Insights into Excellence: Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

image of Snowdonia with dwr cymru logo over the top

I have just attended an outstanding first visit to Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (‘DCWW’) in Cardiff, which provided numerous transferable ideas for the visitors that took part.  The company began their lean journey in 2011 and shared openly some of the key highlights and activities that are driving their programme both now and into the future.

DCWW is a highly complex business that manages over 3,000 employees, 3 million customers, 60 km of pipes and 40,000 hectares of land.  It contributes around £1 billion to the Welsh economy and is now also a major supplier of electricity.   It differs from the UK’s other large water companies in that it is a Not-For-Profit.

What I loved was the fact that the company has considered it’s burning platform.  They have understood that momentum and engagement and therefore the desire for change are improved when there is a rationale.  They are facing competition, but their biggest lean drivers are to:

  • improve customer service and
  • reduce the cost to serve.

The sheer diversity of the business and the fact the majority of staff work across remote geographic areas creates a few challenges for their lean programme. They haven’t resolved all of these yet, but they have made a very good start.  To date, the Lean programme has already driven significant benefits for the company, such as:

  • Increased gas production
  • 80% call out reduction
  • 25% reduction in month end reporting
  • Automated HR systems
  • Embedded Standard Work Calendar
  • Stabilised capacity planning

The highlights for the visitors and myself were:

Clear Roadmap

The Lean Model developed and adopted by DCWW has four key areas of focus:

  • Customer – Voice of the Customer
  • Culture – how do they get people to be re-active, how do they coach and develop the right leadership behaviours
  • Capability – Building and deploying the right tools for the business.
  • Systems of Work – Making CI business as usual

This is supported by a great six step deployment roadmap which is in the process of being rolled-out across the business.  See Diagram – the roadmap outlines a 6-12 month programme and within each step there are a clear activities and measures See Diagram

Lean Leadership Programme

Building capability and the right systems of work that will support the organisations strategic vision have been fundamental to engaging all employees in lean and continuous improvement.  A combination of a solid lean training programme, which is accredited by the Lean Competency Centre (LCS) and Cardiff University, combined with strong communication and strategy deployment has allowed them to gain traction across the business.

The structured programme is supported by a very useful Lean booklet which covers the strategy, definitions, useful problem-solving tools and communication guidelines.  It provides a great reference for all those within the business and ensures alignment.

100 Day Plans – my favourite transferable idea!

DCWW have deployed the 100-day improvement plan to support the CI activities across their sites.  Every team must set their 100-day plan which is then reported against.  It is a rolling programme and is supported by awards such as the 100-day Hero, and Team Awards.  The activities are all monitored and stored on the Lean Infozone for cross-company reference.

Problem Solving White Boards

During the visit to Cogs Moor we were fortunate to see how the Lean Leadership Programme translated into action.  The treatment site which is just one of several hundred satellite facilities across Wales, has really engaged and adopted the tools and opportunities that the lean programme has provided.  This is particularly evident in the substantial improvements in Asset Care and downtime.  The Problem Solving White Boards have been developed in house and can be taken anywhere on site.  They trigger best practice thinking in problem solving such as five why’s, fishbone analysis and PDCA.  The team actively use the board to resolve problems on site.  It is quick, efficient and practical.

Tidy Tuesdays

A great and easy quick win for DCWW was to introduce Tidy Tuesdays, where a focus is given to implementing Five S in a specific section or area.  For larger or more geographically distributed sites, this is a simple yet effective solution to maintaining a regular pulse of activity.


There were some great questions during the day and brilliant dialogue from the attendees which reminded me again why these visits drive so many benefits for participants.

One of the questions was about how you overcome resistance to change.  Mat Jackson, the companies CI Manager was quite open and honest saying that they were incredibly lucky at DCWW as everyone’s intentions are good and there is a clear desire to do the right thing for the customer, so the culture underpinned the ability to make the changes that were needed.

For me this reconfirms the need for organisations to get cultural alignment first before embarking on lean transformation.  Always focus on the customer and their needs first to drive step change within your company.

With thanks

I would like to extend my enormous thanks to Mat Jackson, Mat Johnson and John Boyd from DCWW and all those that made our visit so welcoming.

The next visit to DCWW is on 17 May 2018.  Please do contact me for further information or visit