Let's kick off July with some stories about Lean, stories that seem positive on the surface, at least. Be sure to read down to the final story, the textile maker, I think that's my favorite of the three.
You might question the beginning of the story — Hamilton Sundstran outsources work to a Phoenix supplier, Modern Industries (close to where I used to live), and then everyone realizes the supplier doesn't have the capacity. Oops. But send in lean to the rescue at least:
The [lean] team was on site at Modern and worked closely with the company's employees for several months. “We laid out plans [manufacturing] cell by cell for the new site,” says Lapointe, “and Modern established its own team of lean experts. While we had our fits and struggles, the transition has gone very well. Both companies are better off because of the engagement.”
Lapointe recalls that the lean team approached Modern's manufacturing process cell by cell and posted metrics measuring its performance. “Eventually everyone in the facility who isn't involved the project wants to be included. They see the improvement. You get a competitive spirit that becomes contagious.”
Maybe not a perfect Lean story, but you hope the positive spirit really was contagious with the workforce and that it's not just management putting a positive spin on things.
More from aerospace:
Cessna operates using the Textron Production System, which is based on the
Toyota Production System and other principles, and focuses on reducing leadtime
and assets and improving flexibility and customer responsiveness by eliminating
waste. To do this, a supplier participates in value-stream mapping and
improvement workshops. These efforts help simplify processes and improve
Now if they're just relying on kaizen events, you could argue that Cessna (or others) aren't really incorporating the lean culture and the ongoing spirit of continuous improvement. Do they sustain the gains after the events are over?
The small company was really struggling:
With its industry threatened by imports from China and losing 340,000 jobs over five years, a South Jersey textile mill joined the panic, but only for a short time.
“I just decided that I'd better wake up and figure out a long-range strategy for running this business,” said Randolph S. Taylor, chief executive officer of Absecon Mills Inc. He did, and it is working.”
The company realized Lean isn't just about costs… it's about being faster than Chinese competitors:
He knew from the start that cutting costs had to be part of the strategy. But it turned out that there was something more important: completing an order faster than Chinese rivals.He knew from the start that cutting costs had to be part of the strategy. But it turned out that there was something more important: completing an order faster than Chinese rivals.
I like how the company appears to be involving all of its workers:
The brainstorming on how to improve is done by workers. “Instead of top-down management, our job is to support the workers who are making suggestions,” Taylor said. The improvement has been dramatic. Absecon has cut the time between eceiving an order and delivering a product from 28 to 14 days. That beats the 10 to 12 weeks it takes to get an order from China by ship. “If Chinese goods are shipped by air freight, the price advantage shifts back to the American market,” Taylor said. and even by air, Chinese mills can't match Absecon's new 14-day response time, he added.
Now *THAT* sounds like a great Lean success story. Let's get more of them!
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