Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles

Lean Mfg Online

Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles

How often do you see a  news article with a title like this? I find it exciting to see a news report about a U.S. company investing in its future by upgrading their facility. This is incredibly bold of them, especially in a down economy, when all you usually read in the business section is bad news!

Companies are starting to realize that many of their customer service issues can be traced back to their facility and production systems. The solution and capability to eliminate the root cause of their problem already exists inside their own facility. The solution is to train their employees to “work smarter, not force them to work harder!” They need some basic problem solving tools to allow them to improve their workplace. In doing this, the management team will see the manufacturing systems run efficiently and become more effective at servicing their customer’s needs. This is a win-win scenario for the company and their customers because they will be able to continue to generate revenues to support their employees and business interests.

Here is a great article I found in the Rome Sentinel about Harden Furniture Co. that has invested $3 million to improve their facility and production capabilities. Enjoy the article!

Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles

Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles - Lean Mfg Online
Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles

The Harden Furniture Co. plans to invest as much as $3 million to install state-of-the-art woodworking equipment and engineering software later this year as it upgrades its facility and introduces additional lean manufacturing practices.

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The upgrade is expected to occur in several phases. The first phase will be operational prior to the end of 2012 and will include a “batch one” manufacturing cell supported by a new Holtzer CNC machining center and replacement of the roughmill with a Weinig optimizing system.

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Harden’s manufacturing facility utilizes a batch process for most woodworking operations and the modernization will convert several product lines to a lean manufacturing/just-in-time process. The anticipated benefits include shorter production lead times, an increased ability to customize existing designs and reduced operating costs. In addition, Harden has begun offering the Cabinetmaker’s Cherry Collection in solid black walnut as the new process will allow consumers to choose alternate hardwoods.

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The introduction of additional hardwoods compliments what has been “a unique and popular Harden quality — the opportunity to select from over 40 distinctive finishes,” the company noted. The conversion of Harden’s cabinetmaking operation to “batch one” expands custom capabilities and aligns all manufacturing processes with a more efficient lean model.

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According to President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Harden, the investment will “establish Harden as one of the few furnishings manufacturers world-wide that has ‘one off’ and true custom capabilities.”

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Harden Furniture manufactures high-end residential and commercial furnishings.

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Read the original article…

I take my hat off to the management team at Harden Furniture Co. because when a furniture company invests in lean principles to improve their production system, this is not an everyday occurrence.  It was inspiring and enjoyable to read about their $3 million investment to upgrade their facility.

They are continuing to follow a strong tradition of innovation amidst a world economy that is fraught with doubt and angst for most business owners and management teams. They are implementing lean principles to help them stay ahead, when so many are falling behind in the belief that they will catch up when the economy improves. This is based on false hope, and successful companies take on the challenges and learn from them.

Please share this article with your friends and work colleagues.

If you enjoyed reading this article: Furniture Company Invests in Lean Principles

You will also enjoy this article: Lean Manufacturing Innovation Award Winner

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What is a Lean Process?

One of the questions that I receive in my email inbox more than any other is “What is a Lean Process?”

what is a lean process
What is a Lean Process?

You would think that everyone would know the answer to this question, especially when we are living in the 21st century. It makes you wonder where these people that ask me this question have been living for the past few years. With companies like Toyota and GM appearing on the main news channels almost nightly for one reason or another. Did they not see the ongoing reports? Or, maybe they were focused on more important things?

It really demonstrates that people don’t find it easy to connect  common or related events together. However, this is not a scientific study, it is based on my own observations. Why is this happening?

Well, its because there is so much information being thrust at us from social media sites and news channels that its easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the quagmire of data.  The same thing happens with companies that are trying to get through their day to day business activities, going from one crisis to the next to correct an issue with a customer order, etc. They are focused on the “Urgent” and forgot to take time out to get back to the “Important.”

When you live in the fast track and get use to dealing with the urgent issues, you never get time to step back and see reality. You live in a mental construct that is like your playing a character part in the Matrix movie. You are unaware of how things are working or not working. Everything becomes a habit and we get addicted to the certainty and comfort of activities that are repetitive and familiar.

Here are a couple of short videos that will help answer the question:

What is a Lean Process?

Lean Process Training LIVE NACE 2011

Thinking about Lean in your collision repair center? The experts from 3M break down the basics of Lean Process LIVE from NACE 2011.

 

So, the first video gives a good overview of lean principles, the next video will demonstrate how an organization is using them to improve its processes.  It is important to understand the what, when and how to use lean principles to give a practical answer to the question we are posing in this article – What is a Lean Process?

 

Transforming your business through Lean Process Improvement

Don Wetekam, Group Vice President of MRO, gives an extensive presentation on how to cut costs while still operating at a high level.

This quote by George Bernard Shaw explains it better than most, “Progress requires change and if you can’t change your mind, then you can’t change anything.”

If you want to change, you have to become aware of the flaws in the current process and this cannot happen by maintaining the status quo, it requires a paradigm shift. An executive management team must gain insight into their business practices and realize that something it not working. They must stop blaming the system and start to realize that they are enabling and supporting their organizations poor performance. So, what is a lean process? It’s when employees learn how to work smarter and stop believing that the only way to improve performance is to work harder.

If you enjoyed reading this article – What is a Lean Process?

You will enjoy reading this article too – Do Lean Manufacturing Principles Work?

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Lean Certification!

lean certification

Is Lean Certification Really Necessary?

Dispelling 3 myths about Lean Certification!

I received a call the other day from someone enquiring about Lean Certification. He told me that he wanted to sign up for my Lean Certification training course. I asked why he was doing this. What was his motivation for obtaining lean certification? He was surprised that I asked himlean certification this question. “Isn’t it obvious why I would want to do this”, he said! I was not really sure to be honest. I assumed he was trying to improve his knowledge of lean principles or something like this. I was dead wrong! He was doing it because his boss told him that it was the only way he was going to be accepted as a member on the company’s improvement team. Our conversation made me think about the misinformation that has been generated that has led to this perception. The consequence is that business owners think that lean knowledge is only acceptable when it comes in the form of lean certification. Here are three common myths  about lean certification that I want to share to dispel this belief.

Myth #1: People who attain lean certification make better practitioners!

This is probably the worst myth of all. It is a statement that is perpetuated by people who follow an academic mindset toward increasing knowledge and learning. The problem is that it is incorrect. It is the same as saying that someone with a degree achieves a higher level of job performance than someone without one. Where is the evidence to prove it? It is a statement based on biased opinions and not supported by data. Over the years, I have seen people who did not have a high school diploma achieve amazing results using lean principles when they were given the right learning environment. No lean certification here!

Lean is a process of learning by doing. A more technical way of presenting this is to say that application of lean principles is a method of converting declarative knowledge (cognitive learning) from a book, video, workshop, etc., into procedural knowledge (tasks or activities) to improve the performance of the workplace. The time required for a person to become proficient at a specific task is known as their” learning curve.” In fact, it is the amount of time a person needs to convert the information in their head into the correct physical activities to create the best results. The learning curve applies to everyone whether they have obtained lean certification or not.

The only way to learn about lean principles is through practice, which is implementing them into the workplace. Practice makes perfect and delivers results. If this can be done with the assistance of a lean sensei or mentor this is a better proposition because the learning curve will be shorter. A person with a lean certification can prove one thing, and it is that they received standardized information about lean principles. It certainly does not prove that they are more capable of improving workplace performance. Lean application, experience and measurable results are the only ways to prove if anyone can truly call themselves a lean practitioner. A lean certification is an acknowledgement of formal training.

Myth #2: Lean Certification training from an accredited organization is better!

Find any company with an opening for a lean practitioner and then take a look at their job description. What you will probably find is that they require the person to have attained lean certification from an accredited college or university. What does this really mean? Why are they required to have attended an accredited establishment? What does accreditation really mean? Is this a valid requirement for this type of lean certification?

This is the definition of accreditation according to the folks at the business dictionary online: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/accreditation.html

Certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity of an agency, firm, group, or person, awarded by a duly recognized and respected accrediting organization.

In other words, the accreditation process ensures that their lean certification practices are acceptable, typically meaning that they are competent to test and certify third parties, behave ethically and employ suitable quality assurance. Extract was quoted from http://www.answers.com/topic/accreditation.

So, what are the differences between accredited and non-accredited organizations? The accredited organization can issue Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) with their lean certification training. A non-accredited training organization cannot issue CEU’s. Does this mean that receiving lean certification training from a non-accredited organization is worse? Not at all, because most are professional training and consulting businesses that generate revenues from teaching their clients Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) practices such as Lean Principles and Six Sigma. They have clients that are in the Fortune 500 class. Do you think these companies would use any organization that does not have the capabilities for delivering the best lean certification training to their employees? Of course not! The only reason for attaining lean certification with an accredited institution is to receive CEU’s and have their prestigious logo on your certificate. However, you will pay much more for the privilege of having these.

Myth #3: Lean Certification will guarantee a successfully lean implementation, every time!

Here is a scenario. I am the CEO of a company, and I just paid for 20 people to attain lean certification with a known accredited institution. I have brought all twenty people into the training room. My purpose is to try to solve a problem that has plagued the company since its inception. As the CEO I am working on three core beliefs:

  1. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they are well trained and understand all they need to know about lean principles.
  2. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they can use lean principles to identify and eliminate the root cause of the problem.
  3. All 20 people have lean certification, therefore, they have the ability to work together as a team to solve the problem.

Are these three core beliefs correct? Is the CEO doing the right thing? What do you think?

These three assumptions are “Wrong, Wrong and Wrong again.” Why would I say this?

This level of thinking has led people to believe that education is the answer to everything. The problem is that education does what it states, it educates people and improves their level of knowledge to attain lean certification. It does not necessarily demonstrate how to apply this newly acquired knowledge into a practical real-time situation. Even if this does happen, it would probably be presented in a form of a case study from a fictitious company or something similar. At best, there are limited examples of the practical application of lean knowledge during lean certification training.

The twenty people in the room are at the beginning of their application learning curve. It is a new experience, and they have no mental model to help them to assimilate their classroom experience. They are probably feeling lost and have no idea what to do next. They are worried about getting it wrong and making a huge mistake. So, what is the best way to use the limited experience of these twenty team members to achieve the desired result?

Use the services of a lean sensei or mentor to take the team through a few events to help them find their feet. This will shorten their learning curve and reduce the possibility of them making any major mistakes. This will help build confidence and bolster their own abilities to apply lean principles in a working environment. Using a mentor will also help the team members to learn how to structure the improvement events. It will help them to gain a better understanding, about how they need to work together to achieve their goal.

In Summary:

I am not opposed to lean certification, in fact, I support it. I have been responsible for facilitating lean certification training in many businesses over the years. What I am opposed to is the belief that it is the only way to create lean thinking in an organization. In my view, this is so alien to the original concepts that were established by the pioneers of lean thinking such as Henry Ford, Sakichi Toyoda, and Taiichi Ohno. The concept of kaizen is small incremental changes over time. What is included in the kaizen process is the learning experience for every individual involved. Each small improvement builds on the previous one till it eventually creates a different type of culture. An ideal one is a learning culture that uses problem solving to reach the next level. The importance of learning is explained perfectly in this quote from the Chinese philosopher Confucius. “Without learning, the foolish become wise.” Therefore, choose your lean certification based on the quality of the program, not the name of the institution!

Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, where learners have 24/7 access to online lean training materials. To learn more about lean certification training click here

What to do before implementing Lean Concepts!

lean concepts

5 things to know prior to making use of Lean Concepts!

Ignore these and your lean concepts will be nothing but dreams!

Changing lean conceptsany enterprise into a Lean Business may be a daunting job if the person participating in the project does not have the knowledge and experience of lean concepts to grasp what needs to be done.    Listed here are 5 factors that each business owner should really know prior to implementing a lean program.

Five factors to consider before turning your lean concepts into reality!

#1. Developing a Lean Culture:

Many organizations employ lean principles on an unplanned basis, they do not think about the consequences of their actions when attempting to develop and establish a Lean Culture. They must change their focus towards using lean concepts. The only way any enterprise will not become another failed lean implementation statistic will be to obtain the appropriate setting to support the identification and elimination of waste to increase value for its customers.

#2. Genchi Gembutsu:

A business owner is unable to know what is happening in their workplace if they are not applying “Genchi Gembutsu.” It is a Japanese phrase that loosely translates into “Go to the place where the work is being done and see it with your own eyes.” It requires employees to understand lean concepts to change their approach to finding solutions. Don’t try to improve company processes while away from the workplace, such as inside a conference room or training office. Go to where the process is currently being performed and watch it in action to get a true understanding about what is occurring.

#3. Kaizen:

The concept of Kaizen is based on two factors contained within the phrase, which are “Kai” and “Zen.” The meaning of these 2 terms is “change for the good.” It is important to understand that this implies never changing something for the sake of change itself. Make it a rule to adopt lean concepts to encourage a different way of thinking.  Only change a process when it increases value for the customer. Doing anything other than this is a waste or muda!

#4. Problem Solving:

Identifying improvements on the job sounds like an easy task, nonetheless, realistically, it is rather difficult, and the reason for this is that people don’t know the place to begin. Most organizations get their workforce to spend their valuable time concentrating on the wrong things. This causes more problems since it increases cost instead of minimizing it. Educate your workers to understand lean concepts and become problem solvers and authorize them to seek and eliminate the waste.

#5. Lean Training:

A technique to get a traditional enterprise to become more profitable would be to train their workforce about Lean Principles and how to utilize them to remove waste and improve their own workspace. This is usually a win-win for any business, its people and its customers. Get the right individual, and that is someone who has a good knowledge of implementing Lean Principles into a company. Ask them for details about previous final results for continuous process improvement (CPI) projects to demonstrate how they applied Lean tools.

Understanding these 5 simple points will get you targeted on doing the right activities and make your Lean implementation successful. Education is important but it is only by individuals following through and also employing their understanding Lean Principles that they will begin to transform their company into a Lean Enterprise. To learn more click here

Chris Turner is the CEO and Director of Training and Development for Radical Transformation LLC. He has 27 years of experience in the Continuous Process Improvement field. During this time, he has integrated Lean Principles, Lean Six Sigma and Change Management into his skill’s portfolio. He has worked with major organizations in the UK, USA and Canada such as the US Air Force, Canadian Ministry of Health, Siemens, Medtronic, APW, English China Clay to name a few. He participated in the design and development of Lean Certification Online, which allows learners to have 24/7 access to online training materials to improve their understanding of lean concepts.