Smith and McLaurin Case Study


In January 2009, I was introduced by Gary Kenyon, Business Development Executive at Renfrewshire Council (, to Colin Loudon, Operations Director at Smith and McLaurin in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire.  Smith  & McLaurin Ltd ( is a leading manufacturer and global supplier of materials for self-adhesive labels,  tickets and tags, specialty communication media and thermal V.I.P products.  Established in the mid 19th century by the McLaurin family, the company has been trading successfully for more than 160 years.

As Colin confirmed at that time, the philosopy of the operations function at Smith and McLaurin was one of continuous improvement i.e. getting it right first time every time! “We had made significant improvements in our manufacturing performance but we still had issues affecting our customers who operate in a very competitive marketplace.

Our improvements so far had been focused mainly on the equipment, machine reliability and process control.  We knew we needed to tap into the potential of our people i.e. their knowledge, experience, skills and their commitment and willingness to make Smith and McLaurin a more productive, a more profitable and a more sustainable organisation.

We recognised that team leaders would be key in facilitating this important change.  They would allow us to improve the service to our customers by improving our productivity, quality and flexibility.  We knew they needed to be given the responsibility and accountability to make decisions and implement improvements in an environment of trust and support”.

2.  Preparations and Planning

During 2009, I met with Colin and the three shift managers at Smith and McLaurin, Dean Clark, Gordon Finlay and Bob Langlands on several occasions to help scope out a new structure and job specification for the team leaders.  We also agreed to adopt the Twin Track Approach The Twin Track Approach as a way to meet the learning and development needs of the team leaders.  As Colin confirms, “Key would be the relationship between the shift managers and team leaders i.e. how the shift managers would respond to the change in delegating decision making to the team leaders.  This is where the Twin Track Approach was crucial, where the shift managers had to be trained and developed to coach the team leaders and help them transfer their learning back into the workplace.  The shift managers also had to see that the change was not a threat to them but an opportunity to develop their own roles”.

The Twin Track Approach, where the investment in the team leaders was supported by the development of the shift managers as workplace coaches, was crucial to the success of this project and in helping “make the learning stick!”  Although both the shift managers and team leaders were participating in separate learning programmes, the key focus was in developing effective working relationships focused on achieving individual, team and corporate goals.

3.  The Training and Coaching Solution

In January 2010, the 8 team leaders at Smith and McLaurin started their learning journey and completed the first unit of the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Award in Team Leading (SCQF Level 5) on motivating the team at work.  A series of 6 workshops were scheduled over as many months and allowed the team to focus on a number of practical and relevant themes including workplace communication; planning and monitoring work; briefing the team; and leadership and personal development.  The team leaders were required to complete ongoing assessment through-out the programme, culminating with the submission of a reflective review.

To support the team leader’s learning journey, the shift managers commenced their development as workplace coaches.  They started the ILM Award in Workplace Coaching (SCQF Level 6) and as part of their learning and development were required to coach the team leaders “back at work” to help apply their learning to work and to stimulate the development of effective working relationships between all those involved in this important initiative.

The team leaders ALL successfully completed the ILM Award in Team Leading in 2010 and received their certificates at an internal presentation at work in November 2010.  However, the learning journey for both the team leaders and shift managers continues today.  The team leaders are now working towards completing the ILM Certificate in Team Leading (SCQF Level 5), whilst the shift managers are in the final stages of completing the ILM Award in Workplace Coaching (SCQF Level 6).  The team leaders are working on a series of topics, including dealing with change; managing themselves; effective leadership; team development; instructional techniques and quality Management.

4.  Change and Return on Investment (ROI)

So what difference has this investment made?  Well, work is still in progress but as Colin confirms the transformation at Smith and McLaurin has been positive, encouraging and at times inspiring!

“We now have a team of 8 highly motivated team leaders who support and offer open feedback to each other.  The team leaders are attending the daily production review and planning meeting and leading the discussions for their areas.  They are responsible for reporting on productivity and quality performance plus the actions required.  Actions and production improvements are now being implemented more quickly.

Team leaders now send out end of shift reports to all the key support staff, summarising their shift performance and highlighting any areas of concern and the actions required.  More support staff are now aware of all the issues needing addressed.

With regards to customer interaction, all team leaders are visiting our key customers to gain a better understanding of them and their requirements.  The team leaders are now developing a personal and professional relationship with our customers and they are confident in doing so.  The team leaders are now more involved in customer complaint investigations and in the process of root cause analysis.  Team leaders are investigating and exploring communication issues with their teams, to find the corrective actions required.

In addition, team leaders at Smith and McLaurin are now;
Raising job cards for all engineering and maintenance issues as they arise.  As a consequence, issues are being actioned more quickly


5.  Team Leaders and Marvelous Machines!

In addition to the very obvious changes witnessed at Smith and McLaurin as a direct consequence of the restructure and investment in learning and development, the changes have help make a significant impact in several important and specific areas in the factory.  These include;


6.  In Summary

As Colin confirms;

“The introduction and development of manufacturing team leaders has provided the foundation on which significant operational improvements have been achieved which have in turn improved our overall service to our customers.

The team leaders have built a professional relationship with the shift managers, operations director and other support staff based on a culture of trust, respect and support.

The company now has a strong team of 8 additional leaders who support and offer each other open feedback.  Along with their teams, issues are now being highlighted, decisions are being made and actions being implemented all at a much faster pace.”

SMcL Certificate