Smiths Group is a company with an incredible heritage. It has been in continuous operation now for over 170 years. Now, more than ever, Smiths Group is looking with confidence to the future. We have a refreshed management team in place, a business focused on our industrial core, and a clear strategic focus on the three pillars of Growth, Execution and People. This is enabling us to unlock the significant growth potential of our business.
And, as we continue to execute against our strategy, the Smiths Excellence System (SES) becomes increasingly important for us. But what is the SES? Simply put, it is how we break down the aspirations for our strategy into tangible plans and action points. It provides full-time problem-solving resources, our black belts, to drive our most important improvement projects leveraging Lean Six Sigma (LSS) tools and methodologies. And it provides our leadership of the future, with SES alumni anchoring the SES principles in the way we work, making it part of our DNA.
Our practical application of LSS is beyond just efficiencies and productivity, we are also aiming to accelerate growth projects through SES.
Our philosophy for SES is that to succeed, it must become both the nerve system and the muscle tissue of our business. The nerve system is crucial in directing the key operations of the business, helping focus on critical, strategic priorities. But we also need muscle to get things done. Our LSS trained resources, black and green belts are our muscle. These are people who build and develop their practical application of lean methods and develop a lean skill set to help increase business productivity, working with teams to deliver impactful, business-critical projects.
Typically, black belt status is achieved through training – however we have changed this approach and to secure an SES black belt you need to have a combination of both theory (training) but crucially, practical, hands-on experience. Smiths Black Belts must tackle real business challenges in areas such as change leadership, stakeholder management, and real-world problem solving, and then empirically prove the impact they have had to course correct the challenge. After successful execution of several projects they will re-enter the business and become an ambassador for the SES programme, creating further organisational pull.
There are many benefits of becoming SES trained and getting a belt (noting it’s not just black belts – there are also green belts for those starting out on their SES journey, and master black belts who oversee big projects and teams!) It is a good career development opportunity, and you get to meet and work with others from a diverse range of disciplines across the organisation, so you will always be learning.
But how are we getting on? Whilst we have implemented Lean methods in our business for some time, the focus and support at Group level has significantly grown under the current management. So, whilst in this context it is still relatively early days, we have made real progress. There are currently 60 Black Belt projects underway, with £5m of incremental operating profit generated from these projects in the first half of our fiscal year. The original estimated annualised savings of £20m for these projects has increased to at least £25m as further opportunities have been identified.
SES is the way we work at Smiths. It provides a common language, structure and programmatic approach to improving our business. It’ll be better today than it was yesterday, it’ll be again better tomorrow than today. Fully operational SES will have a material, positive impact on Smiths’ profitability in the coming years.
Stay tuned for more updates and case studies on our successes over the course of the year.
Group SES Director
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