by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

As NWIRC prepares to launch another Lean Together™ cohort in early 2020, we are reflecting on some of the numbers from the first two years of the program. The most staggering statistic is that the 35 participating companies averaged $1.27M in impact from the program.* We had companies of all sizes participate, in fact, 48% were under 50 employees and we had some over 300 employees as well. Some of the qualitative successes of the areas not easily measured are simply comments from companies about their overall improved culture, that employees are more engaged, and they are working together as a team to make ongoing improvements, every day. Lean Together is a collaborative learning program that focuses on concepts from the book, 2 Second Lean, by Paul Akers.

‘Stand-up’ meeting at SEPCO

Several of the manufacturers I visited last month are companies who have adopted ‘2 second lean’. I stopped by SEPCO, located in Erie, several weeks ago during one of their daily stand-up meetings. They’ve been doing these meetings since participating in our first Lean Together cohort several years ago. They continue their fifteen minute stand-up meetings with a specific agenda, including ‘gratefuls’, financial benchmarks, updates on recent improvement(s), engineering updates, and special announcements. On this day, employees updated each other on re-labeling a box in a specific area for better organization and gave the status of the robot maintenance. Exciting new orders were mentioned, as well as updates on several quotes. SEPCO’s Owner/President, Dan Ignasiak, also provided announcements for the next day’s schedule, including a visitor who would be at the company and the fact that he would be traveling to visit a “manufacturing hero” in Cleveland. The meeting was very short and sweet, but it connected the entire SEPCO team to keep everyone going down the same path. In fact, he told his employees that many are surprised to learn that SEPCO has no frontline managers. Dan knows that communication and teamwork are critical to improving SEPCO’s competitiveness. A sign in the lobby listing SEPCO’s ‘Basic Rules of Conduct’ says it all with the last item, “If you need constant supervision, please find a job somewhere else.”

Lean Together 2.0 visits Viking Plastics. The group is pictured with their Viking ‘tour guides’.

I also recently tagged along as the Lean Together 2.0 group visited Viking Plastics in Corry. We were able to attend one of their daily ‘drumbeat’ meetings (held every day for each shift). Just visualize a large green rectangle painted on the shop floor with the eight wastes listed around the edges. Viking employees stand around the perimeter participating in a brief discussion, led by an employee, about company financials, the eight wastes, new 2 second improvements, and ‘thankfuls’ (both work-related and personal). President Kelly Goodsel and Engineering Manager Shawn Gross both talk about these meetings as being the center point of getting everyone moving in the same direction. Shawn said seven years ago when beginning the meetings, it was very important to train everyone to name and see the eight wastes. Now, their employees identify waste, often have ideas to fix it, and share at the daily meetings. When talking with the Lean Together group, he emphasized the importance of leadership to be able to name the 8 forms of waste. Viking began their journey with 2 second lean back in 2011 after discovering Paul Akers. Soon after, the company implemented Viking Academy and started their drumbeat meetings. Viking has been a gracious host to many of our Lean Together working groups so participants can see first-hand the impact that developing this culture can have and that it is indeed sustainable. Shawn’s advice for his guests that day was that whether a company is just now reading the book 2 Second Lean or has been focusing on these concepts for numerous years, like Viking Plastics, you need to start small and keep setting new challenges- “It’s a journey”.

*Source= Client reported impact through surveys conducted by a NIST MEP third-party and NWIRC.