Irish Examiner

Case Study 1 – Different Languages

This first Lean project was identified by an employee at the Irish Examiner.  As they were implementing a new media publishing system, they discovered that they spoke “different languages”.  Consequently, this led to a large volume of lost production time.

The company design pages based on requested article lengths.  These can be in inches, paragraph lengths or words.  None of them are incorrect.  But without a common standard, this is open to large variances.

By adopting a common standard and introducing set templates, this would eliminate waste within their business. 

The Irish Examiner is a different and distinct voice in the national discourse, highlighting stories and perspectives not found elsewhere.

8-Step Problem-Solving Process

In trying to solve a particular problem, we advise using the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process:

  1. Problem
  2. Current State
  3. Target
  4. Root Cause Analysis
  5. Select Countermeasures
  6. Implementation
  7. Evaluation
  8. Standardisation & Learnings
Irish Examiner newspaper

Key Challenges

First of all, the team identified the current state.  Each basis tabloid page was taking 45 minutes to produce.  They set a target of 15 minutes and budgeted accordingly.  However, they saw that they were wasting lots of time through over-production.  For instance, teams were building pages, undoing these and then rebuilding them.  They recognised that they were not applying the agreed standards.

So, this employee saw an opportunity to make improvements.  They are summarised as follows:

  • Firstly, the company should agree and choose the word count and templates to meet the requirements.
  • Next, these pages should match exactly what is required by the Content Commissioner.
  • As a result, this would provide time savings and a less frustrating experience for all involved.
  • Then, the team could spend time developing additional content and better design.

The aim of this project was to make a full suite of templates available to News, Features and the Sports Desk.  In addition, the company wanted to improve quality and save time.  Similarly, they wanted to keep an efficient newsroom moving.  Finally, they wanted to roll this proven procedure across all their newspaper titles.

Irish Examiner Kaizen Event

Key Actions

We organised a Brainstorming Session (Kaizen Event).  Next, the team discussed and evaluated all ideas.  Through “silent sharing”, the team gave feedback on what was the most frustrating aspect of their jobs.  What was causing the biggest waste of time?  This was a team process with buy-in encouraged for all – a shared solution that they would own.

Then, we put all these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart to assess the potential impact or benefits they will have on the company.  The result is a visual representation of where best to assign time and resources.  We don’t discard any issues as their assessment may change over time as other problems are resolved.  Therefore, these four activities can be summarised as follows:

  1. Just Do It – these ideas have high impact and are easy to do now.
  2. Why Not? – these issues have low impact and are easy to address.
  3. Projects – ideas that have high impact but are difficult to address.
  4. Not Now – issues that have low impact and are also difficult to address.

Following the Kaizen Event, the team presented and evaluated a number of ideas.

  • They decided to use word count as only a measure of content requirement.
  • Next, the team agreed templates with the News Desk, Features Desk and Sports Desk.
  • Then, they encouraged buy-in for the teams by making the templates their own.
  • As a result, they created a book of templates that can be chosen when needed.
  • Content Commissioners will choose templates and organise delivery of the correct content.
  • Above all, they wanted to keep email communication to a minimum.
  • Finally, the team put these templates on the company intranet site from where they could be chosen.

Key Outcomes

Firstly, management and staff achieved buy-in for this project.  Secondly, they created a book of templates and these are now being used on a daily basis.  Finally and most importantly, the company reduced the amount of time to create the pages.

Irish Examiner newspapers

Furthermore, the organisation implemented 5S as a means of decreasing waste.  This was achieved by optimising productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain). 

  • The team have now identified all pages by templates.  These can be easily chosen by any member of the team.
  • The folder contains three versions of each style of page.  If another version is needed, then it must replace one of the existing three.

As a result of this Lean project, the company has increased productivity as requests for changes has decreased.  Now, decisions are made at the start of the process which impact positively on the final outcome.  Most importantly, the team can produce pages in 15 minutes, when it previously used to take 45 minutes.


  • Non-clarity around communication can have a serious negative impact.
  • All it took for was for us to get agreement on a common measure.
  • Because we were fire-fighting, we failed to prioritise the cause of the blaze and the real time-saver.
  • Ownership is powerful.
  • The efforts of a small team can have a big impact.
  • Our Lean journey is just beginning.


We firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  This has clearly been the case in the Irish Examiner.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, the company has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

ETAC has worked with the Irish Examiner to streamline their business and improve their processes.  We hope you enjoyed reading this case study on Different Languages.  You may be interested in reading the two other case studies featured here Case Study 2 – Advertising System and Case Study 3 – Purchase Order System.  All our case studies are available here.