Competing January 2006

Changing and Building Culture

Perhaps your company’s “Continuous Improvement” process is disappointing. Culture is in the way rather than moving forward.

Why? Maybe your inability to effectively drive “lean initiative” down throughout the organization is a reason or, company leadership is inconsistently supporting the Continuous Improvement process. We could all add many additional points, but lets look at some possibilities to effectively change and build culture.

Chances are, most of your employees are used to being told what to do when at work. As intelligent people, they quickly learn that often “applying their thinking gets them in trouble”. This is typical of most pre-lean companies. “Check your brain at the door, then pick it up on the way out” is the unspoken rule. To believe that your team will immediately feel it’s safe to think and act accordingly is not realistic. Maybe some of these concepts could help you build culture:

  1. Adopt an improvement time policy, specifically written to name and authorize a certain number of improvement hours per person, per targeted area, per week. Following the “what gets measured gets done philosophy” (thank you Al Weber) be certain to support activity by tracking progress and sharing the simplified chart with all employees.
  2. Use the “Toast Kaizen” video to explain kaizen and how, as a company, you intend to implement it’s effective use. The Toast Kaizen video is available from the Greater Boston Manufacturing Partnership 617-287-7648 and is one of the simpliest, most effective tools to train continuous improvement
  3. Create a scoreboard to show controllable performance. How are we doing? Did we have a good or bad day? These questions are answered by posting timely, meaningful feedback to our teams. Information such as how many should we complete today vs. our actual completion quantity. Hourly updates can be very useful in creating pace, even in a make-to-order environment. The value (in $, hours or whatever unit of measure that makes sense to you and your team) of what was completed, or shipped is very useful.
  4. Single-Point Lessons: Rapid Transfer of Best Practices to the Shop Floor
Single Point Lesson

Simple, visual instructions, such as this example, are very effective.  Working with your teams to create them supports the engagement of all team members.

Building a new culture is not easy and will not happen over night.  YOU MUST PAY CONSTANT ATTENTION TO YOUR TEAMS AND THE PROCESS.  Ask yourselves, “Are we paying enough attention to our teams and the process?”  If culture change is not working, you probably are not.

Don’t forget: You are a lean enterprise, every minute of every day from now on.

Next Network Meeting

The next meeting of the Lean Thinking Network

When: Thursday January 26, 2006, 8:30am until Noon

Who: TWO attendees per member company (space is limited)

What: Remcon will show us their recently kaizened Kayak Assemble area
We will discuss Work Elements, task balancing, standardization and visuals

Where: Remcon Plastics
208 Chestnut Street
Reading, PA 19602-1809
Phone: 610-376-2666

Remcon contact person is Rich Maguire

APICS Congress for Progress Baltimore, April 2006

Lean Operations Workshop

Identifying and Eliminating Waste

Do you every think your “system” is letting you, your customer’s and stakeholders down? Perhaps some of these thoughts hit home:

“I am tired of apologizing to customers for missing promised ship dates”
“Over 90% of the time our material and or people are waiting on something!”
“We often don’t have what we need when we need it!”
“Too often it’s difficult to find what we need and then we have to move materials to get to it?”
“Yes, it really is possible to reduce your lead-time by 50%”

This workshop will focus on answering the following questions

1. What is getting in the way of your company being the most competitive and profitable member of your market?
2. Is there any waste in your value streams?
3. How does “Lean” define waste?
4. What do you mean by visible and invisible waste?
5. How can you identify waste? After identification, how can you eliminate waste?
6. What is in it for your company?

Participants will bring home the following skills:

* Identify both visible and invisible waste
* Understand a system which effectively sustains improvements
* Understand Kaizen and how small changes can lead to large improvements
* How to simply and effectively measure system performance
* How to apply Value Stream Mapping to your process


Next network meeting

I am delighted to announce the next meeting of the “Lean Thinking Network”

When: Thursday, December 8, 2005, 8:30 until Noon

Who: Three attendees per member company

Where: Misco Products, 1048 Stinson Drive, Reading Pa 19605………… 610.926.4106

What: “Having what you need when you need it”………Point of use storage…………..Presentation and demonstration of Creform products by Shawn Rose of, focusing on practical applications.

While attending Productivity Inc.’s Lean and TPM Conference, I was very impressed with the functional displays at Creform’s booth. I think you will find this demonstration both stimulating, and useful for your operation.

Competing November 2005 Edition

Examining “Phase II” of your lean transition

Perhaps your company has had some initial success with lean. Possibly, you have successfully addressed the first four Lean Principles (1 Specify Value, 2. Identify the Value Stream(s), 3. Create Flow, 4. Pull to Customer Demand) and are making progress with the fifth Lean Principle, (5. Continuously Improving towards Perfection).

Many of my clients are immersed in Principle 5, “Continuously Improving towards Perfection”. I have taken the liberty to refer to this as “Phase II” of their lean transition. At this point in the transition, several issues frequently appear:

1. Not noticing the “new rocks” created by the lower water (elimination or reduction of waste)

a. Symptom: It’s “good enough”

b. Possible root cause: No means to regularly monitor your lean system’s competitiveness……..

Plan, Do, Act, Check

2. Inability to effectively drive “lean initiative” down throughout the organization.

a. Symptom: Kaizen becomes weak and/or diminished

b. Possible root cause: Insufficient training and exposure of lean to all employees, and/or inconsistent application of lean tools and philosophy by leadership/management.

3. Inability to remove obstacles from the value stream

a. Symptom: No progress is being made and undocumented or inappropriate excuses are the cause.

b. Possible root cause: Chapter 8 of Womack & Jones “Lean Thinking” states “Remove the Anchor-Draggers………The general manager and his deputies….promised to work on a long-term plan, but it was apparent that nothing would happen soon; shortly afterward they were asked to leave Pratt.”. With a new general manager measurable progress was soon attained.

***People are not the enemy. We all need to do everything within reason to allow a teammate to be successful, but when all else fails…………remove them from the value stream. You owe it to the company and the rest of your teammates.

Is your performance improved over last year, last month, last week? If you do not know or have not begun to identify and apply countermeasures, you are not actively seeking perfection through continuous improvement. Your lean program is likely stagnant. In today’s hypercompetitive markets, stagnant all too often means death.

Take a look at the three simple examples listed above and see if any apply to your situation. If so, become proactive ……Plan…Do…Check…Act. Focus on rekindling the excitement present during the beginning of your lean transition. What gets measured gets done and performance will improve.

Don’t forget: You are a lean enterprise, every minute of every day from now on.

Competing October 2005 Edition

“We are good enough.”
(or are we?)

What do you think your competition is focusing on right now? Do you believe they are thinking “ABC Inc (your company) has been working on lean for a while now and we will never catch them”… or “ABC Inc delivers in half the time we do and we will never catch them”. I don’t, in fact, I believe they are doing everything they can to catch and then pass you. Earlier this week I went to the Flyers home opener against the New York Rangers. The Flyers are expected to win the Stanley Cup, while the Rangers are not expected to even make the playoffs. Well, the Flyers get off to a 3 to 1 lead and the game was beginning to look like an easy victory, but then…………..the Rangers score 4 unanswered goals. What happened? Well, after the game the Flyer’s coach and some of the players admitted that they were “outworked in the third period”. The net result, the Flyers lost to their competition 5-3 because they were outworked. I suspect you do not wish a similar fate.

If your company has begun its lean journey you must constantly remind yourselves “we are a lean enterprise every minute of every day from now on.”

Continuous Improvement

The most used and most effective tool to sustain and continue improving is the Gemba Walk or Manager’s walk. It takes more than a report to sustain lean gains. Cultural change must occur on the shop floor and the front office. Successful lean
managers must show their commitment to importance of the new manufacturing/operational strategy by inspecting what they expect and getting out of their offices and walking and talking to their teams in every area of the enterprise. (Being noticed noticing)

As a result of a rapid improvement event, standard layouts, standard work
and standard job instructions should have been developed and posted at point of

Behavioral change requires conditioning or breaking old habits. Gemba walks to the area of recent kaizen activity must be repeated often to accomplish this.

In closing, all of us are not as competitive as we could be. We have unlimited potential, resting on our laurels will only make us an easy target for our competition.
Sustain gains and strive to constantly make new ones.

Going a “mile wide and an inch deep” is a mistake, but so is being satisfied with “6 inches wide and 12 inches deep”.

Don’t allow yourselves to get outworked by your competition.

Competing September 2005 Edition

Resilience vs. Brilliance

Okay, so by now maybe you have been implementing your lean program for a few months or years. What have you noticed about the process? Here is what I have experienced with many companies implementing lean.

1. In the beginning, most companies have a large percentage of employees questioning the intent of their lean program.

At this stage it is extremely important to effectively communicate THE SAME simple message (your objective) to all employees.

2. Typically, the next step is a Value Stream Mapping event. The VSM team is very motivated, while those outside the team may feel, disconnected, unimportant or (worst case) about to be eliminated.

Communicate to all employees during the process, formally or informally. Again, a simple clear message is needed.

3. Implementation is forever. If you are not implementing something, even a small improvement, why not? It is important not to overwhelm your resources and by going a “mile wide and an inch deep”. Forward motion, however, must be constant and become an integral part of your culture. You win, win, lose, win, lose, lose, win, win, win, win, lose, win, win, lose, win, win, lose, win………………….I put more losses in the array than we normally face, but it does require an answer to “what do we do when we lose?”

I suggest you admit it to your team, then carefully identify why it happened (root cause) and develop countermeasures (corrective actions) to detect then eliminate the problem. This may take several attempts. This is why I will take RESILIENCE OVER BRILLIANCE. Brilliance usually expects quick wins, we need to be able to consistently deal with quick wins, slow wins, quick losses and slow losses (the worst)………… the way, most slow losses take so long because we did not effectively measure the outcomes or we didn’t keep our eye on the objective.

Communicate the status of the program. Regularly updated Kaizen/5S (or 6S) communication boards constantly deliver your clear and simple message…

We are a Lean Enterprise every minute of every day from now on.

“Perfection is the enemy of good”

By now you have likely read the HBS article on operational innovation. To get the discussion, and our network BLOG going a few related thoughts:

“Process owners” – who owns your kaizens? -this is absolutely critical to success. One person “owns” the kaizen with the support of the other kaizen team members. How does this process work at your company….good or bad?

“Building Buy-in” Generals plan but sargents, corporals and privates win the battle. Toyota believes that more “lead workers” and fewer “supervisors” make an effective system.

What do you think?

Who We Are and Why We Exist

The Lean Thinking Network (Previously- The Lean Network of Southcentral Pennsylvania)

Established in November 2004, the Lean Thinking Network’s objective is to leverage the collective knowledge, experience and motivation of the network to significantly improve the competitiveness and profitability of all member companies.

All members companies are actively and demonstratively pursuing becoming a waste free “Lean Enterprise” including production, service, finance, sales and administration. All members companies actively participate in the network, hosting meetings, sharing ideas and supporting one another and expect nothing less from new members.

Member companies shall meet this profile:

  1. Actively and demonstratively in the process of becoming a Lean Enterprise.
  2. Willingness to share Lean related information, processes, and techniques with the network.
  3. Company size from 20 to 600 employees.
  4. A variety of industries, predominately manufacturing and distribution, will be included.
  5. Willingness to host a meeting at your facility


11/4/04 Lean Network’s inaugural meeting at Misco Products.

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• ASK Foods, Inc.
• Clean Burn Inc.

Subject – Lean Flow

• Introductions
• Guided Plant Tour
• Group Discussion
• Introduction of our “Bulletin Board”

12/2/04 Lean Network’s second meeting at Reading Powder Coatings Inc.

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• ASK Foods, Inc.
• Clean Burn Inc.

Subject- Total Company “Buy In”

• Introductions
• Guided Plant Tour
• Group Discussion

1/13/05 Lean Network’s third meeting at Misco Products

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• ASK Foods, Inc.
• Clean Burn Inc.

Invited Guests:

• The Rose Corporation
• Clarity Associates

Subject – Group defined Kaizen/brainstorming

• Topic selected to brainstorm “Buy In”
• Defined group objective
• Determined multiple options and measures

2/24/05 Lean Network’s fourth meeting at Clean Burn Inc.

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• ASK Foods, Inc.
• Clean Burn Inc.
• The Rose Corporation

Subject – Supermarkets/Kanban/Visual Factory

• Introductions
• Guided Plant Tour
• PowerPoint presentation of “before” and “after” photos
• Group Discussion

4/21/05 Lean Network’s fifth meeting at The Rose Corporation

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• Clean Burn Inc.
• The Rose Corporation

Guest Companies present:

Berks Packing Company, Inc.
Reading Electric

Subject – Techniques to reduce bottlenecks and improve flow and capacity

• Introductions
• Guided Plant Tour
• Review of “current” and “future” Value Stream Maps
• Group Discussion

6/9/05 Lean Network’s sixth meeting at Misco Products

Member Companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• Clean Burn Inc.
• The Rose Corporation
* Yoder Brothers Inc.

Two Kaizen Breakout Sessions

1- Having what you need when you need it.
2- Effective performance measures
3- Breakout team presentations to network

6/27/05 Lean Thinking Network’s 7th meeting at Clean Burn Inc.

Member companies present:

• Misco Products
• Reading Powder Coatings
• Clean Burn Inc.
• The Rose Corporation
* Yoder Brothers Inc.

Subject: The Visual Factory / Kanban in action

9/26/05 Network’s 8th meeting at Yoder Brothers

Member companies present:

• Reading Powder Coatings
• Clean Burn Inc.
• The Rose Corporation
* Yoder Brothers Inc.

Subject: Plant tour, 5S and A3 Reporting


The Lean Network of South-central Pennsylvania is an ideal learning environment for our employees at MISCO. Network events get key team members exposed to other organizations involved in Lean change and improvement projects and allows them to trade ideas. It is also nice to pull people out of working IN the business and have them focused working ON the business, which is always a struggle. Finally, the Lean Network is an excellent means of driving the commitment and philosophy of Lean down through the organization. Having some new and different people at each meeting is an excellent way to keep the network fresh and informative.

Anthony Byrne
Misco Products


This form of Network to me is a real eye-opener. There are issues that seem impossible from my corporate blinded point of view until I go and see how others have handled the same or similar issue with sometimes even more difficult variances. What seems though to accomplish here seems easy there and the other way around. The quote you found is the best argument for our Network. You cannot live long enough to make all the mistakes necessary to implement lean on your own.

The Real Value is easy; it’s a more efficient implementation and a great motivation booster.

Manuel Mayer
Plant Manager
Reading Powder Coatings, Inc.

I first want to thank you for inviting us to join you at Clean Burn. I was very impressed with what I heard and saw. Having an APICS background I was really impressed that some of the techniques of the BOK really work when put into practice. I was also floored by all of the team members who were so proud and took ownership of the projects that they were all working on and especially the nay sayer who admitted that he was against change, was very pleased that he had finally agreed it was great. Looking forward to attending another one in the future.

Michael Gerbasio Jr.
Distribution Supervisor
MISCO Products Corporation
Reading, PA 19605

It was really impressive to see first hand a company like Clean Burn who is 100 % dedicated to the Lean way of life. Clean Burn not only seems like a great company, they seem like a great team. THEY GET IT! I was very impressed in how quickly and easily they learned and implemented the 6’s. It just goes to show, if the whole company works as a team, there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished. Thanks for the eye opening experience.

P.S. Those Kanban cards were awesome.

Mike Kauffman
Graphic Arts Coordinator
Misco Products Corporation

We find the Lean Network of South-central Pennsylvania (LNSCP) to be a real asset. Our people are able to see and hear how other companies are being successful and what problems they are having. In addition, hosting a network event provided a well-earned opportunity for those who have contributed to our success to get recognition and credit from other network companies who have “felt the pain” and understand the value.

Dave Wolf
President & CEO
Clean Burn Inc. and Mill Creek Inc.

Muda Hunting License

The Muda Hunting License concept was developed to further support our networks lean journey by recognizing the “muda or waste ” identification and elimination efforts of our members.

In order to be effective I believe this “system” must:

  1. Be simple to manage, participate in and administer
  2. Reward significant, robust and measurable improvements
  3. Provide a motivating opportunity to celebrate; true successes, with our network members

Lean transition take decades so let’s use this as an opportunity to celebrate the many, many steps our journey will require.

To qualify for a “Hunting License” a company member (we will recognize companies only) must:

  1. Document the “current state” and reason for selecting this situation to “Kaizen” including current performance measures
  2. Document the root cause of the problem
  3. Implement countermeasures
  4. Plan-Do-Check-Act – measure, adjust through kaizen activities, measuring performance
  5. Standardize the improved process
  6. Document the improved performance
  7. Develop and present the plan to continuously improve the process

Some options for the license approval process are:

The applicant company will present its case to:

  1. Attendees at a network meeting who will decide
  2. A committee of network members, chaired by me, who will decide
  3. Me and I decide

Only member companies (or when appropriate facilities) need apply

This is our program, by us and for us, please voice your opinions. I am certain this process can be more powerful, enriching and fun and that your ideas can fuel that improvement.