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World?s top Lean operations experts headline local conference

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The world?s two foremost leaders in Lean - Jim Womack and Dan Jones - will headline the Lean Summit Africa in Cape Town this September.

The event runs from 27 - 28 September under the lead sponsorship of De Beers Consolidated Mining Company.

The Lean Summit, the only such event on the African continent, aims to increase the adoption of Lean as a means of improving product and service delivery while reducing costs, and will act as the catalyst for the establishment of an African Lean centre of excellence at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB).

According to Conference Chair, Professor Norman Faull of the UCT GSB, Lean tools can have a tremendously powerful impact not only for businesses but also for government.

"The healthcare industry, for example, whether state-run or private, has come under tremendous scrutiny worldwide. As medical science advances are made, costs rise. In developing countries the gap between medical services to the poor and rich continuously widens while the HIV/AIDS pandemic squeezes health budgets and resources become increasingly stretched. The need to eliminate waste becomes more pressing,' he said.

Faull explained that new research globally is pointing to Lean tools - techniques that stem from the manufacturing sector, most notably the Toyota production system - as a possible aid in the battle for greater efficiency.

Companies in the manufacturing realm like Toyota have earned a reputation for quality and efficiency unparalleled in other industries thanks to Lean process tools. The methods have helped make businesses like Toyota great by enabling them to do the seemingly impossible: reduce costs while simultaneously increasing quality.

"The tools can just as effective in streamlining procedures in say the home affairs department or licensing departments, or any business environment,' said Faull.

"With Lean Thinking organisations can do more with less, respond more quickly to customer needs, create more rewarding jobs for employees and reduce their impact on the environment. The results of Lean Thinking can now be seen in every sector and across the globe."

Having Womack and Jones join forces for the Cape Town conference, Womack via an audio-visual link and Jones in person, is a major coup, added Faull.

The pair, who are widely recognised as the founders of the Lean movement began collaborating on the research that led to Lean thinking as directors of two major global research programmes led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. They co-authored the resulting books, The Future of the Automobile (1984) and The Machine that Changed the World. The latter was chosen as the Best Business Book of 1990 by the Financial Times and has sold 400,000 copies in 11 languages.

Further research led to articles in the Harvard Business Review and to their much-acclaimed book Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Value in your Corporation in 1996. Now in its second, expanded edition, it has sold over 300 000 copies in 10 languages. It led to Lean Summits being held in the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Brazil, India, Turkey, and Poland.

United States-based Womack is the now founder and chairman of the Lean Enterprise Institute, a non-profit training, publishing, and research organisation. Jones is the Chairman of the Lean Enterprise Academy in the United Kingdom.

In addition to lead sponsor De Beers, the support sponsors for the event are Old Mutual, Organisation Development International (ODI), CCI GrowthCon, and Breakthrough Management Group.

To get leaders up to speed on what Lean thinking and tools are all about, Faull will also be co-hosting a pre-conference workshop at the UCT Graduate School of Business on 26 September.

For details, contact (011) 805 6616 or email [email protected]

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