Business Improvement Programme 2019 – Ransoms

17/10/2019

Sisters Katherine, Rebecca and Sarah Ransom took over the business from their parents in the 1980’s.  The business now operates as 3 divisions employing 90 staff across the Tearooms, the Potting Shed & the Garden Centre. The 3 sisters have seen an evolution of change from the days of no computerisation, spreadsheets or EPOS – it relied on knowledge, gut feeling and experience. They have a business family culture with the key human element of being able to work with staff to interpret data whilst taking into account the many variables such as weather, seasons, trends etc, and maintain a loyal and motivated workforce.

Business Improvement Project

Recruiting and retaining staff on the island is a massive challenge, particularly in the service industries of retail and hospitality, where the rate of pay and hours are much less attractive than Administration or Finance. For Ransoms to be able to attract and retain customers they need to inspire the people of Jersey by providing an attractive and changing retail experience supported by great customer service and product knowledge.  There is a genuine belief from the very top of the business that in order to achieve this they need an infrastructure of happy-to-be-here, engaged, loyal staff. It was with this in mind that Katherine Ransom engaged with the Jersey Business Improvement programme with her colleague Anna Bryant – they wanted to experience the process and use the tools and techniques to lead change back in the business, initially within the buying process.

In 2017, the company centralised their Buying taking the responsibility off the department shop floor teams leaving staff more available for customers and product merchandising.  This brought many benefits to the Buying process such as accuracy, consistency and cross-over training. A significant obstacle to overcome was maintaining clear and consistent communication between the shop floor and Buying as the team on the front line, the shop and tills, receive all the feedback from the customer and the Buying team know what’s coming in going forward.  With 438 active suppliers and over 60,000 active product lines there is a complexity of work leading to pressures on all involved from Admin & Buying, through to Stores, Shop Floor and Deliveries. At a similar time, they introduced new time saving processes using improved IT for Goods In and Invoicing which has resulted in a reduction in workload in certain areas of the office whilst the Buying team have taken on more areas of responsibility leaving them stretched.

Following the first module they returned to the office all fired up and keen to use what they had learnt immediately. Meeting room walls were populated with images of Kotter’s Iceberg and Penguins, resonated with the need to get people out of their comfort zones. The 3 M’s – Muda, Mura and Muri were highlighted along with their favourite quotes from the session and lists of the 7 (8) wastes. The Deming cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act, they were loving it – until more people got involved and reality struck in, making change in the workplace is hard!

Project Analysis

As a team, they created process maps organising the images by colour.  Yellow = Buying process topics, Pink tick = can be measured e.g. Sales date & KPI’s, space allocation versus experience & gut feeling along with trends which are not measurable. Pink = Bottlenecks, Green = Positive changes actioned or agreed & planned. Orange = WIP and Blue = Quotes – a favourite being “change without data is an opinion”.

The mapping led to many quick wins being actioned such as changing time consuming walkaround meetings, providing more printers to operational staff, moving coffee machines, consolidating filing systems and clearing out the clutter. Some larger improvements that needed capital expenditure were actioned such as a new phone system with more direct numbers, voicemail etc. They recognised a need to use phones more than emails to fit with the new lean philosophy based on clear communication.

Staff from across the administration functions got together to create a “thought shower” in relation to the buying process. This created a long list of potential actions and project areas that made them think just how much work they need to do. Lean thinking produces so many opportunities and they began to see it this way.

Implementing Improvements

As the actions around the “thought shower” and process mapping have been activated the business has embraced a new strategy for Workplace Organisation. This is 5S – Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardise, Sustain. Having done initial Audits as part of the programme they began to look at the Workplace with fresh eyes leading to decluttering and improving the flow work across the business.

Sustaining momentum was recognised as being one of their toughest challenges.  As they can get caught up with ‘stuff’ and have the demands of customers over the peaks of the business (this was the spring months with all the bank holidays), they were determined not to lose momentum understanding that it takes twice as much effort to start up again. They are seeing their successes and  communicating these to the workforce bringing people along for the ride, developing a new culture which has its challenges in a business that has been around for over 50 years and has developed many “anti-lean” cultural habits.

The on-site support provided by the programme led to external resource coming into daily operations meeting with department Managers & Supervisors, with mixed results.  They found that it takes only one person with negative thoughts to create major barriers for change and improvement. However, there were plenty of examples of positivity that needed to be embraced by the management and the focus was to build on this. Lists of suggestions from operational staff have led to actions being taken to implement small but effective improvements – real life KAIZEN.

Business Benefits

The culture is changing and Lean is becoming a motivational concept that is beginning to embrace Ransoms. They recognise that they have a long way to go and Katherine, as one of the business owners, has found the experience invaluable. She now wants to lead Lean throughout the company changing the culture to be more open to discussing waste and efficiency as positives. Had she not been part of the process and sent others along she believes that the Penguins, the Poka Yokes, the Muda, Muri, Mura’s etc. would have been lost in the jargon. There is real excitement now to send other members of the Ransom team on this programme to grow the Lean culture as she can see how it could benefit the bottom line and job satisfaction, so retaining staff, along with developing more trust, less blame, less firefighting.

Team quote / experience:

“This was an enjoyable course for me as it was engaging, down to earth and really got Ransoms on the path to change. Working with other companies was enlightening and motivational, and bringing the course leader in to meet our staff along the journey was very, very, useful.”

Anna Bryant, Senior Buyer

The aim of the business improvement programme is to support established organisations to become more efficient and to deliver sustainable growth that will create market competitiveness and a solid operational platform for the future. It is managed by Jersey Business, funded by the Government of Jersey and delivered by Accelerate.

If you would like to get involved in a future programme contact us at [email protected]

 

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