October 22nd, 2015
Driving Improvement with Lean
Vygon UK is a leading supplier of high quality medical and surgical disposables – manufactured globally and employing c1800. Its key client base in the UK is the NHS, plus distributors and private healthcare providers.
The UK market for medical and surgical disposables is changing with more hospitals and clinicians switching to custom surgical packs. These are packs containing a variety of equipment that will be used in a specific procedure and there is typically one pack per procedure. The packs primarily utilise Vygon’s own products with some additional products from other suppliers. Customised surgical packs make preparing for a procedure quicker as staff simply have to pick a single pack from storage rather than multiple items, this ensures all the disposable equipment is available and sterile, simplifies ordering and stock control, reduces packaging and frees up nursing/clinicians/operating theatre time.
This market segment is currently growing at 25% per annum. Customers expect the first deliveries of a new pack within 6 to 8 weeks from contract placement. Within that time the following has to be achieved;
a) Customer approval of the pack
b) CE approval and marking
c) Creating and priming of the supply chain
d) Initial stock delivered to the customer
e) Additional stock in Swindon to enable fast replenishment.
Vygon had consistently struggled to meet this customer requirement and this had to change.
“We really valued the time and effort Tim and Harvey put in at the beginning to really understand our business. The resulting workshops were tailored to our needs and our culture, which made them effective at focussing on the fundamental issues of the business and gave us a clear direction that has already delivered significant benefits”
John Cusack, Operations Manager
Working closely with Vygon UK’s Operations Manager, John Cusack, Tim Richardson and Harvey Leach from The Consultancy Company created a strategy to use lean as a change mechanism within the group and transform the existing custom packs methodology.
Following a period of preparation in the UK and the French factory, The Consultancy Company set up two multilingual workshops involving teams from Vygon UK and Vygon France. These created a clear collective view of Vygon’s processes through value stream mapping, a tool that provided a powerful way to understand exactly how long each process took, determine where delays were happening and identify key issues impacting both the quotation/ordering process and the supply chain.
The Consultancy Company then facilitated and guided the Vygon team to scope out a future-state vision to become the new way of working to achieve a massive reduction in the time and effort required to deliver the required initial volumes of a new customised surgical pack.
A surprising outcome was that many delays throughout the process were happening as a result of issues at the point of sale rather than, as previously thought, from within the supply chain. John Cusack explains, “The value stream mapping activities essentially unveiled a lack of cohesion within Vygon UK’s sales process. It became clear that we lacked the clarity around gathering customer information and requirements for bespoke custom packs. This in turn showed us we needed to improve the understanding around the Vygon custom pack proposition throughout the Vygon business.”
Following the initial workshops a series of workstreams were created to progress the work required to achieve the ideal future-state. Improvements were identified that could deliver considerable immediate benefit and also provide greater clarity on the functionality that would be required in an updated IT system, which is probably two years away.
After identifying the future-state a detailed analysis of each process stage was undertaken to investigate issues, establish root causes prior to agreeing corrective actions. The improvement team was enlarged with additional members of the sales force.
An initial pilot was undertaken to ensure the new process was robust and proved the concept worked. It also revealed additional opportunities to improve in the short term and longer term.
A new “performance dashboard” now provides an evidence driven analytical approach and remove tolerance for slippage. It allows small incremental improvements to be clearly seen and provide motivation to the team.
Training of the sales team has ensured a full understanding of the detail of the product components and standard additional components and providing a system to ensure that information is permanently up to date.
Communication is many times better than before and there is clearly one team working effectively across functional company and national boundaries.
- Vygon can now meet and exceed the 6-8 week lead time required by the customer, allowing Vygon to grow in the fastest growing segment of the market.
- Much closer working relationships throughout the team plus regular conference calls between the main sites.
- Improved understanding and the interrelated importance of each part of the process.
- Culture change within the team to aim for continual improvement.
- A more knowledgeable sales team to help their customers better.
- The CE process has been clarified and improved.
- The whole process has been streamlined, inefficiencies waste and time delay have been reduced
It has boosted morale in the team, improved their skills and made them proud, delivering a great service to their customers.
“The Consultancy Company actually means it when they say they are happy that success is based on them not being here anymore. They were really committed to helping us develop the knowledge and skill to carry the approach forward on our own with confidence. We recognise that we are only beginners and will have no hesitation in using them again when we’re ready for the next step on our journey to Operational Excellence.”
John Cusack, Operations Manager
Vygon have been so pleased with the benefits of this work; sales growth, reduction of waste, better customer service and increasing morale that this process is seen as the pilot of a programme to implement a new culture of continuous improvement across the UK operation.
As the Vygon team become more proficient in the use of these techniques and tools The Consultancy Company’s input will reduce, leaving Vygon with the skills to continually improve itself and assist its future growth.
Our approach is always to work closely with our clients to ensure we implement the practical and pragmatic solutions that are suitable to their supply chain challenges and their company needs.
For an in-depth discussion please contact:
Harvey Leach, – 07910 054213,
Aidan Salter, Managing Director – 07801 039600,