Spain is leaning out, as companies in all sectors and of all sizes start to recognise the value of lean as a revolutionary management model, says Luis Cuatrecasas, President of the Barcelona-based Instituto Lean Management.

In Spain, as in many other countries, awareness of lean management is still quite scarce. And just as in the world at large, the automotive sector has been the first to have managed to introduce lean thinking in a complete way. This industry has a strong presence in Spain, which is dotted with production plants belonging to Ford, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, Seat, Volkswagen, Iveco, just to name a few, and a multitude of suppliers. Many of these have a strong tradition of lean management deployment (Valeo, Delphi, Magna Mirrors, Johnson Controls, Visteon, for example).

There are other industries that have achieved a substantial level of experience in lean implementation, especially large companies operating in the electronics, pharmaceutical and food sectors, as well as multinational companies with subsidiaries in Spain (where lean practices are adopted as part of the corporation’s global strategy, like for Airbus and Nestlé).

There are also some companies that operate in sectors that are traditionally not very well-versed in lean that have now recognised the potential of this management model and decided to adopt it. A well-known (even outside Spain) example is global textile giant Inditex, whose flagship brand is Zara.

Following the general worldwide trend (or at least the one we identify in the most developed countries), lean is increasingly penetrating non-industrial sectors, in particular services and administration, and very specific functions like engineering.

Unsurprisingly, lean is proving more and more popular in the healthcare sector, with several hospitals introducing its principles at different levels. Financial services have also started to adopt it.

Our experience as a lean institute allows us to say that there is a growing interest in lean thinking, at least at an embryonic, information-gathering level. Lean books sales and the popularity of our training programmes and workshops, as well as the increasing number of companies and business professionals attending our conferences, testify it. However, we are still very far from a complete and widespread introduction of lean in companies’ management and operations.

We are also able to dispel the myth that lean management tends to be more commonly adopted by larger companies. According to what we see, small and medium-sized businesses in Spain, operating in different sectors, are showing great interest in it. We have assisted many of them in kick-starting its implementation. Particularly good examples are the wood and furniture, food, textile or metal industries and, in the services and administration landscapes, hotels, financial institutions and even a large network of bakery shops (whose story is told in this special).

Lean is currently progressing at a steady rate in Spain, which will, in all likelihood, accelerate in the future.

Baking powder for business

In just a few years, a small bakery in Barcelona developed into a chain of 49 shops. Agustin Tena, Production Manager at 365.café, explains how lean helped the company make a smooth transition.

Our big break was in 2004, when we moved to a franchising model: in 1999 we had one bakery, in 2008 we had 23.

Before we introduced lean in our processes, we used to make – just to give you an example – baguettes on a Monday for the entire week and freeze them. Imagine the amount of space we needed. We stopped using freezers in 2006, when we started our lean journey. We now bake each day for the next, supplying our shops at night.

We eventually moved to a new production facility, because the one we had was too small and we needed to be closer to our shops. However, this was not necessary until we opened our 32nd bakery, thanks to changes we brought to production after implementing lean.

At first we didn’t teach anything to our workers. Ours was a very top-down approach, which was a mistake. As they saw the results, the employees themselves came asking to learn more. Building on the success we experienced in production, we started applying lean in the shops four years ago. There was no reason why it wouldn’t work there as well.

Check-lists, audits and a kanban system, as well as analysing our customers’ needs, helped us to remain competitive even in the face of the exponential growth in the number of bakeries in Barcelona and of the economic crisis that is crippling Spanish business.

We have two systems to understand what to supply to each store every day. One is automatic (we keep records of every product we sell), the other is based on statistics: we have a clear idea of what products we sell and in what quantity; and we also know that, say, next Thursday is likely to be similar to the past five Thursdays.

However, we don’t have a way to foresee what a customer will want to purchase: that’s why we have to keep a little bit of stock. Additionally, what we don’t sell is thrown away at the end of the day, which tells us how much of the product we should make the following week (we set ourself a 10% wastage limit).

This system allows us, on one side, to keep our products cheap and employ less people to do the job other bakeries need twice as many employees to complete, while on the other side using the space in our shops to accommodate clients rather than to store products.

365.café at a glance

  • Staff in the production facility: 60
  • 49 shops in the Barcelona area, employing four to seven people each
  • Started as one bakery in 1999
  • Small stock kept to respond to demand fluctuation, but kanban system deployed on a regular basis
  • All products freshly made one day for the next


Like a rolling stone

Josemari Díaz-Munio, General Manager at Estampaciones Bizkaia, shares the company’s lean journey and impressive results, and explains why there is plenty of confidence still to build upon.

Change knocked on Estampaciones Biskaia’s door in 2010, when we started working on the VS20 project, the van to be produced by Mercedes-Benz in nearby Victoria. My team and I took on the responsibility of integrating the new MB vehicle into our operations without increasing the amount of resources and space used, but merely by introducing different processes.

The goal, and we are on track at the moment, is to make the van a reality by 2015. However, the transformation was not just a matter of changing the factory layout, like many believed. It was corporate culture that needed to change, and lean thinking was the way to do it.

Gestamp had already used some lean tools and techniques successfully, but the situation at EB was different and we struggled to follow our road map.

The Gestamp Production System, inspiring by TPS, supported the development of SMQDC pillars (S for Safety, M for Management/Moral, Q for Quality, D for Delivery, C for Cost) as the new way to do business, which leadership has committed to and which requires the involvement of all parts, including managers, supervisors and the unions. But for this new system to be successful, standard procedures must be established. Only then can you pursue cultural change.

Process stability over the past year, in terms of the SMQDC pillars, has become a reality, and the key to the success of our lean journey. We focused on planning the production process, while at the same time recognising the quality requirements of our main customers (Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, General Motors) and strengthening our focus on first-time quality.

The human contribution to projects like SMED (to reduce weekly batch) and TPM has been critical: as we introduce new technology, like welding laser or roller clinching, we need to increase operator skills.

Daily meetings, which focus on “working for tomorrow” while “learning from yesterday”, provide us with a clear overview of the situation throughout the organisation, in an efficient and fast way. They also represent a solid foundation for improvement.

Some of our results: OEE has gone from 65% in 2010 to 74% in 2012; in December customer quality saw 3-4 ppm YTD; internal quality saw 4,350 ppm in 2010 and 2,330 ppm in 2012; lead time went from 25 days in 2010 to 8.5 days in 2012; changeover went from 45 minutes in 2010 to 20 minutes in 2012;; build to plan grew from 45% in 2010 to 75% in 2012 as an indicator of stability in the process.

These figures allowed us to create continuous flow in the plant, by using a well-devised pull system that eliminates overproduction and reduces inventory in every process by 30%.

With process flow rolling, we will be able to create real value. I expect this to happen with the new vehicle in running production in 2015.

Estampaciones Bizkaia – Gestamp Automoción at a glance

  • Location: Basque Country
  • Staff: 485
  • Part of the Gestamp group
  • Main customer: Mercedes-Benz
  • Service company for the automotive market: stamping, assembling and painting body metal parts for Mercedes-Benz’s Vito Van

Who’s the leanest of them all?

With fierce competition from the rest of Europe and – increasingly – from India, Magna Mirrors España had to transform itself to keep its costs down. Arantxa Moya, a six sigma black belt within the company’s lean programme, MAFACT, tells LMJ about turning the mirrors manufacturer into a leaner business.

What do you do when you realise that if you are to reach your objectives you need to increase capacity and flexibility while keeping your costs down? You revolutionise the way you operate. For Magna this meant starting a lean journey.

We began to implement the lean methodology 10 years ago, when we took on a new operations manager. Results weren’t sustainable, however, and a year ago Magna Global started to push a lot with lean just over a year ago. That’s when we introduced MAFACT.

In a year, we have radically changed the layout of our plant. Materials used to be stored in a very chaotic way: we introduced a kanban system in the production area and started to work more closely with our suppliers (we invited them over and showed them how the new system works). We also placed a crane by the line, but for it to work we had to switch from cardboard to plastic boxes.

The assembly line needed to be in good shape if we were to achieve the goals we had set ourselves. That required engaging both our workers and our suppliers – our logistics are also complex, as we deliver to 20 customer plants on the mirrors business and 16 on the sunvisors business.

An e-kanban system allows our suppliers to connect to our system and know right away the quantity we need them to supply at any given time.

As it’s usually the case, the difficult part of implementing lean was not changing the factory layout, but the mindset of people. Training helped a lot with that, initially in the manufacturing department and later on in the other areas of the business.

We have different KPIs for different departments, as well as company-wide KPIs, which we introduced a year ago when MAFACT came into the picture. The KPIs sit in a pyramid: those at the bottom are necessary to achieve the numbers indicated by the those at the top. Internal meetings are used to assess the performance of each department, while a meeting with all the managers ensures Magna is on track to achieve wider business goals.

The most important KPI in the operations area and the most significant result we have achieved is, without a doubt, the number of pieces each person produces each hour: lean thinking allowed us to increase our productivity by 15%. We have also achieved two- to three-minute changeovers.

Magna Mirrors España at a glance

  • Staff: 450 people
  • Supplies mirrors, door handles and sunvisors to automotive companies
  • Main customers: Iveco, PSA, Fiat, Volkswagen, Audi, Volvo
  • Production capability: 25 manual U-shaped lines and 2 semi-automatic lines
  • Market share in 2011 for mirrors in Spain and Portugal: 13%
  • Based near Barcelona

Mending cuts

Rosa Simón Pérez, Quality Director at a healthcare institution in Catalonia, looks back at a year’s worth of lean implementation at the hospitals that constitute the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf.

The only way to achieve results is to show everybody the progress of improvement, especially because we are only a year into our lean journey. It is with this in mind that, at the Consorci Sanitari del Garraf, we have created the Espacio Lean (a “Lean Space”) in a staff room. We hung A3s, analysis of our KPIs and the improvements we secure to a wall for everybody to see.

We have applied lean thinking to several departments from the very beginning throughout our two facilities, trying to identify best practice and make our staff become responsible for process efficiency.

These are the steps we followed to apply lean to our processes: identification of the problem we want to solve; gemba walk; creation of an experienced implementation team; training; pilot project; identification of more opportunities to improve.

After creating an implementation team at the end of 2011, we kicked off at the beginning of 2012 with admissions, surgical theatres, emergencies and convalescence.

The most difficult thing of all was breaking the routines, those dynamics that have deep roots in the way people used to work at the hospitals.

The difficult economic situation Spain is experiencing made the push for efficiency an essential aspect of our daily work and encouraged us to devise new ways of doing things through lean. One of the measures we had to take was to stop the activity of operating rooms in the afternoons, with the challenge of continuing to perform the same number of surgeries with less operative time.

We had to optimise the way we ran the operating rooms in the morning, to maximise the number of patients we could operate in the first half of the day. By analysing the work at the gemba and utilising precedence diagrams, we were able to speed up the preparation of the rooms between procedures. We now perform five operations a day compared to the previous four.

Using value stream maps, A3s and 5S in the reception area, we achieved good results: shorter queues and a more efficient and quick way to welcome people. At the same time, we have reorganised the emergency room, reduced the time needed to diagnose conditions and increased the capacity of machines.

Visual management allows us to know the situation of each patients at every given time. Training has also played an important role in the implementation of lean: so far we have provided advanced lean healthcare training to our implementation team, made of 15 people, with 80 more people having received basic 30-minute training.

We are aiming to eventually involve all of our workers. The Espacio Lean is proving particularly useful for this purpose.

Consorci Sanitari del Garraf at a glance

  • Includes two facilities, the Hospital Residència San Camil and the Hospital Sant Antoni Abat
  • Staff: 961
  • Serves an area of about 150,000 people in Catalonia