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Making SMEs more efficient through lean production technology

  • Since 2014, ITC has collaborated with Bosch, the German engineering and electronics firm, to train Kenyan SMEs in so-called ‘lean’ production methodologies. Pioneered by Japanese automakers, lean manufacturing refers to the continuous, methodical reform of firms’ supply chain processes to strip out waste and inefficiencies, such as unnecessary movement or waiting. Over the past three years, training workshops with ITC and Bosch have taught SMEs to analyse and adjust their production processes. Simple adjustments reduced lead times and lowered defect rates, all without requiring major investments in expensive new equipment. Examples include; weighing honey jars while filling them, instead of weighing them individually after scooping honey into each jar, or shifting from ‘batch’ production, with all workers performing the same sequence of tasks, to ‘continuous flow’ processing in which division of labour led to dramatic increases in production efficiency.

    Representatives from a local partner, the Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM), started out by attending the ITC-Bosch training sessions as learners. The KISM team then transitioned to delivering the lean training, analysis and advisory services, alongside ITC, with no further participation by experts from Bosch. The results remain impressive.

    For SweetNDried, a producer of mango snacks, the capacity building on lean production, together with a key health and safety certification, led to sharp increases in production volumes and quality, and in employment. Production efficiency has doubled, the company has eliminated customer returns and sales have increased substantially. Whereas in 2014 SweetNDried procured two tonnes of raw mangoes from 75 local farmers, in 2016 it procured over 40 tonnes, generating business for 245 farmers in the area around Chuka Town, a four-hour drive from Nairobi.

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    In 2016, Bosch worked with ITC and KISM to deliver training to three SMEs, with similarly impressive results. Importantly, KISM has now added lean advisory services to its portfolio of services for SMEs in Kenya and the East African Community (EAC). ITC will provide short-term support to KISM, where needed, as it evolves towards an independent, sustainable funding model for providing these advisory services to regional institutions and businesses.

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