Blog Archives

One Man’s Lean Journey: If You Follow the Process, The Results Will Come

One of the most valuable lesson I learned while working in the automotive industry wasn’t about the industry or people or even myself. The most valuable lesson I learned was having a great process will yield predictable results. I didn’t learn this from a manufacturing process. Instead I learned this from a problem solving process.

The automotive supplier I worked for was part of the Chrysler Supplier Quality Program. As part of that program, I got to learn different methodologies for problem solving. One was Shainin’s Red X methodology. I followed the methodology stringently. The benefit was repeatedly achieving great results.

One example was the with the electro-plating line. This is a large vats of chemical baths that produced a chrome finish on plastic parts. The line was operating at a 84% yield. Any defects that came out of the line had to be trashed. The parts could not be salvaged. We were throwing away approximately $40,000/week in scrap. I was asked to problem solve the scrap and get the yield up.

I knew squat about chemistry then and I still don’t know squat. In fact, I needed a tutor in college to get me through freshman chemistry. But that was my task.

Following Shainin’s Red X methodology and never wavering from the process, within in two years the plating line was running at a 96% yield. The line had never ran above 91%. Scrap dollars were down to $10,000/week.

I learned that I didn’t have to know anything about an area to achieve significant results if I followed a good process. It is something that is stated repeatedly in the lean world, but until you have the experience it is hard to truly understand the power of this.

I was accused of “always being right”. I never said anything of the sort but when I was accused of that I would say, “Yes, because I follow the process not because I know anything.”

Have you experienced a good process that is predictable and repeatable?


  • A good process is more powerful than hero employees
  • You don’t have to be an expert in an area in order to produce significant results
  • It is easier to stick to a process when you are unfamiliar with the area, because you can’t rely on your “expertise”

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….