3 tips for making big improvements in productivity

Richard Shipperbottom, founder of industry specialists Applied Acumen draws upon vast experience of improving productivity in the food and drink sector over the last twenty years to give us 3 tips for improving productivity. How many will you implement?

1. Challenge your standards – independently!

Quite obvious, and every good factory manager does this, but very, very few welcome any kind of independent review. Sure, the finance department might take a look, but let’s not kid dc numbersourselves; in most factories it is a challenge to get the numbers to stack up at all! New products, new machinery, marginal costings based upon imaginary runaway successes…and poor data capture, such as the always challenging question: ”how many did you actually make?” all contribute to what is often described as ‘the black box”. This is even before one considers the adherence (or most usually not) to whatever standards are in play, giving rise to self-fulfilling planning assumptions and the fog of under achievement. Read more


3 tips for making big improvements in distribution

Richard Shipperbottom, founder of industry specialists Applied Acumen draws upon vast experience of improving distribution operations over the last twenty years to give us 3 tips for making big improvement. How many will you implement?

 1        Get the basics right!

Logistics network management

Start simple – count your vans!

How many vehicles does your company have? Seriously, it might make you laugh, but it isn’t funny: most of the businesses that run a fleet of more than a couple of dozen vehicles don’t actually know how many they have! It gets worse when there are more than one or two depots, too.


There will be vehicles off road (VOR) in for repair, MOT or service, there will be vehicles on hire, vehicles waiting to be returned, vehicles on order, vehicles all over the place. Of course, your fleet or transport manager is supposed to keep track of it all, but chances are the numbers on the sheet will be wrong. This includes all those running a decent TMS tracker system, too.

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Process Control

Technology is not a magic bullet


Source: Rog01 Used with licence

Source: Rog01
Used with licence

“Our back door discipline is appalling.”

“Our admin teams are constantly chasing paperwork from the factory.”

“We don’t have up-to-date inventory, and it’s costing us a fortune in unnecessary procurement.”

“We need a new ERP system to fix all our problems…”


While the first three sentences above might well be 100% true, the fourth is most certainly not. If you have poor systems and procedures in your operation, no system is going to be the panacea for all these ills.

If your managers and operators cannot follow basic disciplines now, what makes you think that a fancy new computer system is going to be any better? You will go from a mountain of paper to an ocean of incomplete data that will be just as much of a problem to fix and interpret. Read more


To “blerone”

To “blerone”, verb.

Not many people know, but this is a verb with a variety of different and interesting meanings:

  1. To make a foolish error with chocolate. Ex. “I’m afraid, Greg, that your eagerness to eat that choccy pudding is misplaced, as it looks bleroned to me; there’s only half the right amount in it.”
  2. To modify an item in one place whilst making no change anywhere else. Ex. “It’s bad news, Sir Philip. It looks increasingly likely they’ll blerone this pension thing. At least you won’t be made to cough up the entire deficit, though.”
  3. To take the British consumer for an idiot, on occasion possibly with some justification. Ex. “Do you think we can blerone them again, Mr Cowell? Undoubtedly, Louis, undoubtedly.”
  4. To remove alternate pieces of something in the hope that no one notices. (ref. “Jenga!”) Read more

Growth and Portfolio Complexity in Food Sector

Increasing numbers of products, materials, destinations and promotions are being reported right across the UK food sector as suppliers and retailers try to compete for sales. Whether it is driven by the rise in exports for branded products, or the fierce competition between the supermarkets domestically, the simple matter of knowing where your profits come from is becoming increasingly difficult.

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