Skip to main content

About Giles

Hi, my name is Giles Johnston and Smartspeed is my trading name.

This page is to answer the question "who is behind this blog", so let me share with you a little of my background so that you can get to know me a bit better.

My fascination with all things production began when I was about 14 years old. I visited a forging plant on an open day and was allowed to have a play with the controls of some very large hammers. I thought that the idea of making things on this scale was really exciting. I asked my father what kind of jobs there were in factories, his answer was 'engineers'.

It was at this point that I decided that I'd like to become an engineer and, so, after doing my GCSEs and A-levels I signed up to complete a degree in engineering.

Whilst studying for my degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management I worked for a couple of manufacturing businesses (one being a local business and the other being a large internationally recognised one) and realised that solving production problems was just as much fun as I thought it would be.

After graduating from university I went to work in my first 'proper' job at a rubber moulding company. The graduate training scheme was cut short and I was given a baptism of fire by being given control over a loss making business unit with 35 operators running a 24 / 5 shift pattern... interesting days. After a near mutiny and some frank conversations, the Team Leaders and I shaped this limping part of the business to become the most profitable business unit in our division. To achieve this result I worked with my team to triple the output of an originally troublesome machine, fixed our scheduling problems and helped to implement ERP across the site.

I'd originally planned to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and hoped my next role as a Project Production Engineer for a large Japanese wiring business would help me to achieve this . Although this role didn't appear to be getting me any closer to my CEng ambition it was invaluable in terms of learning what Lean Manufacturing really was and going through the Toyota Production System as a tier one supplier. I decided that my future wasn't with this organisation and, after a technology transfer of the production out of the country, I moved into the power generation sector.

Wow, this was my playground. I got to complete such a breadth of manufacturing engineering projects that my CEng status was soon achieved. I also decided to complete a part time Masters degree in Strategy and Resource Management to broaden my thinking. After achieving both of these goals I was asked if I would transfer into the production side of the business as we were struggling with output. I had also implemented the majority of this business' ERP system and so this was an interesting challenge to undertake.

After several months of misery, and overseeing chronic poor delivery performance to our customers, I finally got the break I needed. I negotiated with my colleague to protect some of my time to enable me to implement some of the changes we needed. I levelled production, fixed our contract review process, implemented shop floor data capture, built a capacity planning tool, introduced exception reporting and coached my Team Leaders to manage the performance in their own areas. The changes paid off and I was then able to snowball these gains to the point where my daily responsibilities only took minutes out of the day. Between myself, my colleague and my Team Leaders we were able to convert our awful performance (22% average on time in full delivery performance and a 19 week manufacturing lead time) to become the best in our market (98% average on time delivery performance and a 3.5 week lead time). I left the business to pursue another adventure, but watched the business steadily increase its gross margin as it tripled its turnover without increasing headcount, using the system that we had put in place. Very satisfying.

My next job was with a prestigious local university working as a Senior Engineering Consultant. After working with a number of local businesses I then took a couple of weeks off to get married. After being quizzed by numerous people on the honeymoon about what I did I realised that my future did not lie in this job. But where did it lie?

The moon and the stars aligned, and a number of offers came my way. One of them was so tempting that I took it, and ultimately it launched Smartspeed back in November 2005.

Since then I have worked with many different businesses, mainly in the manufacturing sector; manufacturing is a great industry to be involved with and this job has been by far the best job I have had. Along with delivering my consultancy services I have created a number of 'how to' books and developed practical tools to help businesses improve (see the links on the left hand side). I also mentor up and coming engineers to help them get their CEng status.

Ok, enough about me!

Enjoy the blog,


Giles Johnston

Popular posts from this blog

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Continuous Improvement and the Five Legged Race

Many improvement projects need the buy in of several people before they can progress. Amongst these people there will be some that have a firm view of what needs to happen and are keen to make progress. Some of the people won't be sure and they will need more time. Other people might not be that interested and have other priorities they want to focus on.

None of this is wrong.

It is an observation of mine and one that I see repeat on a regular basis with the businesses that I come into contact with.

But, if we take the principle from the observation we have an interesting improvement strategy (one that I personally use when I get stuck with my client's improvement projects).

You might have worked out the approach from the title of this blog post, but it is analogous to a three-legged race (or four, five, nine...). If someone in the group moves in the wrong direction and / or at the wrong speed then the whole group falls over.

In the example I gave at the start it is no differe…

Do you have time to prepare (in order to become super productive)?

I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a team that was complaining about one of their colleagues spending 'ages' preparing their workstation within their factory. I meet a lot of people that spend too long preparing (and effectively procrastinating) so I was intrigued by their comment. It turns out that this individual didn't spend too long but rather his colleagues dived into their work without thinking through what the best way to work was...

The slower to start gentleman did in fact prepare his work area. He was also able to produce a far greater amount of work in the same time period because he had invested in a smarter way of working than his counterparts. The time spent preparing his working area was valuable and not overdone.

This example reminds us of the importance of the second S in 5S (set in order) and how workstation design is critical if we want to maximise the productivity of our teams. Whether this is a physical work area in a factory, the filing s…