Barclay Chemicals field with machinery

Lean Case Study : Barclay Chemicals


Our client, Barclay Chemicals, is a family-owned Irish company.  It has been dedicated to the supply of crop protection products for over 30 years.

Based in Dublin, their fully integrated site delivers registration, manufacturing and distribution throughout Europe and beyond. Although their main focus is glyphosate, they also specialise in a growing range of herbicides and fungicides for the broad-acre market.

Their mission is to:

  • Provide agronomic performance for the grower and a low risk margin opportunity for customers.
  • Obtain independent product registrations.
  • Source the best raw materials globally.
  • Ensure complete traceability along their supply chain.

However, in 2016, the business started looking into new business tools that could help them improve their operations, particularly in the area of process improvement. They researched various lean training programmes and selected Lean Business Tools as the best fit for their needs.  While working with them, their employees identified several process improvements that could be made within their own work areas.  

In these 3 case studies, we’ll examine how Barclay Chemicals improved their processes using Lean Business Tools.  Read on to see how they used Preventive Maintenance, Continuous Improvement and Waste Elimination to improve their overall business.

Case Study 1: Preventive Maintenance

Leading companies know that it’s just as important to solve potential problems before they occur as it is to fix issues when they do arise. That’s where preventive maintenance comes in. While keeping an eye on important components and making sure everything runs smoothly, preventive maintenance can identify future problems so your team can address them before they cause any damage or issues for your company.

Key Challenge

One of Barclay Chemicals’ employees identified that there was no tracking system to identify preventive maintenance task lists.  In addition, he saw that time was being wasted trying to organise the workloads.  For instance, some team members were transferred from administration to maintenance and project work.

The objective of this lean project was to create a system to record preventive maintenance tasks.  Furthermore, they wanted a filing system for service reports and preventive maintenance reports.

Barclay Chemicals Products

8 Step Problem-Solving Process

In all our training programmes with our clients, we use the 8 Step Problem-Solving Process.  We’re going to outline this process below.

1) Identify the Problem

The first step in problem solving is to identify what needs to be fixed. While there are always multiple problems within a particular scenario, it’s important to first identify which one you want to fix.

In addition, there are two main types of problem-solving processes: reactive and proactive. In a reactive situation, someone has noticed an issue and is requesting that it be resolved. In a proactive situation, a manager or employee knows there is an issue and takes steps to address it without being told they need to do so by someone else.

Once you’ve identified that there are issues that need to be addressed, it’s important for everyone involved in resolving them to clearly understand what those issues are.

2) Current State

The next step in problem-solving is to establish a clear understanding of where you are now. It’s important to take an objective look at what your current situation is and compare it to what you want it to be.

3) Target

What’s causing your pain? What are you doing to fix it? Are you trying to make things better or are you making excuses for not taking action? To solve problems, we need to know what our target is. If we don’t set a clear target, we’ll waste time working on things that aren’t important—and end up further from where we want to be.

4) Root Cause Analysis

After determining exactly what problem needs to be solved, it’s time to look at why exactly it happened. How did we get here? What factors contributed to these problems occurring? Understanding what led up to a problem occurring can help you identify potential solutions going forward.

5) Select Countermeasures

After you’ve identified your problem, we analyse it and come up with a list of possible countermeasures to mitigate or minimise it. These are your failsafe’s—your contingencies should everything else fail—and you can develop as many as you need.

At this point, your team should have a clear idea of all related challenges and potential causes of each problem related challenge facing your organisation . Now is when alternative solutions should come into play — which include both short-term fixes as well as long-term ones.

6) Implementation

After much consideration, deliberation and problem analysis between multiple viable options, we decide on which course of action makes sense for your organisation moving forward.

An Action Plan relies heavily on adherence from management teams who set out specific deadlines, checklists and key tasks associated with achieving desired results over time .

7) Evaluation

After you have identified a problem, it is time to evaluate what your options are for dealing with it. Brainstorm every possibility that comes to mind, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

In addition, feedback collection is just as important during problem-solving processes as it is anywhere else within an organisation. Management should seek constructive feedback on not only their problem-solving abilities but also create opportunities for employees to give suggestions on how other problems can be fixed within their departments.

8) Standardisation and Learnings

Before you can solve a problem, you need to identify it—and in order to do that, you have to standardise. What are your experiences with solving problems? Do you go into each one with a fresh outlook, or do you tend to repeat the same steps every time? What worked for one problem might not work for another—so what are some general takeaways from previous experiences that could be applied in new problems? Be sure not to dismiss any idea out of hand if it could potentially benefit future issues.

Barclay Chemicals Brainstorming Event

Key Actions

Kaizen events are a key tool for improving a system. The idea is simple: execute small changes frequently in order to gain big improvements. With a kaizen event, the team identified an area of improvement.  Then, they analysed this problem using an Impact/Ease Chart.  This made it easier to track improvement over time.

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

Select the Countermeasures

Preventive maintenance helped Barclay Chemicals to optimise their performance and avoid costly downtime.

  1. No Tracking System.  First of all, the team identified that there was no tracking system.  They wanted to streamline a system to record completion and due dates per task.  In addition, they wanted to record the equipment history.
  2. Increased Requirements.Secondly, they wanted to manage tasks per area showing detailed standards, checks and results
  3. Time.  Next, Barclay Chemicals wanted to design new reports on due tasks.
  4. Hard copy recording & filing.  Finally, the team wanted to be able to key data into the new system from any location and scan reports to a reports library.

With a little problem solving, you can stay ahead of most potential problems. This in turn can have a big impact on your bottom line, as it makes more sense from an economic standpoint than fixing problems after they’ve already occurred. In today’s economy, businesses need every advantage possible, which is why companies large and small should seriously consider implementing a preventive maintenance program.

Barclay Chemicals Factory

Key Outcomes

One of the main outcomes of this project was a labour saving in terms of redeployment.   The company has maintained all machines by improving the reporting system.

Barclay Chemicals developed a streamlined tracking system.  As a result, this manages tasks per area showing detailed standards, checks and results.  The team implemented this project by having weekly team meetings and training users on the new system.  In addition, they are now able to input the data on tasks in the maintenance schedule.  Reports due and overdue create a new library for manuals at the user’s request.

At ETAC, we firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, this company has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

This is a massive improvement from where we were. Using Sharepoint is simple and easy to understand. Also the fact that we will be able to add to this with all our areas and lines will give us good reporting.

Case Study 2: Continuous Improvement

When it comes to continuous improvement, it’s sometimes easy to feel as though the only way to reach your goals is through hard work and long hours alone. In reality, however, that’s far from the truth.  Many companies have been able to achieve their continuous improvement goals through the wisdom of their employees and an investment in continuous improvement programs.

In this case study, you’ll find out how one employee saw an opportunity to use continuous improvement.  As a result, they achieved positive results through the help of his company’s efforts at making incremental improvements throughout their organisation.

Key Challenge

Another employee saw an opportunity to use continuous improvement tools.  His project was to reduce waste within the company.  He identified that time was being wasted compiling and searching for specifications on the Sharepoint database.  In this case study, this employee showed everyone else why continuous improvement really matters.

In collaboration with our client, we created a new specifications library in their Sharepoint database.  As a result, they implemented clear communications regarding specifications.  Finally, they standardised and documented the process in their work instructions.

Most importantly, Barclay Chemicals clearly defined the process.  This continuous improvement project has reduced the work by 50% with no duplication of data.

Barclay Chemicals Whiteboard

In analysing the problem, we used the 8 Step Problem-Solving Process which we have outlined above in the first case study.

Key Actions

First of all, we introduced a Kaizen event to brainstorm for ideas.  Moreover, it has a specific goal to improve a business process and minimise waste within a department or company.  Through “silent sharing”, we encourage all team members to think, reflect and share their ideas.

Next, we put all these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart.  This assesses 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.  Moreover, their assessment may change over time as other problems are resolved.  Then, we summarise these four activities 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.
Barclay Chemicals Current State

Selection of Countermeasures

Subsequently, we selected the following countermeasures:

  • Sharepoint issues– First of all, the company created a new specifications library in Sharepoint.
  • Communication– Secondly, the organisation recognised that they must have clear communication between Laboratory, Registration and Supply Chain regarding the specifications.
  • Responsibilities– Next, Barclay Chemicals defined all responsibilities and communicated these to all stakeholders.
  • Standardisation– Then, they standardised and documented all specification processes in the work instructions.
  • Administrator– Finally, Barclay Chemicals selected a Sharepoint Lab Administrator to audit the specifications library.

Key Outcomes

Since implementing the changes, management have reported the following key outcomes:

  • The Supply Chain and Registration departments now have direct access to the new specification database.
  • The site is easy to navigate.  Certainly, all specifications are placed in clearly defined categories.
  • Similarly, all specifications can now be directly e-mailed from the Sharepoint site.
  • There is a request box on the new site and any requests made are linked directly to the recipients outlook account.
  • Certainly, clear, concise and comprehensive work instructions are in place.
  • Finally, the site is now audited regularly and the duration of all requests will be checked to ensure that the process is running smoothly.

Learnings from This Case Study

Their focus on Lean principles has increased innovation in their development process. They are now able to experiment with new approaches in a more systematic way because they have established a culture of learning through data collection and analysis. By using Lean principles, they are improving business processes faster than ever before—and making better use of resources in order to create real value for customers.

At ETAC, we firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, this company has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

Our Department is very pleased with the new Specifications Library. We have now standardised the process. Furthermore, we have clearly defined everyone’s roles and responsibilities in the process. We now have access to the new site. This means that we can easily find what we need, email directly to our customers and contract manufacturers. This makes it a very efficient process. We no longer have to wait approximately 24 hours for the lab to deal with our requests.

Case Study 3: Waste Elimination

The goal of waste elimination is to keep your company competitive.  So, it’s essential to identify potential waste and develop ways to eliminate it.  In our third and final case study, we’ll show you how one employee was able to eliminate waste from their labels process and save the company approximately €40,000 per year.

Key Challenge

The Label Status Table (LST) is a crucial part of the labels process in the Commercial, Registration and Supply Chain Departments at Barclay Chemicals.  However, one employee reported that it had become too big and cumbersome to manage. 

Therefore, this employee identified an opportunity to move the LST to an alternative database on SharePoint.  As a result, this would make the process easier, quicker and more user friendly.  The organisation estimated that label scrappage has costed them €310,000 over a 3 year period.

  • Labels currently take on average 45 days to complete.
  • They were scrapping 14% of total labels ordered on average per year.
  • Approximately 3.33% of total labels ordered are scrapped due to admin error / mistakes on the label (29% of total scrap).

Objective of this Lean project

  • Reduce label completion time from 45 days to under 30 days.  This would represent a reduction of 35%.
  • Reduce avoidable / administration errors, annual label scrappage costs from an average of 3.33% to 2%.

In identifying and trying to find a solution to a particular problem, we use the 8 Step Problem-Solving Process (outlined above in Case Study 1).  In this case study, we wanted to ensure that everyone understood all aspects of the problem, including who was responsible for each step, and what resources they would need.

On an ongoing basis, the business monitored their process closely to ensure that all steps were being completed effectively and on time. Finally, they kept track of what has been eliminated through waste reduction, and created new targets for areas that could use improvement or reductions in future cycles.

Barclay Chemicals Labels

Key Actions

Next, we ran a Kaizen event with the company.  Consequently, this identified the issues causing the LST to be unfit for its purpose.  This enabled all team members to have an equal opportunity to voice their opinion.  Certainly, this worked very well as they generated a total of 33 issues in 5 minutes.

Following this event, we held a team meeting to plot the issues on to an Impact/Ease Chart.  This helped us identify all of the issues associated with the Label Status Table.  Then, they were able to focus on the most relevant issues and come up with countermeasures.


  • To start with, there were duplicate entries.  The information required was on the wrong line.  As a result, the system was open to error and bad data entry.
  • Next, there was no tracking of changes.  Furthermore, there was no notification process.  So, the Actions Section was too large.
  • Then, there was information missing on the system.  Moreover, this was a  labour intensive exercise as chemicals names were not uniform.
  • Finally, not all information was useful.

Key Outcomes

The company agreed to hold regular team meetings.  All team members decided the fields and layout of the database using an agreed layout of the label tracker and dashboard. 

Management have estimated that this Lean project reduced annual label scrappage costs by approximately €40,000 per year.

We firmly believe that the expertise to develop business process improvements already exist in every organisation.  Through their employees’ Lean projects, Barclay Chemicals has made significant continuous improvements to their business.

The new Label Status Table is a lot easier to use than the old spreadsheet. There is much more visibility and it is a lot easier to follow the progress of the labels. It is also great to be able to be able to assign a label to the next person in the workflow with an automatic email. It saves so much time.

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