CASE STUDIES

North Star case studies highlight the applicability of our approach across a wide variety of industries and challenges. The successful outcomes result from the alignment of well scoped projects to business objectives, building appropriate governance disciplines, and delivering the projects effectively in a partnered manner with business resource.

Pan-European Manufacturing Company - Margin Improvement

Challenge

  • Company had an unclear understanding of product profitability and no process for its regular review and improvement in all product lines throughout all countries of operation.

Approach

  • Quick, development of robust measurement of product margin and volume that set realistic targets and highlighted gaps;
  • Project-based approach in which cross-functional product and country teams identified levers to improve product profitability in all stages, from the sourcing of components to sales and distribution, and took improvement actions;
  • After proven success in first wave of projects, the approach was instituted as a core “business as usual” Finance-led discipline.
Results
  • Chairman of the Board acknowledged project as a best practice;
  • £1m+ of increased margin in first wave of small, short-cycle projects;
  • Improvement actions included better component sourcing practices, negative margin elimination through discontinued manufacture or re-pricing, product mix improvement, increased salesperson training on product margins, new compensation structures to drive more profitable behaviour and many others.
 

Global Operations of Investment Bank - Management Information Capability

Challenge

  • The investment bank had no management information capability to report timely, accurate information to clients or its managers to support decision-making.  Information available was of poor integrity and incomplete while its production had a single point of failure and was unstable.

Approach

  • Use of best practice process disciplines to identify required key measures for both internal and external stakeholders;
  • Gap analysis of required versus existing measures with resulting rationalisation of current non-critical reporting and immediate improvement of required reporting;
  • Development of capability to report previously unavailable measures;
  • Migration from unsupported Access database reporting infrastructure to a robust one, with dedicated team with off-shore production and development and on-shore analytical support.
Results
  • Acknowledged bank-wide best practice for both quality of reporting as well as speed and rigour of solution;
  • Full, global suite of reports for internal and external stakeholders that were fundamental to running internal operations more effectively and making better commercial decisions;
  • Cost of solution was self-funded through the discontinuation of fragmented “cottage industry” MI production efforts and through the productivity uplift derived from use of the resulting reports.
 

UK-based Financial Services Company - Off-shoring

Challenge

  • The company faced significant cost reduction and volume increase challenges in a highly competitive market. Off-shoring was a potential approach to help meet this but there was no expertise in this discipline. 

Approach

  • Quick and thorough understanding of the challenges and positioning of off-shoring as a vehicle to meet both cost and competitive challenges:  wage differential on 50 staff and opportunity to drive speed and accuracy of off-shored transactional processes and upgrade the customer-facing roles remaining on-shore;
  • Thorough review of processes to identify roles that could be off-shored vis-à-vis criteria that included process complexity, regulatory requirements, customer contact and other key assessment areas;
  • Pre- and intra-transfer process improvement to effect smoothest transition and stream-lined, controlled processes both on- and off-shore.
Results
  • Significant, quantifiable improvement in the speed and accuracy of off-shored transactional processes versus an on-shore baseline; aggregate process improvement of moving from 87% to 96% of units transacted within highest target level, with the setting and meeting of a higher challenge within three months;
  • Transformation of remaining on-shore roles to become more customer-focused and sales orientated;
  • Sales leader indicated that the resulting operation, in terms of delivering a consistently excellent customer-focused service, was the best he had seen in more than fifteen years in the industry.
 

Pan-European Manufacturing Company - Commercial Analysis and Margin Improvement

Challenge

  • In a largely commoditised industry, a top-end, innovative product was losing volume and margin through suspected grey market activity. 

Approach

  • Development of a measurement system and then rigorous data analysis of monthly volumes and prices split by region and customer identified where volumes and margins were being lost;
  • Thorough review with cross-functional teams of potential reasons for specific volume and margin loss was conducted that unearthed a variety of issues that would require action. Foremost of these, upon further review that included data-driven customer consultation, was a proven grey market that was fed by product imported from Asia.
Results
  • Comprehensive controls were established with customers, along with customer education of the additional features of the company’s product versus the Asian version, that effectively closed the grey market gaining the lost margin of more than £1 million on an annualised basis.
 

UK-Based Financial Services Company - Cost Reduction

Challenge

  • A London-based insurance company required significant cost reductions.

Approach

  • From a standing start at the beginning of the fiscal year, a full review of potential short-cycle cost reduction opportunities was conducted in conjunction with budget holders;
  • Following opportunity identification, a governance foundation was established with resulting co-goaled targets for the project teams and budget holders;
  • Lean Six Sigma Black Belts led projects to improve productivity from established baselines, ensuring either a neutral or positive impact on service. Improvements ranged from improved allocation and flow of work through reduction of bottlenecks and non-value adding activities, to the transfer of work to appropriate skill types, e.g. moving admin type activities from high skilled workers to ring fenced admin utilities for cost arbitrage savings.
Results
  • £800k fiscal year and £2.1m annual savings through reduced FTE requirement directly attributable to project activities;
  • Return on investment was 5x while the mandate of no negative impact on service was met.
 

UK-Based Financial Services Company - New Product Development

Challenge

  • New products had numerous significant problems that included: 
    •  being continually late to market;
    •  missing volume and margin targets;
    •  causing customer complaints regarding features and in-life service.
  •   There was no ownership of new product development nor an established process.

Approach

  • A cross-functional team led by a Black Belt was established to establish a new process with clear roles for all parties;
  •  A rigorous process was established that included the following:
    • the capture of customer requirements for, and later integration within, new products;
    • a structured approach for the assessment of product ideas with cost/benefit analysis; approved proposals would be managed within a clear process through various tollgates;
    • clear roles for all parties associated with a new product from its development to launch and in-life administration
Results
  • A clear, well-governed process was established for all new product developments that eliminated all the acknowledged issues; products matched customer needs, were launched on time, were well supported by the business post-launch, etc.
  • Incremental margin was difficult to measure due to the lack of a clear baseline as a result of there not being a previous process with financial disciplines. However, the most conservative assessment estimated a full year margin improvement of more that £400k in addition to the qualitative benefits in customer satisfaction and reduced internal issues.