Irish Examiner Newspapers Lean Case Study with Lean Teams

Lean Case Study – The Irish Examiner

Established in 1841, the Irish Examiner, formerly The Cork Examiner and then The Examiner, is an Irish national daily newspaper published in Cork, Ireland. The newspaper is primarily distributed in the Munster region surrounding its headquarters in Cork, but it is available throughout the country.  Readership for this newspaper has grown to over 236,000.  Over the last number of years, the newsroom has shifted to digital, with the majority of stories breaking first online.

Lean Project Objectives

The Irish Examiner first worked with us in 2013, and we have continued to work with them through our Lean Business Tools training program since then.  Their employees identified several process enhancements that could be implemented in their own work area.  A summary of three of these Lean projects is provided below.

Case Study 1 – Different Languages

An employee at the Irish Examiner identified this first Lean project. They discovered they spoke “different languages” while implementing a new media publishing system. As a result, they lost a significant amount of production time.

By way of background, the company creates pages based on the lengths of articles that are requested. These can be measured in inches, paragraphs, or words. However, without a common standard, this is subject to wide variations.  By adopting a common standard and implementing set templates, the aim of this project was to reduce waste in their business.

8-Step Problem-Solving Process

We recommend using the 8-Step Problem-Solving Process when attempting to solve a specific problem:

Key Challenges

First and foremost, the team determined the current state of the problem. Each basic tabloid page took 45 minutes to create. They set a 15-minute time limit and budgeted accordingly. However, they realised that they were wasting a lot of time by producing too much. For example, teams were creating pages, then undoing them and rebuilding them.  In the end, the team agreed that they were not adhering to the set standards.

One employee saw an opportunity to improve.

  • First, the company must agree on and select the required word count and templates.
  • Next, these pages should perfectly match what the Content Commissioner needed.
  • This in turn would save time and making the experience less frustrating for everyone involved.
  • Then, the team could then devote time to creating additional content and improving the design.

The goal of this project was to provide a complete set of templates to News, Features, and the Sports Desk. Furthermore, the company wanted to improve quality while saving time as well as maintaining an efficient newsroom.  Finally, they wanted to implement this procedure across all of their newspaper titles.

Key Actions

In all of our Lean Projects with the Irish Examiner, we scheduled a Brainstorming Session (Kaizen Event). Following that, the team discussed and evaluated all of the ideas. The team provided feedback on the most frustrating aspect of their jobs through “silent sharing.” What was causing the most time waste? This was a team process in which everyone was encouraged to buy in to a shared solution that they would own.

Irish Examiner Kaizen Event with Leanteams

Then, we put all of these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart to determine the potential impact or benefits on the company. The end result was a visual representation of where time and resources should be allocated. We did not discard any issues because their evaluation may change over time as other issues are resolved.  These four activities can be summed up as follows:

  • Just Do It – these ideas have a big impact and are simple to implement right now.
  • Why not? – these are minor issues with simple solutions.
  • Projects – high-impact ideas that are difficult to implement.
  • Not Now – issues with little impact but are also difficult to address.

Following the Kaizen Event, the team presented and assessed the following ideas:

  • First, they decided to use word count as only one criterion for content.
  • The team then worked with the News Desk, Features Desk, and Sports Desk to develop templates.
  • Next, they encouraged team buy-in by customising the templates.
  • As a result, they created a book of templates from which they can choose when needed.
  • The Content Commissioners were able to select templates and coordinate the delivery of appropriate content.
  • Above all, they wished to limit email communication.
  • Finally, the team uploaded these templates to the company intranet site, where they could be easily selected.

Key Outcomes

First and foremost, management and staff gained support for this project. Second, they created a template book, which is now being used on a daily basis.  Most importantly, the company cut the time it took to create the pages.

Finally, the organisation implemented 5S Workplace Organisation to reduce waste. This was accomplished by increasing productivity by maintaining an orderly workplace (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain).

The team assigned templates to all pages.  Now, any member of the team can easily select one of these.  Each page style has three versions in the folder.  If another version is required, then he/she must replace one of the current three.

As a result of this Lean project, the company’s productivity has increased while change requests have decreased. Decisions are now made at the start of the process that have a positive impact on the final outcome.  The team can now produce pages in 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes.

Case Study 2 – Advertising System

Another employee at the Irish Examiner identified this second Lean project. All advertisements for the Irish Examiner are designed and produced by the Advertisement Production Department. However, since they implemented a new advertising system, the processing time for content received via email has significantly increased.  As a result, there was a significant waste of labour and associated costs.

By eliminating processing time, this employee saw an opportunity to reduce master ad processing time. In a nutshell, this project had the potential to boost departmental performance.

Irish Examiner Workflow with Leanteams

Key Actions

After working through the 8 Step Problem-Solving Process, we collaborated with the team to do a Kaizen Event among the relevant team members.  Next, we put all these ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart to evaluate the potential impact or benefits on the company.

The team then put these countermeasures into action by applying the 5S Workplace Organisation and Asset Care principles.  First, the company automated the process of creating master ads.  Secondly, they automated the processing time for each advert.

Key Outcomes

·       First, the data showed that the newspaper saved money through automation.

·       However, they agreed that they needed more training.

·       Above all, the team achieved a significant reduction in lead time, and the time savings were then applied to other slower processes.

Case Study 3 – Purchase Order System

Another employee identified an opportunity to improve his own work environment. He realised that the current Purchase Order System was inefficient. There were also numerous delays between activities.

As a result, they were simply wasting time while waiting for approval of completed actions. Furthermore, there were unnecessary clarification requests. This created an unnecessary volume of work for managers and employees.  In reality, getting reports from multiple spreadsheets proved impossible.

Key Challenges

To begin, different departments have different thresholds. As a result, Purchase Orders will only be issued for amounts greater than a certain Euro value.  Second, there was no dependable logged time data.  Finally, this employee advised that data needed to be re-entered again into a master finance Excel file.

Lean Case Study Purchase Order System with Leanteams

The goal of this Lean Project was to:

• Eliminate non-value-added activities or input duplication.

• Remove non-value-added time from the process (manual emailing).

• Set up automated email alerts with relevant and descriptive subject lines to help managers identify urgent requests.

• Include a link in the email to the pre-filled form so that it can be updated immediately.

• Reduce data duplication in a master finance spreadsheet.

Key Actions

We engaged with the team by implementing the 8 Step Problem Solving Process.  After introducing a Kaizen Event to identify waste in the process, we put all the team’s ideas on an Impact/Ease Chart.

Following that, the company decided on a number of countermeasures:

  • To begin, they wanted to create a web-based form. This would include email notifications with hyperlinks to form request data.
  • They then wanted to connect the web-form to a single Google sheet with structured data.
  • Finally, the team needed to provide a report that could be customised by the user. The Finance Department would, in turn, use this to return the required data sets.

Key Outcomes

Prior to this project, employees had gathered Purchase Order Requests using a complex spreadsheet.  Team members now use a standardised web form as a result of this employee’s Lean project. As a result, the completion time has been reduced to 1.5 minutes.

  • The company estimated that email and data re-entry would save between 90 and 220 hours per year.
  • They also combined several spreadsheets into one. Without a doubt, they have removed visual checks through built-in email notifications.

As a result, the company now offers a comprehensive suite of reports based on new ‘structured data’.


We are convinced that every organisation has the expertise required to develop business process improvements. The Irish Examiner clearly demonstrates this. The company has made significant continuous improvements to their business through their employees’ Lean projects.

We hope you enjoyed reading about these Lean Case Studies from the Irish Examiner. You may be interested in reading about our other Lean Case Studies   All our case studies are available here.  Please connect with us on Linkedin and Twitter.

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