From machining brakes as an apprentice up through graduate and post graduate assignments, Ian Pilkington went on to bigger and bigger OPEX roles at Toyota, Lucas and Unipart. Before coming to Meggitt, he was overseeing Lean at a cellular foam manufacturer with 42 European sites in 13 countries.
Kaizen, gemba, nemawashi, visual controls and all the other Lean concepts are everywhere today. But they’re not universally understood. Three years training at Toyota was the best introduction I could have had. It’s the Lean mothership and most of these terms were coined there.
I thought, lived and breathed them every day, learning how the pieces integrate in a total system. And then I got the chance to implement them across Toyota’s new European supply base.
Ever since, I’ve looked out for new places to put Lean into practice.
At Lucas Aerospace, I developed a production system and—the hard part—implemented it across 24 sites. At Unipart, I helped drive cost savings of £6 million across six sites, boosting employee satisfaction by 43% at the same time. And at Vita, I implemented a new Russian joint venture production site while also managing 41 other European sites in 13 countries. Each came with its own set of challenges.
Lean is often brought in for ulterior motives – to cut costs, for example, or help get a business ready for sale. At Meggitt, the top management want it purely because it’s a better way of doing things – for the business, shareholders and customers, yes, but also and perhaps most importantly, for the people who make the products and create the value.
For me all great leaders do best when they put their people first. Whether you’re a Churchill or a Ghandi, that’s my first principle.
So when I came to meet the operations people here for the first time, I gave them a good grilling. How serious are you about the Meggitt Production System (MPS)? Why do you want it? Because everyone else is doing it? Or because you want to turn things upside down and put the power to change things in the hands of those who do the doing? I looked the Group Operations Director in the eye and I felt sure he was in it for the long haul.
Today, the CEO is one of MPS’ biggest fans. He sees the size of the prize and his support sends a very clear message to everyone in the organisation.
You can get all the Lean tools you need from Google. But can you put them together and make them deliver? Very talented people from all over the aerospace world came to Meggitt because they saw an opportunity to take Lean to a new level – Operations Excellence. I’ve been impressed with the rigour and flexibility of MPS, right from the start. When you’ve got a system that good, growth is actually just a by-product.
But in the early days of implementation, there’s often a tendency to see Lean as an initiative. People think they get what you’re saying, they push back with a lot of questions. But when they see the results, that’s when the penny finally drops.
Very often, Lean leaders introduce some Lean tools here and there. But because there’s no fundamental, integrated change, initial enthusiasm withers when you hit problems. Hence we are focusing on holistic Operations Excellence Transformation, integrating Lean, Inventory Optimisation and Zero Defects. It’s the big picture where everything we do is linked together. There is no room for silos.
The Meggitt Production System is the best I’ve seen. We are here to help make it better.