Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lean Thoughts from John Stonesifer, Dymax's Lean Sensei

Today's post comes from a friend of ours, Mr. John Stonesifer of Dymax Corporation (Torrington, CT). John is a seasoned lean champion. I am delighted John has agreed to give us a few pointers. Dymax has been identified 7 times as one of Inc magazine's 500 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

Greetings fellow A3ers! I thought it might be fun and a benefit to both experienced and beginner A3’ers to have a discussion about waste.

Like in baseball, great teams do many small things well, most importantly they practice great and constantly review the basics great. In the military, in the infantry, if you are not on a mission/ deployment you are practicing the basics.  You are either doing or practicing, either way you live it!  So before we start talking waste, let's review some often overlooked A3 basics.  It might actually be easier and more effective to look at what A3 is not by pointing out all too often overlooked [especially mine] mistakes.

1)      Lean is not doing more with less.  If you think this, or portray this, your Lean journey will fail.  It’s doing more with the same.  If you want to crash your journey fast, let people think once you get Lean you won’t need them.  Let them know UP FRONT that lean will not affect their job in any negative way.  Make sure you reiterate it, because they probably won’t hear you the first couple of times.

2)      Go ahead, but if it doesn’t work you’re fired!  People at all levels actually have that attitude and reflect it on their teams. Amazing!  You must create a spirit of adventure.  You must make people see that you are willing to reward failure as well as success.  You must applaud failure as having the courage to change and the opportunity to learn and grow.

3)      Lean is never an on/ off again thing, one year you’re on, one year you’re off.  The fastest way I know to destroy your journey is once on your way stop.  Try to start up again……. good luck with that.

4)      Lean is not about what management wants.  When the last time a Sr. Manager or front line manager performed a task on the production floor or with the purchasing team or the finance group?  It happens, but is very uncommon.  It is all about empowering the people that do the task every day, every week, year in and year out to make the decisions that lead to waste reduction [we will get into waste reduction a lot more in the future]

5)      Lean is not about the bottom line, it’s about your customer.  The most frequent mistake I think that we make is losing sight of that.  After all a Lean company is nothing without their customers, without them we have no company.  The reason we use Lean as a business development tool is to allow us to satisfy even more customers without increased cost, making us more valuable to them than our competitors.  In our company we call this “The Edge”.  The Edge is helping our customers become even more successful in ways our competitors cannot. 

In “The Toyota Production System” they live by the 4P’s.  I never understood [other that 4P sounds better than 4P +C] why there was no “C” there.  Sorry to harp on this but it’s important not to lose sight of why we want to be Lean.  If we live Lean and never lose sight of our Edge the bottom line will grow, you won’t be able to stop it.

6)      Lean is not about tribal knowledge and protecting our job.  It’s about team work, sharing ideas, making life easier for all who work in the facility.  Actually, I take that back, it is about protecting our jobs.  IF we don’t get better at every aspect of our business, one of our competitors will and we will all eventually be looking for work!

7)      Lean is not about my way or the highway.  Truth is this is a very hard thing for type A personalities to get a grip on.  It’s about everyone agreeing to execute a task the same way.  Key word here is “everybody”.  If you don’t include the shareholders in a decision how can you expect the change to stick?  Show respect ALWAYS, especially the ones YOU THINK are hard to work with.  Why are they hard to work with? Ask yourself, did we hire them that way? No? Then what changed them?  What valuable knowledge and opportunities are they hiding?  Usually, 99% of the time, we did it to them. 

8)      Lean is not project management!  A3 is a rapid process improvement technique effective in any operation throughout our facility(s).  Taking MANY SMALL bites at our problems in rapid succession.  If it takes you six months or a year to complete an A3 you used the wrong tool for the job.  If you did not take more than one crack at the problem, you did not do your job.  If you think you solved the problem in one attempt…… stay tuned because it’s coming around again.

So what is A3?  It is a development tool for improving our processes by the elimination of waste and empowering those that know to affect change for the mutual benefit of our company and most importantly our customers.

In our next chat, we will delve into the DOWNTIME acronym…… I promise.

John S.

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