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‘Lean’ manufacturing tested at local (NC) company


The Kinston Free Press

Here is a nice little local story about a small (26 employees) company that started with lean (sounds like they did some training and a 5-day kaizen event to improve their production line).

It's always interesting to see how lean is portrayed in articles like this. The picture is skewed by the particular consultant, the company, and particularly the reporter who write the piece.

This article defined lean as “The idea behind lean manufacturing is to measure efficiency and reduce waste of time on the production lines of large manufacturers.” The reporter was a bit off in saying that Toyota started lean in “the 1970's”.

I hope the company involved, and the owners, realize that lean is an ongoing mind set and approach, not a one time event. I'm sure the reporter won't do a follow up to see if they could sustain their lean efforts, but it would be interesting to see.

The article also focused on employee involvement and employee input, saying “Oddly enough, when the training begins, company owners are asked not to participate.” I can understand how the consultant/trainer might have wanted to create an environment where people felt free to make suggestions and improvements without fear of looking bad or being “wrong.” But, I hope the co-owners of the company realize that they DO have a very critical role to play in lean, if it's a long-term process (see Failure Reason #1 from this book).

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus. He is currently writing his next book, tentatively titled Measures of Success.

  1. Anonymous says

    John Maher said…

    Not sure where the reporter came up with “With 26 employees, Southern Vinyl in Kinston was scarcely a logical candidate for testing the principles of waste.”

    I tend to think that Lean has a better chance for success / results in smaller – privately held organizations. Management can usually focus more effectively on the long-term because they are not looking to meet the quarterly report for Wall Street or have the one time, short lived metric that ensures the CEO his/her golder parachute. In addition, some of the effects such as the hit taken to the financials when inventory is intially reduced are more easily dealt with.

    I don’t know why small to medium manufacturers would not have waste. About the only thing that seems like it would detract from successful Lean at a small company is their ability to afford a quality consultant.

    John Maher

  2. Mark Graban says

    I agree with you John. As far as hiring consultants at a small company, I think that’s where the national MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) program can help. There is government funding and grants available to help small and medium enterprises.

    See the national website and look for links to an MEP office for your state.

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