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Small changes can deliver big results for companies availing of the new Productivity Challenge Voucher, available from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) in local authorities, who are funded by Enterprise Ireland.
Valued at €2,500, the 90%-funded voucher entitles the recipients to three days of business-specific consultancy, wherein a LEO-appointed consultant will work through their productivity issues, apply LEAN principles and help the business implement solutions.
There are 200 vouchers available to companies nationwide. These vouchers are available to all businesses with a productivity issue that have between 1 and 50 employees. The consultancy benefits every business sector, from manufacturing through to service industries. The list of suggested sectors covers consumer, retail, education, data centres, hospitality, marketing, media, motors, real estate, software, telecomms, trade missions and wholesale, to name just a few of the sectors.
“We gained a lot from the LEAN principles applied by our consultant. I'd recommend it to any business, even a business with only one or two people in it,” said Eamonn Lonergan of Knockanore Real Farmhouse Cheese in Waterford. “In any business, you can get stuck doing the same things the same way without ever stopping to question if you're doing it the best way. Of course, none of us is so blind as those of us who don't wish to see.”
The Lonergans keep a herd of 150 pedigree Friesian cows, and every drop of milk that goes into Knockanore Cheese comes from the family farm. The consultant looked at every link along the production chain.
Knockanore employs seven people across production, packing and administration. Eamon said the programme works because it engages with everyone rather than making anyone feel they're being pushed along.
Two specialists came in supported by LEO and asked a series of focused questions that led to Knockanore Cheesemaking 10% cost savings in packaging / labour and 5% productivity gains in manufacturing / labour.
Eamonn said: “In 2020, we'll implement the things we learned in 2019. I hope, with the support of LEO, to do another consultancy in 2021, and to measure improvements in cost savings and productivity gains since 2019. Every day is a school day, you should always be ready to learn something new. You should do one of these courses every three or four years.”
As a consequence of the consultancy, Knockanore is now making improvements in its packing, labelling, boxing and taping by the purchase of automated equipment to speed up and improve the process flow.
“The experts measured everything, the bagging, the packing, the production flow, the protein levels in the milk across the seasons. They even reduced the footprint of the staff members by suggesting more efficient methods of moving cheese from one area to another.”
Eamonn says the improvements have boosted Knockanore's flexibility in how its production chain responds to unscheduled events like a rushed large volume order. He feels that everyone in the company gained from the programme.
“We can all benefit from bringing in a fresh pair of eyes to our workplace,” said Oisin Geoghegan, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices. “We can all do things better. When you take time to assess how you can be leaner in your processes, you very quickly see the improvements in your business and in your profit margins.
“It is all about your ability to grow and expand, and have a positive impact on the business. We have been doing this type of consultancy for a number of years. We're using experienced Enterprise Ireland consultants who are really delivering great results for businesses.”
The business-specific consultant meets with the client company's owner-manager a few months prior to the three-day consultancy to assess the productivity issues. The expert then returns to work through the productivity issue and help the business implement a solution.
“Larger companies tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to maximising their productivity,” said Oisin Geoghegan. “The owners of SMEs and smaller businesses can be very busy filling orders and tied up in day-to-day management.
“In smaller companies, the processes and procedures tend to grow organically. When you grow organically, you develop good and bad habits. Just because your processes are working, that doesn't mean they're the best model.
“We bring in someone from outside to take a fresh look at their procedures and processes, save on time, cut costs and reduce waste, or perhaps identify training needs. The Productivity Voucher aims to improve the quality of what you make, reduce the costs of running your business and help you deliver more, faster.”
The decision to offer 200 Productivity Challenge Vouchers is quite timely. The Productivity Challenge, an initiative of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, which was announced by Minister Heather Humphreys, TD, during the summer, is a national programme that supports Ireland’s small businesses and enterprises, by providing them with the right advice and training resources to enhance productivity and efficiency.
The companies who have previously welcomed these types of workshops with LEO consultants have all improved their business performance. If you are an Irish SME with the potential to grow business productivity and are eager to be more efficient, this initiative is for you.
The initiative aims to increase your business productivity in any of the following ways:
The initiative comprises a pilot productivity voucher scheme supported by €500,000 in Government funding. You will find the scheme promoted under your Local Enterprise Office “Making it Happen” campaign.