Case-study of


Competitive Manufacturing



Christchurch - New Zealand

December 2010



CMI logo Alsco Biline, ATITO logo from Tim,




Greg A. Ellis & Tim Pearson



Competitive Manufacturing was chosen as the organisation’s improvement methodology.

Why: The xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx From Tony, George to source, or George to write

Who: All staff are involved with the competitive Manufacturing journey.  QCDSystems was contracted as the CM coach for the first 15 months.

What: To improve the site by using a structured methodical program of learning.

Where: All staff on site are involved with improvements, while TRY-Z training occurred off-site. 

When: The companies started their journey in February 2010 and it continues every day.

How: The coach typically spent one day per month on site.

How much: DIFOTIS improved from by 69% by concentrating on the flow of product through the different process on the site.  Some inventory stations dropped by 50%.  Some mini-teams improved their productivity by 150%.  Training engaged 80 staff members, with 23 Limited Credit Program trainees signed up for five unit standards, and an expected completion rate of 90+% by May 2011.  The time commitment required by staff is the largest investment required, but is beneficial to all when seen in the light that it both improves business measures and develops staff.  The total investment of 1,710 hours over the 37 week period until the end of November 2010 (average of 2.6 hours per week per person) including training, coaching, assessment of unit standards and actively working on improvements.  The total number of hours invested to complete the first round of LCP’s is expected to be 4 hours per person per week over 60 weeks.


Sustaining CM: The team have fully embraced their commitment by candid communication over the value-stream they have absolute control over.  Standard practice is being recorded by the team members in the Detailed Process Sheet (DPS) format, followed by training using the DPS.  Up-skilling of staff in CM practices will commence in 2011 and eventually all staff should have some level of CM qualification. 



Both of these should not exceed one page

George to supply history of company, when it started, when CHCH was started, connection back to the USA, a bit about how big a region CHCH covers 80 staff with 18 routes five days delivery of how many different product types to which sectors of customers. 


George to confirm this is the real situation????  I am trying to be careful here so we do not paint a poor picture that will be negative to start with.

The Christchurch regional branch faced a number of internal and external issues.  ATITO were instrumental in introducing the senior management team of Alsco New Zealand to the opportunities held within the Competitive Manufacturing Qualifications.  The value perceived by the site management in their initial introduction was those of simplicity to engage the staff on the floor provide and a systems structure for improvement with many appropriate tools and the option for staff to achievement qualifications.  Here was a system that would free up all levels of management by giving all staff members and managers tools that would allow problem solving at the appropriate levels.  This would enable the most senior site managers to decrease their fire-fighting activities of minor situational issues and concentrate on setting systems in place that would prevent many issues. 

Over the years the level of accountability of each staff member and their role had slowly slipped and that had become unacceptable.  The staff had to become accountable for their actions, but to bring this about and be successful they had to gain new skills to meet this ‘new’ expectation.  Whilst standards for many tasks had been set as a norm, those standards in quality, delivery and productivity were not being met on a regular and expected performance level.  Engaging staff to the level where they would be in a position to set their own SMART targets would be a great situation to be in. 

Tony needs to answer one major question for this paragraph. WHY DID ALSCO START CM?

Table of Contents


Background.. 3

Situation.. 3

1      Developing an ATITO strategy for industry. 5

1.1 Unit standards used in the Limited Credit Programme (LCP) 5

1.2 The partnership model facilitated by ATITO.. 6

2      Beginning with TRY-Z, and continuous coaching.. 7

3      Overall implementation of CM in Alsco.. 8

3.1 Table of CM trainees and starting dates. 8

3.2 Embracing the Alsco values through engagement 8

4      The system of change, effective communication. 9

4.1 The system... 9

4.2 Continuous improvement of visual management in the Green Room.. 9

4.3 The 2nd tier daily meetings. 10

4.4 Responding to the internal customers 10

5      Creating a better flow of product throughout the site.. 13

5.1 Improvement of the delivery of soiled products process flow.. 13

5.2 Improvement of the check-in and washroom process flow.. 14

5.3 Improvement of the ‘Finishing’ process flow.. 15

5.4 Improvement of the Garments and mending process flow.. 16

5.5 Improvement of the Preparation for dispatch process flow.. 17

6      Conclusion. 18



1          Developing an ATITO strategy for industry

Tim to draft

In depth discussion on ATITO’s strategy, choice of Alsco, how hard it was to get going in the industry support etc the process you went through to get to engaging so many companies.  Why there is such a good partnership etc.  This should be one page.

Importance of starting with an LCP, Tim please address the rationale behind this.


1.1     Unit standards used in the Limited Credit Programme (LCP)


The following table lists the full detail of the unit standards referred to in this case study. Further detail can be obtained from the NZQA website at .






Apply competitive manufacturing practices in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Sustain process improvements in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Manage the impact of change on own work in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Interpret product costs in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Apply 5S procedures in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Undertake root cause analysis in a competitive manufacturing organisation




Tim, as far as I know the total credits cannot exceed 25, I take it that one the units above is optional???

1.2        The partnership model facilitated by ATITO



The model is based on a partnership between the three stakeholders; ATITO, QCDSystems (for this case study) and each respective client business.  Each stakeholder both delivers and receives mutual benefit from the partnership.  The model exists on the centre triangle, the Competitive Manufacturing Qualifications, without this there would not be a partnership of this kind. 


2          Beginning with TRY-Z, and continuous coaching


The Try Z Seminar is the introduction of a company and its staff to the process of how to implement Lean Manufacturing, Management principles and practices into their company.  The seminar derives its name from a process known as ‘Trial Zero’ in the automotive industry that is used to introduce model changes or new models onto a production line.  The purpose of the Trial Zero is to demonstrate, test and finally confirm that the new models/changes can be produced with defined efficiency and productivity parameters.

This process is translated into a 3 day seminar during which the participants are charged with using Lean tools such as procedures, measurements, ideas and suggestions, tolerances, jigs and tools, housekeeping, line balance among others to be given a hands-on experience of how it works.  The participants use these tools to produce 15 model cars made up of 68 different parts each to defined standards, through experiential learning.  They are given the opportunity of running three production runs of 15 units made up of six stations, using different operators each time by following defined procedures which they have written.  The change of operators is another example of the transfer of knowledge and expertise that demonstrates how Lean principles enable the people to control their processes and therefore their outputs. After each ‘run’, many aspects of the produced model are discussed as a group.  These discussions encompass items such as defined dimensions, customer quality appearance standards together with unit times, elapsed time, bottle-necks, and station issues.  The solutions arrived at are based on their new Lean knowledge and the application of the Lean tools.  It is not uncommon to obtain a success rate of between 89-100% Quality improvements at the same time obtaining 20-33% productivity improvements with a 3-5 point performance standard met.

The outcome of the seminar is the understanding by each participant that when Lean principles are applied correctly they will help the staff to improve their work environment irrespective of what tasks they perform.  The learning is not restricted to manufacturing in any way whatsoever because once they learn the process and how to apply it, it can be applied to any situation  Many of the administrative staff in manufacturing businesses also use these principles to improve the complete value stream.

After the seminar the participants return to their various departments and implement the process known as QCDSM, utilising the learning they have experienced in the structure known as the Green Room Meeting as the core of continuous improvement.


IMG_0404 TZ Car Full.JPG 

   The TRY-Z experiential learning seminar       The experiential learning model car


3          Overall implementation of CM in Alsco

It is the strategic intent of Alsco New Zealand to have every site and most staff members to complete a qualification in Competitive Manufacturing over the next few years.  Sites were chosen by the urgency of need pertaining to each regional situation.  It is the intention of Alsco to contract QCDSystems to begin the development of each site’s CM and improvement capability and supported by ATITO.  George confirm this please


3.1     Table of CM trainees and starting dates


Start date

Number of training agreements













George anything to add here?


3.2     Embracing the Alsco values through engagement

As part of the company Vision launch during July 2010, the Christchurch team took the Values generated by Alsco New Zealand and made this tangible for all staff.  This process involved dividing the staff into seven groups of seven people and each was given the task of defining one of the seven values.  During this process approximately 2,500 ideas on what the values meant and what behaviours could and should follow were debated by the staff.

After presenting what the value meant by mind-sizing them, the most prominent words of understanding were recorded for all to use as a guide to the behaviour that each value espoused. 

The values spell PASSION.

P = Productivity = KPI’s and targets reduce waste

A = Accountability = take ownership of your actions and have recognition for good work

S = Success = meet deadlines by proper procedures and training

S = Safety = take it seriously by identifying hazards and entrench as part of standard procedures

I = Integrity = honest with all stakeholders and keep promises

O = Originality = seek new solutions to old problems and implement the solutions

N = Nurture = personal development through training and good feedback to each other



4          The system of change, effective communication

The change mechanism is underpinned by an effective communication means.  A simple three tier structure has been put in place that all staff on site is part of.

4.1     The system

Effective communication requires a simple eloquent system that everyone uses and overall results improve.  The heart of this change starts on the shop floor where the teams meet every morning for 10 minutes in what is termed the ‘Green Room’ meeting.  The team leader leads the meeting with visual management used to display the team situation.  Review of the previous day’s performance and a quick discussion on the day ahead.  The formula that is in the balanced scorecard format follows the Quality, Cost, Delivery, Safety and Morale facets of the organisation.  This is the first tier level of communication.  The second tier occurs when team leaders meet their respective managers at 7.30.  Here the team leaders can share their respective situations and take the necessary actions that influence smooth operations for the day.  Typically these are also 10 minute meetings but raise the issues that team leaders need resolution on, especially when they influence other teams.  Once a week the site manager and his managers hold a 3rd tier meeting to review the past week and month to date, whilst planning for the month ahead and where necessary the next two-weeks in depth.  This new system gives a new level of discipline and behaviour that had been absent in the past.


4.2     Continuous improvement of visual management in the Green Room

The teams have continuously improved their visual management data.  This would not occur if the team members were not engaged in their work or perceived little or no value in every morning’s the Green Room meeting.  Team members are now actively reporting near misses, something that was hardly ever done a year ago. 


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Initial sets of documents pasted on the wall, (March 2010)



Nine months later shows engagement in graphs and ideas as teams take increasing ownership of their Green Room. (November 2010)


4.3     The 2nd tier daily meetings

Following on from the Green Room meetings two 2nd tier meetings are held daily, one for the service and customer care staff, and the other for the co-ordination of the three production teams.  The white board below records the major criteria requiring attention to ensure smooth flow will occur.  These highlights are known to all and co-ordination activities follow to ensure resources are available at the right place and time.  All recorded items are actioned immediately and the production manager ensures that resolution occurs.  Decisions made at this level tend to address more of the systemic issues for smooth flow of the operations.


A simple effective visual management board used by the operations team to highlight bottlenecks preventing smooth flow


4.4     Responding to the internal customers

Everyone in Alsco knows who the external customers are as a whole.  A new facet of their understanding is responding to their internal customers.  Each team carefully determined exactly who their internal customers are and what product or service they must provide.  When all the customers are determined the management team checked to ensure that there were no gaps and a new system of Internal Customer Concerns (ICC) was initiated.  This process counts how often each team receives ‘defects’ from their suppliers.  These concerns of defects are recorded, graphed and passed back to the suppliers.  The supplying team is then tasked in establishing the reasons for the defects.  This process is ranges for simple changes to in-depth root cause analysis.  As the Green Room meeting highlights these defects at the first tier, they are passed on to the respective teams at the second tier meetings within 30 minutes every day.  By establishing an effective communication system, these internal customer concerns can now be actioned.  Without first establishing the communication system, teams would not know how to attend to the internal customer concerns and improvement would have been ad hoc at best. 



The defects received from internal suppliers are recorded on this simple sheet of paper by writing the cause and the date of the occurrence in red.  This allows the team to see trends over the month and give feedback to the appropriate supplying team



The supplier team correlate the ‘defects received’ has been recorded in the fourth line for “blended in white” in their first line “cotton blended overalls mixed together’.  This shows that communication and visual management is working. 


Note for Johann;- is it possible to place the writing on one side so the connecting line does not pass through the text?  These two photos must be on the same page.




Quotes from staff

Mike Kent, Service Manager

“We have come away from a blame culture to one of a fact finding culture.  We now actively seek to solve problems through good questioning of the process. ”


Glynda Tuttle, team member

“Through good and improving communication now, we understand the whole process, not just our own little patch.  We also know that each team member is equally important, irrespective of their role.  To achieve our goals and a positive result we have to work together.”









5          Creating a better flow of product throughout the site


The internal value stream

Quality guru Philip Crosby popularised the phrase that states; ‘All work is a process’.  Womack and Jones the inventors of ‘Lean’ established five Lean principles; Perfection, Pull, Flow, Value stream and Value.  Using these pioneering concepts captured in the competitive manufacturing qualifications, the site realised that needed to improve flow between the processes.  All teams having now being armed with every increasing better communication flow could focus on improving the physical flow of products. 


Simple value stream process product flow on site

Each of these five processes will reveal how better flow was achieved.


5.1     Improvement of the delivery of soiled products process flow

Mike to ensure 5.1 is technically correct please


Through the internal customer concerns system the 16 Service Delivery Persons began a process of finding the root cause to all the defects they were passing into the system.  As they investigated each of the issues they found that their current processes caused many problems, some that would only be found at final quality inspection before the clean product was about to be sent out again.  All requirements were reconfirmed and then the process of recording these into a system was set about.  The Detailed Process Sheet system was used to capture the ideas and set out a standard to enable the team to consistently delivery to requirements.  Each of the issues was taken in turn and solutions to ensure conformance to requirements varied from simple actions to detailed root cause analysis.  Attention to detail in simple observations such as ensuring laundry bags not being damaged, labelling bins and ensuring proper sorting of different products occurs according to plan.  This first process has many consequences for the business if the DPS is not followed.  All seven wastes are incurred, some of which can be extremely costly. 











Part of a detailed process sheet that was developed by the team and to which team members are trained to ensure conformance to requirements and flow.

Aaron to ensure 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4 is technically correct please


5.2     Improvement of the check-in and washroom process flow

The sub-process of the washing is the last of this team’s efforts, but is a good measure to determine how well the process improvement is progressing.  As the washing machines all have set programs for each product and the soil level, there is little that can be done to speed up the washing time.  However there are many factors that slow down the time it takes to fill and empty the machines and this is what the team focused on.  ‘Attempt to ensure that the machines are always washing or being filled/emptied.’  The team’s efforts were focused on having full sets of bags always ready to be fed into the washing machines.  The team found that they required more overhead rails for the bags so that they had more flexibility to optimise loads quickly.  This option would seem to go against the principles of ‘Less is More’, but has reversed this principle to state ‘More flexibility in feeding the washing machines means less waste in all forms of waste’. 

To ensure there is a constant volume being pulled through the washing machines the team looked at all their activities and what level of productivity must be achieved for all the various tasks.  The team determined their performance measures and the number of team members required throughout the day on the various tasks to ensure smooth flow.  A visual management system shown below shows what performance levels can be achieved if the team have the tools to help them achieve and have a great sense of achievement. 



A typical visual measurement page used by the team to assess their performance at an individual team member level


Chantelle Sadler, team member

“I found that many of the staff that had been on the TRY-Z came back with all kinds of ideas.  I like to see things improve and didn’t want to get left behind, so we share all the ideas around to make work easier for all of us.”

5.3     Improvement of the ‘Finishing’ process flow

This process takes all items that are not garments worn by customers and prepares them for dispatch for customers.  The team had always been caught in between by the demand of product from the dispatch team and the lack of supply form the washing team.  Aligning these two processes to create flow was their great opportunity.  The challenge was to determine how to control flow evenly by knowing what the demand for each product would be for every day and not to allow any product inventory to stay outside the limits.  Most of the product is drawn at the end and beginning of the shifts.  This meant that if inventory was counted in the morning and the demand for the next day was also known, then the difference would determine the production quantity or ‘top-up’ for the day.  With this knowledge the team leader passed on the data to both the finishing team members and the Washroom team.  Armed with this knowledge a schedule for the day is developed ensuring all the constraints are known and resourced to allow for the constant flow.  This thinking is no longer only known by the manager, but is understood by the team.  This commonly shared knowledge becomes very valuable when there are unforeseen events during the day and allows for the team members to assist where needed.  The schedules are available at each machine centre and plan versus actual is monitored by all team members. 

A simple change in storage of different products has been made to make it easier for the internal customers, the service delivery people, to find and load their deliveries. 


Simple vertical storage of continuous towels


The value of vertical storage is ease of seeing what type of towel is in each bag

5.4     Improvement of the Garments and mending process flow


Aaron McConnochie, Production Manager

“The biggest gain by investing in the improvement of flow in this team is that it has now become one team with many roles, rather than a group of staff with a number of jobs.  This was not the intention to start with, but has been the biggest and most welcomed surprise”.  


5.4.1     Creating a garment mending cell, by redesigning layout

Two team members are professional menders of garments.  They fulfil an essential role in maintaining the garments used by the customers.  Due to the need to ensure there is no contamination of the garments used in the food industry by other industries, the mending machines were placed on opposite sides of the work area.  This meant that for long periods the two team members would work alone, not knowing what the urgency and workload of the other team member.  The team decided to put the two team members in the same ‘work-cell’ area where they could manage optimise flow by easily seeing what the workload is at anytime throughout the day.  The major wastes that have been decreased are; waiting, unnecessary transport and human motion.


5.4.2    Creating flowing work areas, a work in process task

The storing of new garments is slowly being redesigned in layout and storage.  All in the grand scheme of ensuring better flow.  The reduction of trolleys in all areas has created more space to move, simply because the trolleys are not there to put things into.  As the flow of the product was tracked the team found that ‘when there is a trolley empty we want to fill it.’  The team has reduced some sets of the trolleys by 50%. 

Stains Treat 354  IMG_0045

Organising the new garments store over time has created more space to access the stock


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Before and after, organising new stock garments for the ease of storing and retrieving items

Mike to ensure 5.5 is technically correct please

5.5     Improvement of the Preparation for dispatch process flow

Preparation for everyday’s 18 routes begins at 6.50 with a Green Room meeting for the Service Delivery People.  Co-ordination to ensure all routes for the day are ‘covered by a team member and delivery truck’, is an essential part of this meeting.  Good feedback to the production team flows from this meeting and has lifted the level of smoother flow of product delivery in full on time in specification. 



The nerve centre of every morning’s Green Room meeting, the visual management board  


Stains Treat 340 IMG_0024 

                         Before                                                                 After

Finding garments in this arrangement could take some time, while each trolley now has a simple clear route marker.


Aaron McConnochie, Production Manager

“I am a cheese maker by trade, and learnt there that the process must flow to ensure great cheese is sold to the customers.  When I first joined Alsco Christchurch I saw congestion and flow was difficult and slow.  CM has given the team many of the insights and tools to use to make flow easier, so I am not the only one with the knowledge.  Now all team members have a good feeling of what can be achieved if the process flows.  It is great to see how many team members have taken improvement seriously and have made work easier and safer.  We have been fortunate to also be in a position to make some serious process changes and know have three dedicated team supervisors to ensure flow occurs.”



6          Conclusion

A journey of improvement begins with the first step, but only after a number of steps have been taken can progress be measured.  This is exactly the case that Alsco Christchurch has experienced.  All the work by all the staff to improve communication as enabler and the resulting improvement activities to make the product ‘flow’ through the site took time to bear fruit.  Only now after nine months can all the staff look back and see what they are achieving.  Their efforts must eventually benefit the customers, but also make their work easier and far less stressful.  Reducing all forms of waste has been essential.  The final measure of improvement is determined by the number of times the site process missed the customer’s requirements.  To simply describe if the process is successful, this question must be answered positively.  ‘Before the delivery left the site was the customer’s order ready to leave on that delivery route for the specific day?’  Since the staff embraced their values by making them understood and meaningful to them, and took ownership of their process and devised their standard practices, called Detailed Process Sheets, the delivery misses decreased on a weekly average from 42.7 to 13.2, or 69%.


Applying the simple but effective tools of the Competitive Manufacturing unit standards with good team leadership and followership by the teams has undoubtedly given the ‘A-Team’ of Alsco Christchurch the confidence to continuously improve anything.  This result was achieved despite the team having to deal with the devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks during the last few months.  Here is a team of passion, and all of the staff can look forward to achieving CM qualifications during the next few years.


When a manager and a staff member were discussing an issue, the staff member ended by saying, “Leave this issue with us.”  Relating this back just nine months, the typical reply would be in the order of “Good luck with that!”  Now we expect something really innovative to come back from the team.  This is proof of how subtle but powerful the change has been.




© Copyright 2009 held by the Government of New Zealand through the Industry Training Organisations of the Competitive Manufacturing Initiative and Iplex NZ Limited. This work is copyright.  Apart from any use permitted under the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994, no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the owners.


The author wish to recognise the assistance of the following:

The Tertiary Education Commission of the Department of Education of New Zealand for funding of this work. 

Alsco for their openness and willingness to have their story told as an exemplar site in New Zealand.  Specific thanks to George Rowe, Aaron McConnochie and Mike Kent for their input into making this case study possible.

Tim Pearson of ATITO who edited and supported the case study.  

Peter Paola and Willem Botha of QCDSystems for staff coaching. and

Johann Betz who edited the story.

Greg A. Ellis, Spirals Resultants,


For more information, go to Competitive Manufacturing Initiative website at: