key process indicators (KPIs) in order to measure success. The kickoff is a 2-day boot camp, then each additional tool is presented for 2 hours per week. About 80% of the teams have gone through the training so far.

To make the training most effective, it is applied directly to existing problems within their team, not through classroom exercises only.

A key element of the programme is the daily huddle boards, which are setup in the 3rd week of training. To continually improve the huddle meetings, they use a huddle meeting scoring assessment, to determine how everyone felt the meeting was conducted. Low scores provide opportunities for improvement.

Lean Competency System

As part of the consortium, we also received information about the Lean Competency System (LCS) certification programme. Around 2005, researchers at the Lean Enterprise Research Centre in Cardiff University (LERC) developed the LCS framework to help organisations who wanted to train a ‘critical mass’ of people, in order to enable Lean to take hold, embed and deliver results. They wanted to develop something similar to Six Sigma training, which is much more structured than Lean training and certification.

There are 6 levels of certification for LCS, across 3 key areas:

1 – Fundamental

  • Level 1a Awareness
  • Level 1b Diagnosis & Analysis
  • Level 1c Improvement & Implementation

2- Technical

  • Level 2a Implementation & Design
  • Level 2b Implementation & Leadership

3 – Strategic

  • Level 3a Enterprise
  • Level 3b Supply Chain
Another article about the tour and consortium meeting, along with additional photos, was published at the SA Partners website.

Brion Hurley is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with Rockwell Collins, and is a participating member in the Lean and Sustainable Consortium. He has helped Rockwell Collins move forward on its sustainability efforts using Go and See events and Six Sigma projects. You can follow his work at