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Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station – Saving Lives With Lean Thinking

5th September 2018 by Clarity | No Comments

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute saves over 400 lives a year and helps and cares for tens of thousands of people around the coasts of Britain. Whilst the bravery and unselfishness of the lifeboat crew is legendary and leaves us in awe, it is easy to overlook the meticulous management, planning and analysis that goes on in the background without which none of it would be possible – Lean thinking is just one example that we’ve explored in this post…

One of our visual management advisors was hugely impressed to see the Lean way in which the Aldeburgh lifeboat crew left their waterproof clothing … with boots already in the legs of the waterproof trousers and matching coats hung directly above them, all in readiness to be pulled on in the least possible time in the event of a ‘shout’.  When your mission is to ‘save lives at sea’, saving a few seconds can be the difference between life and death, and it is heartening to see the level of Lean analysis that the Lifeboat Services employs long before the lifeboat enters the water.

In 2009, the RNLI made a conscious decision to extend the Lean management techniques which they already used in their factory on the Isle of Wight throughout the whole organisation. The difference it made was outstanding and Lean thinking soon began to demonstrate its effectiveness throughout the entire organisation.

Firstly, the financial saving. The RNLI set themselves a target of saving £20m of repeatable savings, and, after three years, they had beaten their target by £3m, recording a saving of £23m through Lean efficiencies!  It is worth noting that the RNLI is funded almost entirely through the generosity of the community, and therefore this is £3m more of donations being used directly for its core of purpose of saving lives.  The RNLI were able to use these savings to build a new factory, expand their international presence and invest in their fleet.

Lean thinking was also used specifically to make the organisation more sustainable. From building a wind turbine on the Shetland Isles to putting solar panels on the roof of an RNLI building in Poole, the RNLI reduced their gas consumption by a huge 18% and their electricity by an additional 4% … just yet another example of ensuring every penny that possibly can goes directly toward their core mission, ‘saving lives at sea’.

Not only do these Lean measures ensure the responsible use of supporters’ money, they also enable it to give benefits back to the community. For instance, the wind turbine in the Shetland Isles not only powers the lifeboat centre, the excess power that it produces goes directly into the community.

The RNLI also turned the Lean spotlight on the production of the lifeboats themselves and called on the expertise of Nissan at Sunderland to help them. The RNLI had been outsourcing most of the build of the lifeboats to numerous locations across the UK. Nissan helped them to make Lean savings by bringing the production within the organisation to a purpose-built factory, expected to save £4m a year in the cost of non-value-added transportation. Clarity has regularly visited Nissan at Sunderland and can witness to their refined Lean processes and expertise and are delighted to see two Lean organisations working together for the benefit of the whole community.

If you think that your organisation could benefit from the undoubtedly positive effects of Lean thinking then Clarity Visual Management offer a bespoke consultancy service supported by effective, engaging visual management which is designed to sustain you on your Lean journey and ‘Make Lean Work‘ in your business.

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