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Hello readers!

Firstly, let me convey our best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2020, and we hope you have had a lovely festive season for those celebrating.

Being as we are in the depths of Scotland’s winter, we thought we would take the opportunity to reflect on warmer times. Very warm in fact, 40°C and above in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where our Managing Director Mark Robinson spent a few days in August last year. There, Mark had the pleasure of delivering a series of workshops and a seminar to the staff members of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals during the University’s annual Reporting Period, which runs before the start of every academic year.

Established in September 1963, the University has quickly advanced to the forefront of education in the scientific, technical and management aspects of the petroleum and mineral industry. It is a medium-sized institution, with the student population, currently sitting at around 8,000, similar to the numbers here at St Andrews, as is the case with academic staff; a little over 800 spread across a range of faculties from the College of Engineering, through to the KFUPM Business School. You can find out more about the University here.

Development opportunities within this year’s theme of ‘Towards Transforming Education for the Future of Work’, were open to both academic and professional staff of the University, and of these, Mark delivered a seminar on ‘Introducing Lean in Higher Education’, as well as four further workshops titled ‘Lean: what do we want?’, ‘Lean Process Improvement: eight-step model’, ‘Scoping process improvement activity using BOSCARD’ and ‘Lean in Action’ respectively.

With the seminar being helped along to an excellent start by an insightful introduction from Deanship of Academic Development and Chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department, Dr. Mohammed S. Ba-Shammakh, all the sessions were very productive, with staff engaging well with the Lean tools, techniques and models in both the seminar and more intimate workshop formats. One activity that served to illustrate some of the key Lean concepts in an entertaining, interactive way, was the Ball Game, in which the elimination of waste – a cornerstone of Lean methodology – forms a big part; click here for more on the eight wastes. After some initial chaos, two groups of 25 people worked together to produce a well-oiled (no pun intended), efficient system for passing the ball to every member of the team in the shortest time. You can find more on this game in the following blog.

Feedback from these sessions included the following:

“The workshops were fantastic! One of my new goals for this school year is to use the Lean process to streamline our general chemistry program operations.”

Outside of the lecture theatre, although not so divergent in ethos from the training taking place there, Mark had the opportunity to visit the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a beacon for collaboration and knowledge creation right on the doorstep of the University. Camels were also a feature of Mark’s travels around Dhahran, wonderful animals and of course an icon of Saudi national culture.

All in all, a brilliant few days and we very much hope to go back to Saudi Arabia, if not to Dhahran. Finally, to conclude on a thoroughly learned note, it was also great to follow in the footsteps of Professor William Balzer, who has previously attended the Reporting Period at KFUPM as a speaker and whose book, Lean Higher Education, incidentally, is soon to be released in its second edition. Link to the publisher’s page here!

Finally, feel free to get in touch on [email protected] if you are potentially interested in having us contribute to your training programme!

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