News & Views

Global production specialist links with Made Here Now in UK growth drive

Hotel Chocolat - which makes chocolate at a factory in Huntingdon - is among Kaizen Institute's UK clients

Kaizen Institute, one of the world’s top manufacturing consultancies, has become the latest organisation to sponsor Made Here Now as it looks to expand its presence in the UK.

The institute has nearly 600 consultants in 60 countries who work with companies – mostly in manufacturing but also in areas such as healthcare – to boost productivity.

Its approach is based around Japanese-style “continuous improvement” and lean production, as well as putting employees at the centre of efforts to design new working practices.

In Britain, the institute aims to increase its network of consultants from 10 to 100 over the next seven years. The recruitment drive will concentrate on hiring people in their early 20s who have gained qualifications in engineering and related disciplines. Among the institute's UK customers are Hotel Chocolat, a luxury chocolate maker.

Kaizen Institute is among 13 groups that have signed up to sponsor the next stage – phase five – of Made Here Now’s development. The main goal of the six-year-old project is to raise the profile of UK manufacturing among young people and increase the number choosing to pursue a career in manufacturing-related fields.

Joao Castro, a partner in Kaizen Institute's European operations, says: "Britain has a lot of resourceful and talented young graduates coming out of its top universities. As part of the process of increasing our role in the UK we want to get closer to some of the leading academic institutions to improve our public profile."

The consultancy works with companies around the world to boost efficiency, using Japanese-stye work practices

Castro says: "We like what Made Here Now is doing, in particular its emphasis on highlighting the career opportunities for young people in manufacturing and engineering. We look forward to a productive partnership.”

Other sponsors signed up for the latest phase of Made Here Now include the manufacturing groups Brompton Bicycle, Renishaw, Plessey Semiconductors, TTP, William Cook, Croft Filters, Goodfish and AESSEAL; the Edinburgh-based investment group Walter Scott; charities Comino Foundation and ERA Foundation; and MakeUK, the main UK trade body for manufacturing.

All 12 of these groups have sponsored previous phases of Made Here Now’s work. A total of 73 organisations have supported the initiative since it launched. Steve Adams, Made Here Now project director, says; “We are pleased to welcome Kaizen Institute as a new sponsor. We are thankful to all our sponsors both for their financial contributions and the ideas they introduce.”

A key part of phase five will be to work with manufacturers interested in using resources on the Made Here Now website that help them engage with young people including schoolchildren, whom they may want to recruit.

Another focus will be on using case studies to highlight the factors that have influenced young people now working in manufacturing to choose this area for their career. 

Castro sees “big opportunities” for his consultancy in the UK. "We are seeing a lot of interest from businesses which want to find ways to improve their organisations,” he says. The extra inquiries are driven partly, he says, by businesses seeing the need to restructure in response to shifts in demand resulting from Covid-19.

“Companies may also need to rethink the way their employees operate due to more people working at home or having to comply with new physical restrictions in the workplace,” Castro says.

Made Here Now’s focus on young people is in tune with Kaizen Institute’s preference for hiring recent graduates. “We find we get the best results by taking in people in their 20s and training them in what kaizen means,” Castro says.

The institute is based in Switzerland and is owned by Masaaki Imai – the Japanese production expert who started it in 1985 – and his family. The consultancy entered the British market in 1991 and works with about 25 British companies, 80 per cent of them in manufacturing.

In Europe, its largest market is Portugal, where it has 100 consultants. It has roughly 40 in the Netherlands and Spain and about half this number in Germany.

Among the consultant’s British clients are UK-based manufacturers including Burberry and Avara Foods. Others include the UK operations of Swiss luxury goods business Richemont; Bucher Municipal, a Swiss company making road sweepers; Vicaima, a Portuguese maker of interior doors; Spanish automotive parts producer Maier; and Sandvik, a Swedish manufacturer of engineering equipment and special steels.