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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Beat Food Inflation

With material price inflation now regularly making headlines, the Supermarkets have staked their intent very clearly: suppliers are largely expected to suck it up.

Richard Shipperbottom, founder of industry specialists Applied Acumen draws upon vast experience of reducing material costs in the food and drink sector over the last twenty years to give us 3 tips for reducing material costs. How many will you implement in 2017? Read more

Our Approach - Applied Acumen

Go Forward

There is a common thread amongst business conversations at the moment, and we won’t be alone in seeing it. Whether it’s a catch up with a business friend or a formal board meeting, the influence of external forces becomes the central theme. It could be the exchange rate, the increases in labour costs, the uncertainty surrounding all things European Union, the effects of the extraordinary weather conditions (which we seem to see every year), lack of government investment in just about anything you care to think of and lets not even start on the American Presidency. You can understand why businesses are adopting an approach to weathering the storm.

There are some examples of investment and job creation amongst this cacophony of uncertainty, and they are to be welcomed, but many of these are based on decisions taken some time ago and the effect of these external factors has yet to be fully realised. However, there are some examples of real business success that we would like to share with you. Read more

Best time for consultancy?

Hey Boss, TMI!

As managers, and especially as consultants, we thrive on information. Analysis is our bread and butter and we get very excited when we get new datasets and new ways to present and interpret it. Even if you’re not a data nerd, you know the importance of making decisions based on facts. Reliable up-to-date data is essential to our businesses.

Nowadays with broadband internet at home, we won’t make a big purchase, until we’ve done our online research. We read blogs and review sites for assessments on the latest and best TVs, washing machines and cars. We want to know we’re getting the best deal, and the best product, for our money. And why shouldn’t we?

In our world of Big Data and Internet of Things, we are surrounded by information. But, as various studies have shown, we must not allow ourselves to be paralysed by it.

Whenever we start a new engagement with a client, one of our first tasks is to gather all the available data. We need to establish a base level of performance in order to effectively measure the success of the project. In many instances, this is incomplete or poorly maintained, and we work with the client to get the data into shape.  Read more

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