Microfinancing in Uganda Works with Lean Manufacturing Precision

Having recently returned from Uganda, had the pleasure of being introduced by Bernard  Munyanziza of Nziza Hospitality to Gilbert Atuhire. He is the Managing Director at Value Addition Microfinance Ltd. which provides micro loans to producers and manufacturers.

Atuhire is an attorney by training, however his ability to articulate the core values of Lean Six Sigma and continuous process improvement were abundantly clear. The Kampala, Uganda offices are located on Parliamentary Avenue and Dewinton Rise. This central location allows direct access to industrial projects.


For decades microfinancing has been a promising method for SME companies to grow and advance market share. Characteristically what has been missing is business due diligence to attract financing. This is particularly true in Uganda. The nation is engaging in an active campaign to ensure global understanding of the country's progress and suitability for foreign investment.

TR Cutler: Gilbert how does Value Addition Microfinance manage micro-loans differently to reassure and protect investors in the manufacturing, construction, and industrial sectors?

Atuhire: Our process is about determining the efficacy of the loan. Before a funding issue arises, we perform a unique assessment process to ensure that the constraint being solved is in fact the bottleneck for the manufacturer’s actual constraint. Throwing money at something without this assessment is wasteful and fails to produce the intended profit result. Increasing production does not always translate to increased profits.


TR Cutler: Share more about your assessment process.

Atuhire: The assessment is like a kaizen event. A kaizen event is a multi-day workshop with the specific goal of identifying the areas primed for improvement. This event is led by a team leader and includes training, data collection, brainstorming, and fiscal rationale for funding. Only with these data are we able to confidently ensure the funding plan for microfinancing makes sense.
We come into an industrial facility, manufacturing, or processing plant. We listen to what the company management, operations managers, quality assurance/quality control personnel report. We capture independent observations performing a Gemba Walk in the plant. Gemba Walks denote observing the actual process, understanding the work, and asking questions. It is also a fundamental part of Lean Manufacturing.

TR Cutler: What is the next step after the kaizen event?

Atuhire: Discovering operational situations ensures that microfinancing will have the greatest impact on productivity, throughput, and operational efficiency. As an example, a grain and packaging company thought they needed heavy equipment machinery to increase production. In fact, the company was experiencing a 30% loss in the fill rate. That loss would accumulate to nearly a million dollars a year. That hemorrhaging had to be stopped immediately.
Additionally, the company used two different bagging sizes and every change-over from a small bag to a larger bag was lost productivity, which equaled approximately 14 hours a week in lost capacity. Changing the schedule to Monday, Wednesday, Friday packing large bags, and Tuesday and Thursday for small bags, erased the change-over time wasted. That single discovery was perhaps more important that the microfinancing.  

TR Cutler:  Is the assessment as important as the funding?

Atuhire:  Yes. Funding the wrong thing will not make the customer or investor happy. We want to find out if the operational imperatives are appropriate to produce the incremental revenue gains expected. We believe to fill a bathtub with water without first putting in the stopper is reckless and unacceptable. We want to protect our customer AND our investors (many of whom are internationally-based and want assurances that money is wisely allocated). Sometimes a customer will balk at paying for the upfront assessment. We show them in just one week that the lost revenue (the current state) does not undergo an accurate Value Stream Mapping (VSM) process. Sure, they want a loan, we want to get them funding for the elements that will most impact processes and profits.

TR Cutler:  Why do you think so many foreign investors are looking to companies like yours to perform these assessments prior to funding microfinancing?

Atuhire:  Many investors, particularly EU and American investors, are very savvy and practice Lean Manufacturing continuous process improvement as the norm. For more than a quarter century these investors have witnessed the implementation of best-practice policies. While far from perfect, it provides an additional layer of risk mitigation for funding. Many Ugandan companies lack the collateralization that traditional banks require. We believe our assessment process is a better metric to determine whether the enterprise is investable.
About The Author
Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its 23rd year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 9000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. TR Cutler, Inc. recently launched the new African manufacturing division. Cutler authors more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Over 5000 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.

SPOTLIGHT

TR Cutler, Inc. was founded by Thomas R. Cutler 22 years ago. Cutler maintains extraordinary relationships with clients, journalists, editors, trendsetters, and key business leaders worldwide and has become a key resource for those writing about the manufacturing sector. Cutler founded the Manufacturing Media Consortium; this extraordinary group of more than 8000 journalists, editors, economists, and other industrial leaders worldwide writes about trends, data, case studies, profiles, in the manufacturing, industrial, and distribution sectors. Cutler works with thousands of media outlets to expand manufacturing media coverage.

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SPOTLIGHT

TR Cutler, Inc. was founded by Thomas R. Cutler 22 years ago. Cutler maintains extraordinary relationships with clients, journalists, editors, trendsetters, and key business leaders worldwide and has become a key resource for those writing about the manufacturing sector. Cutler founded the Manufacturing Media Consortium; this extraordinary group of more than 8000 journalists, editors, economists, and other industrial leaders worldwide writes about trends, data, case studies, profiles, in the manufacturing, industrial, and distribution sectors. Cutler works with thousands of media outlets to expand manufacturing media coverage.

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