First of all, my apologies for having to back out of the Houston meeting in two weeks. I hope you understand given the opportunity in front of me with my current position that I described when we spoke. In my absence, I wanted to provide a brief overview of my perspective on the GES Lean program as well as make sure you pass on my offer to speak with the CEO or delegate for your prospective client.
Set up & Background:
As quick background for the client, I was CEO of GES Exposition Services for four years starting in 2006 after 5 years as a Senior Executive in the company. GES produces tradeshows, meaning the design (look and feel + logistical), pre-show fabrication (structures, carpet, graphics, etc), installation, and dismantle of shows. As order of magnitude, GES produces greater than 3,500 tradeshows annually, spanning every industry across the United States, Canada, UK, and the UAE. The company produces some of the best known and largest shows in the world, including International Consumer Electronics, Chicago or LA Auto, Craft & Hobby, International Council of Shopping Centers, MAGIC, UK Spring Fair, etc. Overall, the company employees nearly 20,000 union and non-union workers, generating greater than $800MM in annual revenue as one of two clear US market leaders and the only true international player.
From 2004 to 2008, GES experienced record growth, driven by three principle factors.
- Global expansion plans through M&A and Greenfield start-ups
- Products and Services (e.g. exhibits, carpet, furniture, transportation) sales growth to exhibitors on GES shows
- Labor Productivity driven by best practice implementation and supported by technology solutions
Challenge (or Opportunity):
In early 2008, labor productivity gains had started to slow as the best practices had been in place for several years. Complicating that, labor costs were rising at a much faster pace than price increases creating margin compression on the business. It was clear that GES needed its’ next wave of transformation, which is when I met you and the Accenture team.
After an exhaustive assessment and some in-depth learning of our business by your team, you and Damian sat me and my COO down to outline the opportunity. I still remember the conversation as your slide showed a full potential of greater than $50MM of cost opportunity from a full-scale lean program. This was a large number that was hard to get our heads around given the success and good work that we done in the recent past. Once we suspended our doubt and listened to your detailed thoughts, it became clear to me that you were underselling the opportunity. With a full lean transformation, there truly was greater than $50MM of opportunity in labor, materials, rework, and space requirements. This was a breakthrough opportunity that was formed by picking up “thousands of small bills” versus the “large, obvious bills” we had been focused on throughout the years.
As you know, we decided to move forward with the program, starting GES Lean in early 2009. The first order of business was to get the Senior team bought it and driving the results. With your suggestion, that was done through a series of actions – clearly outlining the opportunity, aligning incentives, assigning ownership within the team, etc. Next came the path toward execution. We wanted fast results, but we also wanted to create something that will last. With that, we chose a joint approach with your team focused on our four largest locations. We introduced concepts and let the teams gain their own buy-in, but we sometimes had to move certain people or obstacles out of the way if they simply refused to participate. Together, we generated some remarkable results that were previously thought to be impossible. In short order, we came up with process improvement opportunities that starting yielding multi-million dollar labor savings. We found ways to significantly reduce forklift rentals. We were able to reduce the footprint of our Las Vegas warehouse from nearly 1 Million square feet to just over half that size (keeping the same equipment). The amazing thing to me was that the solutions were simple and common sense. The only thing they required was open minded participation on what was possible.
As you know, I left GES at the end of 2009, but I am happy to report that GES Lean stills lives on. It is an important part of what they are doing moving forward.
You know the story, process, and results as well as I do, so feel free to fill in further details.
I hope that helps. Please make sure your prospective client has my contact information which is listed below, including my cell phone.