Category Archives: Other

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.

Dilbert and Traditional Accounting

I was perusing some random older Dilbert comic strips and stumbled upon this one.  What a great example of traditional accounting gone wrong.

(Click on image for a larger view)

I couldn’t pass posting this Dilbert cartoon.  How many times as lean change agents do you have work halted or the value not seen because of the way the accounting system calculates standard costing or budgeting?  How many times have you made an improvement that required less people for that area.  The people were reassigned (showing respect for people by not laying off due to improvement), but accounting system claims a labor savings.  At the end of the year, management is asking where is all the savings that was promoted throughout the year?  It’s not hitting the bottom line.

This is always one of my favorites to explain.  How about you?

My First Kanban Experience at ‘Cookies By Design’

The kanban concept is all around us everyday.  From supermarkets to our toilet paper and paper towels at home.  As I was thinking back to one of my first jobs in high school (early 1990s to date myself), I realized I had used kanban without even knowing it.

I worked for a new franchised store called “Cookies By Design”.  The family that opened it was great.  They treated all the employees with respect and genuinely cared for us.  My job was to come in a few times a week and make the baskets with sticks for the cookies to go on.  This consisted of mixing water and powder to make plaster, lining a woven basket with plastic, pouring the plaster to the two-thirds level, waiting for it to start to solidify, and they place dow rods in the plaster to hold the cookies.  There were several basket layouts so I had to keep them stocked with the appropriate number of layouts.

I would come in a couple nights a week and then Saturday or Sunday.  Again, the owners showed respect for me by giving me (a 17-year-old kid) a key to come in as I needed.  Every time, I would analyze how many were used since the last time I made them, then calculated about how many would be needed before I came in again and if there weren’t enough, I made a standard order quantity of the baskets.

The whole time I was using kanban levels and had no clue about it.  I wish I would have known about visual management at the time in order to make my reorder points easier to see.

I am amazed of how much I used lean concepts before even knowing about them.  And I was using them in everyday life.  Do you have any examples of a lean concept you used before you even knew what lean was?  I would like to hear about any experiences you had.


Milbank Manufacturing – An American Manufacturing Success Story

Company Background / History

Milbank Manufacturing is a 3rd generation family owned and ran business.  It was founded in 1927 by Charles A. Milbank.  The 1920’s was a rough time to start a business but with the philosophy to provide their customers with high quality products at a fair price in a timely manner and Charles’ network of friends and determination, Milbank built a strong base of customers.  Today, Milbank is the industry leader in the manufacturing of electrical meter sockets.

Milbank provides wholesale electrical distributors with quality electrical products for the utility, contractor industrial and OEM markets.  Their products are divided into three platforms: Core Products (primarily meter mounting equipment and pedestals), Commercial and Industrial (electrical enclosures and commercial meter pedestals),  and Power Generation (standby generators and wind turbines).

Milbank has over 500 employees and four manufacturing facilities (Kansas City, MO; Concordia, MO; Kokomo, IN; and El Dorado, AR).  This post focuses on the lean efforts and success of the Kansas City, MO manufacturing facility and the Plant Manager that lead the transformation process during the last 6 years, Mr. Trace Tandy.

Trace Tandy’s Background in Lean

Mr. Tandy is currently the Vice President of Manufacturing for Milbank.  His first exposure to the concepts of Just-In-Time manufacturing ocurred in the late 1980’s while working for a Tier 1 automotive component supplier.  He joined Danaher in 1990 where he learned the Toyota Production System from the Shingijutsu Co.,Ltd. consulting company.  Later that decade he had the opportunity to receive further training and development in the Lean principles through the Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC).  Mr. Tandy has lead nine manufacturing sites through the Lean transformation process with the most recent site, Milbank’s Kansas City plant, winning the TBM Consulting Group’s 2010 Quest for the Perfect Engine Site Award.

How Millbank Started It’s Lean Journey

Elements of Lean manufacturing or similar philosophies had been attempted between 1998 and 2004 with little or no sustainment and with no evidence of a plan.  In 2004, Milbank re-engaged with a commitment to the Lean principles on an enterprise-wide level.  Milbank partnered with TBM in 2007 and began using Lean Sigma tools, including Shop Floor Kaizen Breakthrough (SKB) and Business Process Events (BPE) and later, the policy deployment x-matrix process. Employees at the shop floor level became more engaged in the improvement process and there was an unwavering commitment from top management to truly transform Milbank using the principles of Lean.

Results from Lean Efforts

Before the lean efforts, the manfacturing in Kansas City was spread across two buildings plus a third that was used for warehousing.  Now everything is done in one building.  Using the Lean Sigma methodology during the couse of 2007 – 2009 they were able to:

  • Completed 38 SKB / BPE kaizen events
  • Created a 3 year plan / vision for consolidation of the two Kansas City manufacturing sites
  • Implemented a policy deployment process based on the TBM x-matrix
  • Implemented a War Room / Managing for Daily Improvement (MDI) process
  • Implemented visual management systems such as Leader Standard Work, Maintenance Scheduling, etc…
  • Implemented U-shaped, one-piece-flow assembly and fabrication cells
  • Implemented visual scheduling / shop-floor-control systems eliminating the use of MRP in many areas
  • Reduced floor space utilized by over 47% (60,000 square feet of manufacturing space opened up for future expansion, no brick and motar required – eliminated the need for a 30,000 square foot remote storage facility – property was sold)
  • Reduced lead time by almost 53% (reduction of 30 days)
  • Improved stock availability from 90.6% to 95.6%
  • Improved sales order on-time performance by nearly 50%
  • Reduced FG inventory values by over 50% ($2.42 million in cash generated)
  • Reduced WIP inventory by 83% ($1.14 million in cash generated)
  • Improved FG Units / Employee by 12.3%
  • Implemented annual cost reductions averaging $1.22 million

Milbank will not tell you they are done.  In fact, they have plans laid out to improve even more over the next few years.  Their mindset is to keep improving and never be satisfied.

As you can see Milbank Manufacturing is a great example of how lean is helping manufacturing in America not only stay viable but become the industry leader.


Guest Post: Beyond Lean?

Today’s guest blogger is Joe Wilson.  Joe is a great lean thinker that worked for an automotive supplier for several years.  Developing his lean thinking by diving into the deep end.  Joe now works for Tyson Chicken working within their Industrial Engineering group.  I happy to post his writing here.  Joe is a great lean thinker.

Beyond Lean…

My first thought upon seeing the title of this site was, “What the heck does ‘Beyond Lean’ even mean?”

At first in conjures up images of the ‘next big thing’ in trendy manufacturing lingo and training classes.  It seemed like it was going to be a super hybrid manufacturing system that encompasses Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Kepner Tregoe, Red X, DOE, TQM, VORP, WHIP, PER, QB Ratings, and some ninja stuff mixed together.  All of which can be outsourced to the lowest possible labor cost country and managed remotely by an iPhone app.  Knowing Matt, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t where he was headed, but I was still struck by the name and what he meant by it.

Without asking for his reasoning behind the name, I’ll offer up my take on what it has come to mean to me.  I think ‘Beyond Lean’ is a way of stripping off the extra baggage of the names or origins of what we are talking about and looking at why something does what it does and what it would do for you.  I think it’s about pointing out where lean principles exist in the world around us without stretching to see it in places that it isn’t.  I think it’s also about looking past the words in a book (or from a video) and knowing that your path to greatness is going to be different than somebody else’s path.  Ultimately, I think ‘Beyond Lean’ is a mind set of sorts that reminds us that there is no such thing as achieving lean.  There are always opportunities to be found, problems to be solved, quality to improve…and the only way to chase that greatness is to be willing to look and reach beyond where the map tells you to look.

Then again, maybe Matt just thought it sounded good….


Dilbert – The Knack

Do you ever feel like you are odd because you see things differently than most others? You can see the waste or how a process is broken very easily.  If you do, then maybe you have………The Knack.

Have a great Labor Day!


Jim Womack Stepping Down

I know this post is a few days behind, but the news is big enough to warrant posts for several weeks.  Jim Womack is stepping down as the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI).    Mr. Womack was the founder of LEI in 1997 and a integral part of bringing lean to the fore front in the United States.  Without Mr. Womack, who knows where the U.S. would be in regards to understanding lean thinking.  He has had such a enormous impact on lean thinkers.

Mark Graban posted about the announcement over at the Lean Blog last week.  I want to look at it from a different lens.

I am glad to see the change.  Not because I think Mr. Womack is “past his prime” or lean has “passed him bye” as you hear with coaches in sports or people in business.  I am glad to see him role modeling leadership traits that he has helped us come to understand.

The first is succession planning.  It wasn’t a hap-hazard plan that he was going to step down and now who to we put in his place.  “Oh look John Shook is here lets have him takeover.”   It was a two year process where Mr. Womack and Mr. Shook worked closely together, assuming so Mr. Shook could learn the ins and outs of LEI and “The LEI Way.”

The second trait Mr. Womack is role modeling is one you don’t see much from very top leadership.  Humbleness.  Mr. Womack sees it is time for change and understands that Mr. Shook can bring in the right change.  Not scrap everything and start over change like you see in a lot of traditional leaders, but understand “The LEI Way” and improve upon it type of change.  Too often you will see top leaders stay at the top until everything crumbles around them, then points fingers, and gets forced out.  Mr. Womack sees it is time to step down even when things are going well for LEI, expansion into health care is a good example, because it is best for LEI.

I wish Jim Womack all the best and I thank him for pushing all of our thinking to the limits.

I also look forward to the future of LEI and what John Shook will bring to the table.


Are you in a crisis?

With the way the economy has suffered over the last couple of years and a lot of companies struggling to survive, “Are we in a crisis?” is a valid question.  The answer to this question can significantly guide how you go about a lean transformation.

The ideal situation for a lean transformation is to start by building a foundation.  Gain employee engagement at all levels.  Use employee ideas to help solve problems.  Coaching and patience can be used to bring people along.  Give them time and opportunities to understand the lean thinking.  This takes a lot of time and can be very painful but when the light bulb goes off it is a big accomplishment.  The sustainability is greater because the mindsets have changed and a solid foundation has been set.  Basically, a person has learned to fish.

With today’s business climate, if you are struggling to stay in business you can’t take the time to bring people along slowly.  You are in a crisis and if things don’t change immediately you won’t be in business anymore.  So what do you do?  In this situation you have to execute and implement.  The need to get business results over rides the need to bring the culture along.  This does not mean the culture change isn’t important.  It just means the culture change will happen at a later time.  This can be difficult to do and takes a lot of clear communication during the crisis.  If you don’t circle back and build the cultural foundation after averting the crisis the results will not sustain and you could end up back in another crisis.

The positive is usually when going back to build the foundation, you aren’t starting from ground zero.  During the results driven implementation some people have seen the lean thinking and started to transform, plus the results get you out of the crisis and helps give a good story of how the changes are positive.

Have you started a lean transformation at your company?  Were you in crisis mode?  Or foundation building mode?


Dilbert Leading Transformation

I sorry if from time to time I publish too much Dilbert.  I could run a blog just on the Dilbert cartoon.  The one from this past Sunday was just too good.  I imagine this would hit home for a lot of change agents.  Here it is:

(Click image to enlarge)

As a change agent for lean, haven’t we all wanted managers and leaders to exhibit the qualities that the point-haired boss is trying to exhibit?  Employee engagement to take ownership of the change, clear roles and responsibilities, leadership engagement and clear communication, and lead by example.  This is what we would all want all leadership to aspire to do.  Have you ever seen the reaction from the employees like that of Dilbert and his co-workers?  I have (not to the boss’ face though).  How do the employees get over that reaction?  One simple answer………….the leadership must live up to the standards set and actually change their behaviors and live it day-to-day.


Lean Terms Video

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July yesterday.  If you are like me, you have today off as a holiday.  With that in mind, I thought I would take a quick break from the 4 part series and have a little fun today.  Here is a video on YouTube about using some lean terms with your spouse at home.  I hope you enjoy it and I will have the 4th part of the Leadership series on Wednesday.