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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.

Interview with Ford’s Alan Mulally

One of the cover stories of the Kansas City Star yesterday was an article about Ford President, Alan Mulally.  It was a great piece on Mr. Mulally.  He is originally from Lawrence, Kansas and grew up dreaming of being an astronaut.

The article is more of a feel good piece, highlighting Mr. Mulally’s roots to Kansas City and Lawrence.  There is one section that highlights some things he did when arriving at Ford.

Mulally told his colleagues: “The most important thing is we pull together as a team. We’re going to get real clear about leadership. … We’re going to help each other.”

Scanning the conference room, he noticed team members fiddling with their BlackBerrys during meetings. That practice, and whispering to people next to them, would end.

“I think you should listen to the person talking,” he said.

This seems like basic respect for people.  As much as listening to people seems like common sense and the right thing to do, people just don’t do it.  As nice as Blackberries are they can be a curse too at times.

Here are other highlights:

He dropped in at dealerships to try his hand at selling Fords — and succeeded with at least two customers.

He asked: Why did we stop making the Taurus? (So the Taurus returned.) And why isn’t Ford moving faster to develop smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles? And, excuse me, must you keep saying things are fine when we’re headed for a $17 billion loss?

I like how he went to the dealership and tried to sell cars.  What a great way to ‘go and see’ what customers are saying about the product.  Mr. Mulally also asked the hard questions and didn’t sugar coat things.  I have heard the story several times about asking how things could be going well when they were losing money.  It was good to see the story directly from him.

It is great to see Ford turn down the government money and turning things around.  In a time when excuses are easy to come by, Alan Mulally won’t allow it.  I hope Ford can keep the turnaround going.