Lean production at Portakabin
A Portakabin case study

Page 2: What is lean production?

The aim of lean production is to reduce the quantity of resources used. Lean production should mean less use of labour, materials, space and time. Portakabin uses three main production methods.

Portakabin is working towards eliminating waste in each of the three areas. Lean production makes it possible to eliminate waste by reducing defects so that products are 'right first time' and are of a quality that meets customer requirements.

Quality is a top level objective for the company therefore Portakabin uses a Quality Management System. The purpose of this is to make sure that every aspect of what the company does is designed to give customers what they want, for example, a safer learning environment or a more inspiring office. High quality is supported through a process known as Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese term which means continuous improvement. Kaizen is typically achieved through small, regular steps rather than the occasional large change. It enables everyone at all levels in the organisation to contribute to improvements. Everyone who works for Portakabin is encouraged to suggest ways of improving production. New ideas bubble up from employees at every stage. For example, an employee in stores may have a good idea about how to manage stock more effectively. Everyone is therefore working to improve quality and give better value to customers.

Portakabin is approved to meet theInternational Standards ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. In order to gain these awards, companies must prove their achievements to International Standards Organisations. Being accredited to International Standards tells customers that an organisation meets the tough guidelines set by awarding bodies.

Meeting ISO 9001 shows that Portakabin has a Quality Management System which among other things ensures that:

  • it has a documented set of procedures for all key processes in the business and that these processes are checked for efficiency
  • outputs are checked for defects and put right where necessary.

Meeting ISO 14001 shows that Portakabin also has a well organised environmental management system. An environmental management system helps an organisation to reduce its impact on the environment and minimise pollution.

The emphasis on quality can be illustrated by the Portakabin Lilliput products. Lilliput Children's Centres are designed to be child-focused. They meet the tough safety and care standards that have been created to protect children:

  • The Children's Centres provide a resource for the whole community.
  • They can be built in half the time it takes to build using traditional methods.
  • Multi-functional rooms can be used as kitchens, crèche facilities, and training rooms as well as nurseries.

This contrasts with the much slower process of traditional building with bricks and mortar. These buildings take far longer to construct and building work may be delayed, for example, by poor weather.

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