by Robert Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue – it’s wedding season! Since we are just coming out of a two year pandemic, the forecast is for the highest number of weddings in one year since
1984. That’s exciting and meaningful!

No, this article is not about weddings. It’s about Lean Together™ Reboot, which actually does have a strong tie to this traditional rhyme for long-term success and happiness. Just as many of you had to pivot, make changes, and put important things on hold, NWIRC had to do the same early on with the pandemic. At the top of the list was our very popular and successful Lean Together program.

Photo of NWIRC Lean Together kick-off meeting
Lean Together participants from area manufacturing companies during their kick-off meeting.

During the three years prior to the pandemic, more than 40 manufacturing companies in our region participated in at least one 9-month cohort of Lean Together™ with many of them participating in multiple cohorts. We saw incredible success as these companies implemented 2 second lean, a proven, straightforward approach to a culture of continuous improvement. A culture where employees are engaged to make small incremental
improvements as part of their everyday job. With our mission to help improve the competitiveness of manufacturers and grow their people, it was so hard to put Lean Together™ cohorts on hold. Earlier this year, sensing that things were getting back to normal, we were eager to have discussions on how to resume Lean Together™. We reached out to our most experienced 2 second lean companies: ISM, SEPCO, ONEX, Franklin Industries, Electric Materials, Peters Heat Treat, and Acutec Precision. We found that they too were ready to re-energize and re-focus their 2 second lean initiatives that had slowed over the past couple of years. We found that everyone missed the collaborative learning and the inspiration that was provided through the working group structure and plant visits that Lean Together enabled. We decided to focus on these companies to help them get back on track by offering a Lean Together Reboot. These companies have come to expect that NWIRC looks to take very good programs and continually work to make them even better – so we did just that.

Photo of NWIRC Lean Together Tour at SEPCO
According to Dan Ignasiak, SEPCO-Erie President, “We are different in our processes and our attitude. We can promise that you will see at least one machine or process that you have not seen before…no matter your experience level.”

Now, to tie-in the opening rhyme with Lean Together™! ‘Something Old’ provides protection for what’s to come. In the case of Lean Together, it’s the future culture of the organization. We knew from our past Lean Together™ success that providing a platform for collaborative learning within a company, and among multiple companies, helps to fuel and accelerate the implementation of 2 second lean. So taking from the ‘old’, multiple company tours had to be part of the reboot. That’s why the Lean Together Reboot group visited SEPCO in Erie for the kickoff session in May and went to Corry for a tour of Viking Plastics in June. During both visits, the group observed each company’s team meeting (a pillar of 2 second lean tailored specifically to each company). Congratulations to the teams at both SEPCO and Viking Plastics. Your 2 second lean improvements and
workplace organization is impressive, and the enthusiastic involvement of your team is inspiring.

‘Something New’ is an item that reflects future shared life and optimism. Employees of companies that fully embrace 2 second lean share a culture where everyone contributes proactively and enthusiastically to
continuous improvement. To help participants achieve that future state and go beyond, we added something ‘new’ to the program content for the reboot. While continuous improvement is essential to operational excellence, there are many other factors that comprise a company’s culture and drive business success. With this in mind, our Lean Together reboot includes two sessions where NWIRC’s Lisa Pustelak provides her expert insights to strengthen organizational culture, to better attract and retain talent, and become an employer of choice.

Something Borrowed’ is to bring good luck. Lean Together is all about borrowing. One of the outstanding attributes of our Lean Together™ program is the willingness on the part of participants to unselfishly share knowledge, tools, and practices with other participating companies. Learning from others and having others learn from you is an essential component for success according to Paul Akers, founder and author of the book, 2 Second Lean™.

‘Something Blue’ is for deflecting the evil eye. The companies in our ‘reboot’ group overcame (or deflected) unexpected issues and challenges brought on by the pandemic. These companies remained competitive and resilient during difficult times because of the culture in place before the pandemic and their loyal employees who love to contribute to workplace improvements. But, ‘blue’ represents not only trust and loyalty, but also wisdom, confidence and stability – so these companies are our ‘blue’. We’re excited for them and all their accomplishments.

We are now planning a cohort for the Fall focused on companies that are brand new to 2 second lean – to help them strengthen their culture of continuous improvement with Lean Together™.