March 05 2024 -> March 06 2024

From November 2013 to March 2024, the EU-Japan Centre's Lean in Europe activity took small groups of lean enthusiasts to a company to see, learn and understand how it uses lean tools to drive its activities be that in manufacturing, services or indeed any other sector. The goal is for the participants to learn, see, understand and share good practice and to engage, challenge and provide feedback to the host company.

In total 33 visits were organised to 34 companies (some hosted more than one visit and some visits took in two companies), with a total of 704 participants. The first plant visited was LEGO's main plant in Billund, Denmark and the final plant visited was the TOYOTA Motor Manufacturing France plant in Valenciennes. Details of all the visits can be found in the Lean in Europe visit archive.

All the visits were led by the EU-Japan Centre's Lean Advisor, Richard Keegan (Adjunct Professor of Lean Operational Excellence at Trinity Business School) who coached the participants and led the debriefing/Q&A discussions ensuring that the participants gave feedback to their hosts to help them on their lean journeys.

Although the agenda varied between visits, the general visit structure was:

  • Evening of the first day - participants met for a group lean discussion / lean activity led by Richard Keegan, followed by a networking dinner. Often representatives of the next day's host company joined the group discussion and dinner.
  • Morning / early afternoon of the second day -
    • Introduction to the host company, its 'lean journey', its use of process optimisation, lean management tools and - where relevant - AI/IoT to drive its business forward,
    • Gemba visit with explanations to see the lean tools in operation and understand how they are used, sometimes with one or more process mapping exercises to enable the participants to analyse the host company's current process and give detailed suggestions,
    • Debriefing / feedback session allowing participants to ask questions, make comments and share their ideas with the host company.

The visits were free of charge - participants covered their travel and accommodation costs. The EU-Japan Centre covered the costs of the venue for the group discussion, the group dinner and the coach from the hotel to the host company and (after the visit) onto the airport.

Latterly, they were open to people working for an organisation that is a juridical person based in either the EU or a country associated to the Single Market Programme, SME Pillar. Participants were involved in their company / organisation's lean activities (often in a leadership role) and when applying were encouraged to give details about their lean role in their company, their company's lean strategy and motivation for having a place on the specific visit.

Between late 2020 and early 2022, the COVID pandemic meant that physical visits were not possible. The Lean in Europe activity was suspended and temporarily replaced with 12 virtual Lean Café webinars - discussions of all things lean led by Richard Keegan and attended by 536 people, each one with a different featured company. Session recordings and presentations can be found in the Lean Café webinar archive.

Although the Lean in Europe and Lean Café activities have ceased, the EU-Japan Centre continues to organise WCM missions in Japan to help European companies learn, understand, adapt and adopt and be inspired by the latest Japanese approaches to production excellence.



Highlights from three previous visits

Lean in Europe #29 - SkiBeat

Highlights from the 2023 visit to SkiBeat



Highlights from the 2022 visit to PakMarkas


Highlights from the 2017 visit to Hansa Matrix

An overview of all past visits and links to detailed information on each of them can be found in the Lean in Europe archive.

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