I just started reading Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors, written by Maryann Keller. It was published in 1989, so it’s not a new book by any stretch. A lot has happened to GM in the past 31 years. But it’s an interesting read for anyone interested in learning more about how big companies manage to screw things up in spite of having lots of resources at their disposal.
At any rate, the book discusses the bad days at the nearby (to me) Lordstown plant back in the 1970’s. That led me to the interwebs to learn more about all that, where I found the 1973 documentary Loose Bolts. (Click on this link.)
It’s about 30 minutes or so long and worth a viewing. The production values aren’t great but the interviews with some of the workers and supervisors at the plant are interesting to hear, especially given that they took place shortly after the three-week strike at the plant.
As one learns more about the conditions and management approach at Lordstown, it’s hard not to conclude that GM purposefully created intolerable conditions expressly for the purpose of engendering a strike.
I always like reading about the winners of Industry Weeks’s Best Plant Awards. I especially like reading about winners from what we often think of as “rust belt” industries. That’s decidedly the case for the Accuride Wheel End Solutions plant in Rockford, IL. (Here’s the link to the story to learn more about the plant and why it won the award.)
This particular story caught my eye because an Accuride plant here in NE Ohio was a client of mine about, oh, 15 years ago back when I worked for Work In Northeast Ohio Council. That plant machined and finished truck wheels that were forged in Erie, PA. That plant also would never, ever have been able to win any kind of “best plant” award. As a matter of fact, it was the single worst plant I’ve ever worked with.
The plant floor was usually covered in water, while most of the machines had their electric panels open with fans blowing on them in an effort to keep them from overheating. Yeah, I was always pretty nervous walking around the plant. Such meetings as I had with management (the plant manager would regularly schedule meetings with us, then conveniently be “out of the plant” when the scheduled time came) showed me that the leadership team just wasn’t competent. (Strangely enough, the plant was ISO certified.)
All this is to say that I’m happy to see that Accuride (the Rockford Plant, at least) has gotten its act together. The company president mentioned in the article, Rick Dauch, was not in place at the time I worked with Accuride. (In fact, it looks as if the entire leadership team has changed. The company now has a VP of Quality and Lean) Rick’s dad wrote a book, American Drive: How Manufacturing Will Save Our Country, that related the story of his turnaround of American Axle in Detroit. Richard Sr. was an early proponent and implementer of employee participation and lean principles.
I distinctly recall meetings with the plant management team and the President and Vice Presidents of Operations and Human Resources in which we nearly begged them to consider implementing a broad array of lean principles and methods. (We were there to help develop operator task instructions.) We were pretty much ignored. It appears that it took a complete changeover of leadership to implement what my colleagues at WINOC and I were proposing 15 years ago. Better late than never, I suppose.
And that plant that we worked at here in NE Ohio? It’s gone.
Yeah, it’s kind of easy to say Talan Products is a great company…after all, they were smart enough to hire me to help them implement their lean initiative several years back, right?
Seriously, I can vouch for the fact that, just as this article says, Steve Peplin and Talan Products practice their values every day.
I teach a course at Kent State in which I hold forth that a strong, positive culture provides a strategic advantage for the organization. Talan Products is strong evidence for this assertion.
Read and enjoy!
Six months ago (yikes!) we were talking about how to develop and use Value Stream Maps. We had gotten to the point where we had put together a pretty good “Current State” map that included performance data. We said we’d look, in more detail, at the map and the data we had put together before we went on to creating a “Future State” map. And here we are…a mere SIX MONTHS LATER! So, let’s get going.
Continue reading “How to Implement Lean Manufacturing: Simplify and Solve – Value Stream Mapping and Team Problem Solving: Part 7”
OK, so apparently a big mistake was made at the Oscars last night…a really, really big mistake. The wrong film was announced as Best Picture. Not Best Sound Editing, not Best Costumes, not Best Foreign Short Animation. Best Picture. That’s a REALLY BIG mistake.
To add insult to injury, the mistake wasn’t caught and corrected until the folks representing the wrong movie (LaLaLand) were on stage and had been thanking everyone in their extended families for their love and support.
So, what’s all this have to do with lean methods?
Continue reading “Lean Methods Could Have Prevented Historic Mistake at the Oscars”
OK, first I want you to watch ten seconds of this video.
Continue reading “What Lean Is For”
One of my favorite lean videos was produced and put on YouTube a couple of years ago by a company in Washington state, FastCap. The video is about 14 minutes long and it’s a tour of the FastCap plant, conducted by the President. It’s the best portrayal of workplace organization and visual factory that I’ve come across.
Continue reading “New Video from FastCap”
I always start any project with a few days of information gathering about the operations so that I’ll know a bit of the culture and local language when I get to the leadership planning steps. The info gathering phase is always enjoyable as I get to know the folks within the client organization and tell them what I have in mind. During the info gathering I always come across conditions and situations that, on the one hand, are easily addressed but, on the other, I fear that the client will think, “Is that all you’ve got?” when I bring it up.
I had the latter experience a few years ago. I was strongly encouraging a client to implement workplace organization and visual factory methods in the plant. The thing was, the plant was reasonably clean and organized but just in the usual “decent housekeeping” way that plants sometimes are. The managers didn’t refuse to take me up on my suggestions but didn’t seem to have much energy in implementing 5S. They seemed primarily interested in “cost savings kaizens”. (They couldn’t tell me what savings had come from past kaizens, or even how “cost savings” were to be measured, but that’s another story.)
Continue reading “Lean Is Often All About the Smallest Things”
A few posts ago, I mentioned I was reading (or was about to read) a book I’d come across, The Lean Farm, authored by Ben Hartman. Well, I’m about two-thirds the way through and I’d recommend it even for (maybe, especially for) folks who are applying lean concepts and methods in other industries. (Sometimes, examples and illustrations hit home better when they are just a bit outside our intellectual comfort range.)
The book is very nicely organized. The author does a good job of breaking lean down into its most important elements. Further, Hartman provides lots of illustrations and examples of his own application of lean tools and methods on his small farm. Readers familiar with lean won’t learn much that’s new but will be interested in how an astute practitioner has been able to apply lean tools in an agricultural setting. “Newbies” will get as good an introduction to lean ideas and methods as there is.
Continue reading “The Lean Farm Follow-Up”