Certification Europe

3 keys to competitiveness by Michael Brophy

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Source: Certification Europe

Michael Brophy lays out the 3 keys to competitiveness at EU Presidency conference

Certification Europe CEO addresses EU Presidency conference about sustainable jobs and competitiveness.

Michael Brophy, Certification Europe's CEO will address a conference organised by the EU Presidency and Enterprise Ireland that addresses driving competitiveness and delivering growth and sustainable jobs alongside other leading businesses such as Toyota, Porsche, Diageo, Glanbia and Dawn Meats.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish EU presidency and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation invited forty leading European, Japanese and Irish firms to deliver case studies that explain how they have managed to deliver growth and jobs in such a difficult economic time.

This conference aims to provide attendees with examples of what does and doesn't work in the modern economic climate and will offer interested parties the chance to listen to seven case studies during the one day event.

We spoke to him before his presentation to get an understanding of what he will speak about as part of Certification Europe's case study.

Why have we been chosen to be part of the leading Irish businesses represented at Dublin Castle today?

(Michael Brophy) At Certification Europe we pride ourselves on innovation, on changing standard thinking. By conducting a lean business review and making three simple changes to the way in which we were conducting our business we managed to increase our utilisation rate, decrease our delivery cycle and have a very big positive affect on our bottom line.

This lean process review is normally associated with manufacture but we felt that it could apply to our Certification Services. This was a bottom to top review, every element of the process was analysed and it gave us a chance to drive innovation which we feel is in the very DNA of the company. Every member of the team was involved and understood how important it was. We didn't attempt to change the way we conducted our business. We just simplified some business processes and got the basics right. This meant we didn't have to spend a fortune and we focused on what skills and talents existed within the company already.

Four years ago our business was stalling, we had run into challenges. Our administrative team was stretched creating a bottleneck that limited growth, in particular overseas. We were very busy but with limited margins because our assessors were only utilised approximately 60% of the time. Gaps in information slowed our decision making process.

All of these things combined gave us a delivery cycle of 127 days, far too long. We had growth despite the economic downturn but our growth was stifled. It was the case of the proverbial “busy fool”.

Can you give us an example of the changes Certification Europe's management made at the time?

(MB) We broke it down into 3 simple steps.

We gathered all of our information into one place. This allowed us to view how our resources had been allocated. We also reorganised our internal know how, and took stock of our potentials and skill sets but also our areas for improvement.

We then simplified the steps in our processes for delivery service. Our flow charts and process maps are now very easy to read, very easy to use for everyone in the organisation. They are always open to lean management improvements. This initial process gave us a 30% reduction in the delivery cycle which for us is a massive saving.

We also gave the responsibility for service provision to one manager where as before various responsibilities had been with numerous departments and managers. This position was created and filled internally, and the person had the skills that made them ideally suited for the role, because they came from an internal position they understood the culture of the business.

What has been the outcome of these changes?

(MB) In 2009 we had 340 overseas clients and 20 staff. In just 4 years we have seen this grow, year on year, to 640 client and 52 staff without any additional administrative overhead. The business now supports over 2000 assessments in 14 different countries.

We improved our assessor’s utilisation up to above 75% while also seeing them report a better work/life balance.

Our delivery of this competitiveness did not involve revolutionary thinking or an amazing insight or break-through; we just made three very simple but very fundamental changes to the way we operated.  It did not cost a fortune or require any significant capital expenditure. We did need to get an external view in order to see the opportunities, being too close to the issues ourselves, so the support from Enterprise Ireland way a key facet of our improvement. We are now a far more efficient and far more competitive business.

So what makes Certification Europe's case relevant to most other businesses?

(MB)We are a service based organisation, just like every other service provider in the country we have to drive our business via efficiencies and because our resourcing issues were based on our staff constraints I think that most other businesses can identify with this sooner or later.

Our delivery of this competitiveness did not involve revolutionary thinking or an amazing insight or break-through; we just made three very simple but very fundamental changes to the way we operated.  It did not cost a fortune or require any significant capital expenditure. We did need to get an external view in order to see the opportunities being too close to the issues ourselves so the assistance from Enterprise Ireland was vitally important. We are now a far more efficient and far more competitive business.

Thanks very much for your time Michael.

(MB)That's smashing, no problem.

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