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Stackyard News Sep 06

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    Lean Thinking for Red Meat Processors

What is a group of red meat processors doing at an engineering works?

All was revealed when a group of processors who are working with the RMIF (Red Meat Industry Forum) to improve their business practices attended a day's workshop at Dutton Engineering in Sandy, Bedfordshire.

Staff at the RMIF have been working with small and medium sized companies to help them assess how they can improve their businesses and save money - in some instances, literally tens of thousands of pounds.

The visit to Dutton Engineering gave them the chance to see a world-class business. And it was a real eye-opener!

Dutton Engineering have been using 'lean' thinking in their manufacturing processes for the past sixteen years. Pioneered by boss, Ken Lewis, they have taken a radical and often very challenging look at how they do business and how to make it more profitable - often turning conventional thinking on its head.

Many of the improvement initiatives adopted at Dutton Engineering have been, and still are, driven forward by ideas on the shop floor. Workers take responsibility for their work, are aware of the real costs and know that if the company doesn't make a profit, they won't get a wage rise.

So what's the connection to the red meat industry? Dutton Engineering take a sheet of metal and cut it into different shapes and make new objects, meat producers start with a live animal or carcase, which is butchered into different cuts of meat or further processed into something else such as sausages. They are both, in effect, running a production line.

David Williams from R E Williams, who attended the workshop, said: "Malcolm MacDonald from the RMIF has been working with us and has shone some light on some of our weaknesses. We have already implemented some changes that have already saved us a lot of money but to come to Dutton Engineering and see a company that has already made those changes and is still changing to adapt to the market is inspirational.

"I know we've got a long way to go in our own business but we're determined to make those changes and I'm confident that it will dramatically improve our bottom line."

Jane Taylor from Owen Taylor, who also attended, added: "We know that we've got to change as a business to be more successful and this poses some real challenges. However, visiting Dutton Engineering has confirmed this and has inspired us to make those changes and turn our business into a world class operation."

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