Liam Cassidy is known as ‘The Serial Factory Fixer’.  He is the man multinationals in the USA, Canada, China, the UK and Ireland have on speed dial, he’s the man with the plan and the one to call to fix a broken factory.  In his 40-year career Liam has used lean principals and tools, with his unique brand of leadership to turnaround factories and supply chains all over the world including some considered “to far gone” to salvage. Now he shares the secret of his success in his new book, ‘Make Your Factory Great & Keep it That Way’.  The forward was written by Chet Marchwinski, the former Communications Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute.

In the book, Liam shares some very interesting case studies and outlines how lean principles and tools were vital in the processes he adopted to save plants in both low and high-cost countries on three continents. Six case studies are examined in the book which outline the problems, challenges, and priorities at each factory.  One such high profile case study tells the story of the 311,000 sq ft Oral-B toothbrush plant in Iowa City in the USA which made close to 1 million toothbrushes a day. However, by the year 2000 the plant was on a precarious path. Product development had been integrated with the parent company, Braun, part of The Gillette Company. That meant the plant’s workforce now competed for new products against facilities in China and Mexico with much lower cost structures. Iowa City’s high service levels relied on high inventory levels, adding to its cost disadvantage. Its traditional MRP-driven push production system caused overproduction, creating even more inventory, which led to costly stocks of obsolete products. Add in a traditional culture with multiple job classifications the prospects for making toothbrushes in Iowa City were looking ever more unlikely.

Liam Cassidy was dispatched by the parent company to the Oral-B plant in Iowa and to prepare it for a closure announcement within 2 years. However, he said that he would only accept the assignment if he could attempt to salvage it. His boss agreed but said that he would also have to convince the wider organisation, and that would be difficult.

Liam knew that the competitive power of rapidly and diligently applying lean principles, with the participation of local management and employees, could save almost any factory, including the Iowa plant.  He set about a rapid introduction of a lean turnaround which ultimately saved the factory. Firstly, he met with union officials to explain what he wanted to do. “We told them the plant could compete, but we had to change and change fast,” Cassidy said. We didn’t sugar coat the competitive threat facing the plant’s roughly 750 production and staff employees. “From day-one, I was saying the ideal number of people in the factory would be 450 to 500 and that’s how it turned out. Shedding people is never pretty. We were very, very honest and just said we need to do painful things but they are necessary to save the plant.”

Based on visits to the shop floor, Liam estimated that at any time at least 30% of the equipment was down awaiting raw materials, maintenance, spare parts or work orders. The supply chain from suppliers through the factory was unstable. There was no regular training for employees, except when new equipment arrived. There was some automation in the molding department, but the level of manual processes was high, higher than at factories in Asia and Mexico, where labour costs were much cheaper.

Liam trained teams of employees, managers, and staff in lean principles, separating those who could not or would not change, and in two years the plant was not just turned around from the brink of closure but ended up being the best performing factory within the Gillette Group. In two years, Liam’s lean transformation had reduced the direct headcount by 38% and improved schedule adherence from 92% to +99%.  $16.1 million was saved in reduced costs and productivity increased by 34%.

Although Liam writes about his method for successfully initiating and sustaining change, this isn’t a technical book. However, there are plenty of insights for dealing with myriad other business challenges, such as improving toxic work cultures, managing change, surviving mergers, rousing dispirited workforces, and dealing with today’s downpour of data.

A natural storyteller, Liam weaves in humorous or poignant anecdotes about some of the personalities and places he encountered in Europe, Asia, and the USA.  Although all the factories faced unique threats, there were common qualities too. “Workforces have the same needs all over the world, regardless of where they reside, they want to be respected, and to be acknowledged by having a voice that is listened and responded to. They want opportunity for education and development, and to be fairly remunerated so that they can provide security for themselves and their family. The wonder is why so many organisations struggle to see that.”

Make Your Factory Great & Keep It That Way is published by Bonner Publishing and Ingram Sparke and is available online in both print and e-versions at all major platforms including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Bookmark, Goodreads and more.  Print price €24.99 and Kindle €8.99.

Liam is a native of Donegal (Ireland) and now resides in Co. Kildare (Ireland).  He is a Partner in Lean Management at Altix Consulting, a global business consulting firm with its head office in Ohio, USA.