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More From The Fine Folks At Taylor

About a year ago, when I was merely a “Guest Post”-er, I wrote this little piece about some really interesting things I read about in a book called Guitar Lessons written by the co-founder and namesake of Taylor Guitars.  As a companion to both that post and the one earlier this week with some personal Lean inspiration, I wanted to share another link and story that fits both categories.

(As an aside, it was brought to my attention that I may have quoted an incorrect number in the previous post, but I wasn’t able to get confirmation on that.  If anyone with Taylor would like me to correct it and is willing to help, let me know.)

This really cool piece of information comes in the form of the most recent copy of the company’s magazine “Wood & Steel”  and is written by the other co-founder (and CEO) of the company, Kurt Listug.  (If you clicked on the file, I’m referring to “Kurt’s Corner” that shows up on the left side of the .pdf page 3 or magazine page 4).  In his ‘Corner’, Listug refers to a “Process Improvement Project” that sounds, as a whole, like it was build on some hardcore Lean principles.  I don’t pretend to know enough about what goes on at their facility to make a judgement either way on what or how they are doing what they do.   What I do know is that it excites me to read about companies using these types of concepts (whether built directly on Lean/TPS or not) to do things like 20% increases in daily production, improved quality, reduced queue times from weeks to next day, and growing employment built around value adding work.   These successes, whether I had a hand in them or not, remind me of why I chose to work in this field.  I have no idea what Taylor’s path looks like from here, but I do appreciate reading about companies that are working to try to be the best they can be.

I realize I sound like a fanboy for Taylor and that’s fine.  If I didn’t own a couple of their guitars, I wouldn’t have received the magazine to read in the first place.  But, in addition to the small piece above, I highly recommend at least 2 other pieces in that publication.  The first is a piece on Taylor’s involvement in Ebony supplying in Cameroon.  (It starts on magazine page 12, pdf page 7).  On it’s own, it’s a fascinating story about a company getting involved in its own supply chain, finding a way to work with existing government regulations, creating a better situation for the people and the forests in the area, and pretty much turning that in to a role supplying their competitors.  From a purely business standpoint, I’d read an entire book on the way this evolved, regardless of what company was involved.   The other small piece is from an ongoing bit they started called “What are you working on?” where they talk to people that work in their factories about their jobs.  (Magazine page 28, pdf page 15).  As somebody who is engrossed with manufacturing, I find it fascinating to see what people do in their plants.

I hope you enjoyed reading some of the pieces (if you were able).   I always enjoy seeing what other people are doing to make their business run better and I love finding little bits of inspiration in places where I’m otherwise looking for a distraction.

Have a great weekend!

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Welcome Joe Wilson to Beyond Lean

I have had Beyond Lean up and running for a year and a half now.  I have learned a lot over that time about blogging and running the site.  It has been a great experience.  As with anything else, Beyond Lean can not stay stagnant.  The blog must improve and continue to deliver value to the readers that visit as well as draw in new readers.

With this in mind, I have decided to add a new author and contributor to Beyond Lean.  Please welcome Joe Wilson to Beyond Lean.  He has been a guest blogger over the last year and now he will be a full time contributor.  Joe has written some great posts and brings a perspective that challenges my thinking and I hope he will do the same for you.  Below are a few of the posts from Joe this past year.

This can give you a taste of what Joe will bring to Beyond Lean.  You can click on the tag Joe Wilson below to see all of his guest posts.

Tomorrow will be Joe’s first post at Beyond Lean as a full time contributor.  I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Guest Post: Lean and Guitar Building

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. 

Every now and then, you find someone singing the praises of Lean in a place you’d least expect them.  That happened to me last week.

I was reading called “Guitar Lessons” by Bob Taylor.  Taylor is the co-owner and for a long time main guitar builder and designer for the company that bears his name, Taylor Guitars.  The book is partially an autobiography but more so a history of the 35 plus year old guitar company.  I was reading along about the early days of the company when I hit a passage on page 84 that nearly knocked me out of my chair.  Here’s an excerpt in his words describing a conversation that he had with another luthier, Augie Loprinzi:

    “We were talking about production flow and the fact that I was having difficulty getting my guitars done on time.  He explained how he made his guitars ‘one at a time’, so to speak. In other words, every day he’d set up the jigs and make the parts he needed for that guitar that day.  I argued with him that it was more efficient to set up the jigs once and make all the parts for a batch at a time-heck, even to make enough for six months.  I told him how we made our guitars 10 or 12 at a time to take advantage of the setup times.  He cross-examined me and got me to admit that we never actually finished those batches of guitars on time….

“Augie asked me, “Bob, which would you rather have, one done guitar or 10 half done guitars?”

“It only took a moment for me to get the idea….I immediately recognized this as being a way to help solve everything from cash flow to training new craftsmen.  I would be able to go home and make guitars every day rather than every week.  This became the backbone of the production at Taylor Guitars.”

He goes on to add:

    “Everyone is exposed to some truth, some solution to the puzzle, some overarching concept that could change their working lives, or some idea that they could make their own in order to drive a lifetime of fruitful work habits and improvements.  That is the role this particular principle assumed in my life.  Since then, I’ve had other guitar shop owners ask for advice and I tell them about this, but I haven’t seen anyone take the bait.”

My favorite part is the timing of this conversation…it took place in 1978.  At the time, Taylor was making on average 8 guitars a week.  Taylor refers to the importance of Lean several times (he actually uses the term, although more as a common language point than a technical one), as being critical to their survival and growth to now producing 900 guitars a day in two factories.

I wanted to re-tell his example for a couple of reasons.  First is that it can give us all another example of a company that has adopted Lean to help it survive and grow and become something bigger than it may have ever become without it.  The second reason is that it helps provide a simple reminder of what a Lean mentality should do for us…help us find better ways to do what we do so we can keep doing it.  For academics who want to debate which is the correct 9th waste, the information won’t be satisfying.  But for the more pragmatic, it’s a nice reminder of the value of Lean and the magic of the moment that it became the truth that changed their working lives.