Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lean Consortium in Tyler, TX

Three years ago  I was living in Tyler, TX working for Trane.  Tyler is a medium sized town of about 100,000 people and has a lot of industry.  Goodyear had just shut down their plant there.  I knew that lean would have helped them.

My passion for lean needed an outlet.  I decided to write several organizations across the city about starting a lean consortium.  I even called the mayor.  To my surprise, there was a lot of interest.  Approximately 80% of the organizations called me back and wanted to meet.  Including the mayor.  His office called and put me in touch with the city manager.

I met with several manufacturing facilities, both hospitals, the city manager, the president of Tyler Junior College, and senior executives from Brookshires Grocery, the regional grocery chain.

After a year of one-on-one meetings and lunches, we had a group meeting.  Joe Rizzo who was leading the Jacksonville, Fl consortium was kind enough to fly into Tyler and give us some background in setting up a consortium.

A few of us had a couple more meetings and were on the verge of starting the consortium when my family and I ended up moving to Kansas City.  I kept in touch for a few months but we lost contact.  I was hoping the consortium had enough momentum to continue but wasn’t sure.

Last week, I got an e-mail with a link to an article about the Smith County Lean Consortium.  The consortium has been going strong for 2 years now.

About two years ago, after Hood Packaging had already begun to implement lean practices, the business joined the newly formed Smith County Lean Consortium.

Hood was one of the companies I met with that committed to the consortium.  The had been using lean and were very open to sharing.  Another company I met with was Brookshire’s Grocery.  They were the big regional family owned grocery chain.

Scott Reily, senior vice president of logistics for Brookshire Grocery Co., said when Brookshire’s was first approached about the consortium, the company was already looking at continuous improvement efforts.

He and other leaders of corporate development at Brookshire’s formed a team to go through training and come up with continuous improvement initiatives.

He said the lean concept is all about making small improvements – looking at every process, breaking it down and asking how it can be done better.

There are several companies that have joined the consortium.

Entities involved in the consortium from the beginning are Hood Packaging, Brookshire’s, TEEX/TMAC, Vesuvius, the city of Tyler, Smith County and Tyler Junior College.

Other members include Air Rover, Cardinal Health, Distant Lands Coffee, Luminant and Teknor.

I can’t express how happy I am that the consortium has been continuing one and educating organizations in the area on lean.  What really moved me was that after 2 years they were kind enough to mention my part in starting the consortium.  It was something they didn’t have to do, but did.  It meant a lot to me.  I want to say thanks to the consortium for doing that and I wish them continued success as they move forward.


Teaching is Learning

Last week I had the opportunity to teach the PDCA problem solving methodology to a group of people.  Once a month, the central lean organization I work for offers it for others in the company to take.  It is a great way to expose others to the PDCA methodology.  It helps to gain deeper interest in PDCA.


I have taught the class several times over the last 2 years, but last week I finally realized what benefits I gained from teaching the class.  Every time I teach it, it reinforces the methodology to me.  I have been applying it for 7 years or so myself, but the reminders are always great.

When I am teaching it, I discover different little ways to explain something that could help me as I mentor people out in a practical application setting.  The more ways to explain something makes me a better mentor.

The biggest benefit from teaching the class is it makes me give a public declaration of what I am doing.  This holds me accountable for following the PDCA methodology.  In other words, “Practice what I preach.”  The more I use the methodology the better I get.  Even after 7 years I still have a lot of learning to do.  As I apply the PDCA methodology and find root causes, this shows people how the methodology can work in any setting.

Learning can be found anywhere, if you look for it.  Even when you are teaching.

Why are Lean People Seen as Lean People?

For close to 15 years now, I have been doing lean work.  My learning has mirrored that of most of the U.S.  I started out studying Shingo and implementing tools.  Then I learned about the people side.  As I worked with Toyota, as a supplier, I started to see it all come together as a system.  Now I see the thinking that is the basis of everything we as Lean people talk about.

That is the thing that bothers………lean people or lean thinkers.  Why are we just seen as lean people?  Why aren’t we seen as good business people?  People that can help a business sustain, grow, and become stronger.  That is what we do.  We just do it in a way that is seen as different from the standards that have been laid out generations before us.

Call it lean.  Call it whatever you want.  To me it is good business practice.  Unfortunately…….or fortunately for my career, a vast majority of people can’t see it the way we “lean people” can.

My goal isn’t to be known as a lean expert, but a business expert.  Someone strong in leading, transforming, and growing a business.  How about you?

Guest Post: Nature or Nuture

Joe Wilson has worked in a variety of continuous improvement, problem solving and engineering roles in manufacturing and distribution functions  in the automotive, electronics, and food/grocery industries. He was responsible for site leadership of Lean implementation during the launch and ramp up of becoming a supplier to Toyota and was able to work directly with their personnel and the Toyota Supplier Support Center.   His training background includes courses in Lean/TPS through TSSC and the University of Kentucky’s Lean Systems program.  He is a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Shainin Red X Journeyman in addition to training in Kepner-Tregoe problem solving techniques.  Joe also has a BS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

I was thinking the other day about some of the people I know that work in and around Lean-type leadership positions and something struck me about them.  None of them were truly ‘transformed’ in to Lean thinkers.  All of them were people who had an inherent problem solving mentality or a passion to challenge the traditional way of doing things and found a tool box that furthered their natural tendencies.  The same held true, for my experience, of operations leaders.  Those that truly ‘got it’ and were the big drivers and implementers were people who were already looking for better ways and latched on to the different methodologies.

Taking that a step further, what does that mean for companies?  Are some companies, by their culture and DNA, more inclined to be successful converting to and maintaining a Lean environment?    Sure.  Some companies are more experimental or entrepreneurial and look for ways to become better.  Some are more likely to dig their heels 3 feet deep in the ground hanging on to their traditional methods for as long as they can.  The ones in the latter group that ‘try’ Lean are more likely to overlay the tools on their old ways and not get results they thought they might.  Lean becomes something that happens on an action sheet and not part of who they are.

Am I being a defeatist here, preaching “it is what it is” when it comes to company histories and Lean transformation?  Certainly not.  Companies are nothing without the people that do the work and lead the organizations.  Lean starts, builds and endures because of the people in the system.  It is the attitude and dedication of the leaders that determines that path of a company.  Whether any change is embraced or abandoned is determined by what people are doing right here and right now.  It is not determined by what happened 10, 50 or 100 years ago.  What this means is that when you look at your Current State when defining your Lean progress or setting up your road map you need to invest some solid time in understanding who and what your organization is made of.  Without the proper attention to those factors, you may find yourself backtracking a lot more than you ever thought possible trying to re-do what you thought was already done.

Lean Quote Reader Participation: Can’t Please Everybody

Tim McMahon, who runs the blog A Lean Journey, posts a quote every Friday and discusses how it relates to lean.  Tim does a great job of pulling quotes from all types of sources.  I like it and look forward to it every Friday.

With that in mind, I want to try something similar but with a different twist on it.  The success of this depends on you, the readers of this blog, and your participation.  I will post a quote and in the comment section I would like you to tell me how this quote might resonant with you and what you are doing to implement, coach, teach, and practice lean.

Like everything else, lets experiment and see how this works.


“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

—Bill Cosby

I look forward to reading your thoughts on how this quote might relate to what you are doing with lean.

Beyond Lean Joins Twitter

For the last couple of years I have fought social media.  That is the total “Old School” in me.  As a lean practitioner I always talk about creating a learning environment with the people I work with.  So to practice what I preach last May I started this blog.  To my surprise I have really enjoyed it.  It has been a real learning experience.

My next learning experience will be with Twitter.  It is quite new to me and to be honest, I’m a little intimidated by it.  All the symbols and retweets and follows and what not.  So, look me up when on Twitter and be patient with me.

The 8th Waste…is a Waste

Waste is a common term used in lean.  Taiichi Ohno categorized waste he saw in manufacturing into seven categories.

  1. Transportation – The movement of goods
  2. Inventory – The storage of goods
  3. Motion – Any motion that is not adding value to the product, such as walking, reaching, etc…
  4. Waiting – Machine or person or product not having value added to it while other products are having value added to it
  5. Overproduction – Making the product in quantities more than the customer wanted or before the customer wanted it
  6. Overprocessing – Adding more to a product than a customer values or extra steps that are not necessary to create the value
  7. Defects – Anything not done right the first time

These types of waste have been proven to be in the office, healthcare, distribution, or any environment.

I’m not a history major so I don’t who or when, but an 8th waste was added.

The waste of human Intellect.

I have worked at companies that use 7 and companies that use 8 types of waste.  My opinion, the 8th waste is a waste!

Here’s why I think that way.  If you study lean you will see that respect for people is a very big tenant.  If you are showing respect for people then you are engaging the work force.  The purpose of this engagement is tapping into the employees intellect in order to use it to benefit the company through improvement.

In order to engage the employees most companies train them on the types of waste.  That way they can use their intellect to see the waste in their work environment.  So how do you teach seeing wasted intellect?  You can go out and see the other seven types of waste during a waste walk.  Do you walk up to someone and say, “You aren’t giving ideas.  Wasted Intellect!  I found it!”? You don’t see intellect like you see the other seven types of waste.

Wasted intellect is implied in the other wastes.  If you are using employees to find and eliminate waste then you are not wasting their intellect.  If you are not using them to find and eliminate waste then you are wasting their intellect.

I have heard the opinion that by explicitly stating waste of intellect it brings into the forefront employee engagement.  Good opinion.  I just don’t buy it though.  Those same people are stressing employee engagement at the same time, so why not just do it there.

I am in agreement that employees need to be engaged and the company should be using their knowledge and intellect to help improve the business.  I just don’t think it needs to be called an 8th waste.

Lean Manufacturing at Meggitt Polymer

I am slow on getting up to date on some blog posts I wanted to write.  One is on an article about Meggitt Polymer I found a couple of weeks ago.  I have not been there and have no affiliation with anyone there.

Meggitt is getting fantastic results from implementing lean out on the manufacturing floor.

…Meggitt was able to cut its excess inventory by 70 percent, freeing up 35 percent more floor space for additional manufacturing. He said it was able to reduce its production time 25 percent while increasing its volume 20 percent.

The article said they produce 11,000 different seals.  Considering the high number of finished products the results seem even greater.

Meggitt doesn’t see lean as just a way to cut costs, but as a way to grow their business.

At first glance, operational streamlining would seem to mean cutting the workforce — something the county, state and nation can ill-afford, with unemployment so rampant. However, it actually has just the opposite effect, advocates say.

They claim companies that learn to operate more efficiency are able to accelerate productivity, cut unit costs and increase market share. Before long, they need more workers to cope with growth.

Fackler said Meggitt is a good example. It has added about 30 employees in the last 90 days, he said.

In today’s economy more cases like Meggitt’s need to be spotlighted on a bigger stage.  They didn’t hire hundreds or thousands like GM or Ford may do when they re-open a facility, but they did grow and they did hire 30 people in 90 days.  That is significant for an area.  It will be the small companies, like Meggitt, that will play a significant part in turning the unemployment situation around.

Meggitt also got their employees involved in the decision making and improvement process.

Lean philosophy extends beyond managerial and engineering ideas, however. It requires input from those who do the actual work on the factory floor, as they often have the keenest feel for workplace inefficiencies.

At Meggitt, employees on the line worked side-by-side during the process, rearranging pieces of the manufacturing puzzle on a magnetic board.

This is great for the bigger moves and events.  I hope they have found a way to continue to do this on a day-to-day basis.  Have they created a process to maintain their engagement, so it isn’t a one time event?

Overall, it sounds like Meggitt is doing a good job of implementing and understanding some of the nuances of lean.  I would hope they are working at developing their thinking as leaders too, so they can sustain the growth they have experienced.

Local Production a Necessity to Keep Costs Down

I am a Purdue University graduate and a Big Ten die hard stuck in the middle of Big 12 country.  My saving grace is the Big Ten Network.  Last week I was watching the Purdue University 30 minute show called “University Showcase”.  This is where I saw the clip below about the students creating a low cost transportation solution for underdeveloped countries.

The part that I found the most interesting was listening to college students talk about creating the vehicle from local materials in order to keep the cost down.  They mentioned producing the vehicle locally with local materials keeps the cost under $1,500.

The team makes the case for local production versus off-shoring.  I hope they remember this as they graduate and head out into the corporate world.

Different Types of Kanban

I know my last post was about the concept of kanban.  It has been a concept that springboarded a lot of my learning over the years.  It may have started with implementing a kanban system but ended up learning about visual management, the seasonality of the business, what the customer is demanding, and change management.

There are two important learnings that I have had when implementing a kanban system.  Two that I thought I would share.

The first lesson is that when a kanban system is mentioned people jump to a conclusion that all materials will be handled in one way.  All the materials will be set with a min/max.  The min being the reorder point and the max being the point to fill the order to.  This assumption scares people because setting everything to a min/max system would mean increasing inventory overall and holding inventory on some parts for a very long time.  This is not a smart thing to do.  People need to know that a system can be put into place that takes each component into consideration and does the right thing for that component.

This brings me to the second lesson.  What is the appropriate way to handle each component?

So far, I have learned three ways to handle a component in a kanban system.

The first way is the typical kanban replenishment system.  A minimum is set for a reorder point based on lead time and safety stock.  The maximum is the highest quantity wanted on hand at one time.  I have found the best time to use this is when a component is used on a nearly daily basis and in high quantities.

The second way is another typical way.  The non-replenishment kanban.  This is a kanban that is filled but not recirculated.  I have found this to be best used when a component is needed for a very short period of time, a day or week, and then the component is not used for a long period of time.

The third way is what I call a seasonal kanban.  It is a component that will be used frequently and with higher demand but only for a short period of time, a month, two, three.  It is long enough that a non-replenishment kanban is not proper to use and a replenishment is too permanent.  What I have done is set up the component on a replenishment kanban but when the use is winding down, I convert it to a non-replenishment.  When the season is over the component has no inventory so things aren’t stored for an unnecessary amount of time.

Using a combination of these three can make for a very efficient system.