Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Spirit of Kaizen: Light Metals Coloring

"Providing people with the tools and inspiration to live and work to their greatest potential and do great things for themselves.".....Light Metals Coloring

When I have the opportunity to work with people to implement a lean strategy, I always start with the hardest part first. Can I help build an environment where everyone in the business is willing and capable to relentlessly see and eliminate non-value added work from their own processes? The two pillars of The Toyota Production System sound simple enough, and they roll off the tongue, but we can spend the rest of our careers working to achieve them. Continuous improvement and respect for people. Continuous means just that......non-stop. Respect for people means we understand that people are smart and people care, and are true experts working the processes they do for thousands of hours per year.....and are best qualified to improve them. The pillars are inter-dependent and one can't be achieved without the other. A spirit of kaizen requires coaches, not bosses. Leaders, not managers. 

Which brings me to Light Metals Coloring (Southington, CT). Led by President Richard Fleet since 1980, LMC has been engaged in the business of aluminum anodizing and metal finishing since 1945. They have had lots of practice and are extremely good at it. When I say lots of practice, LMC has two current employees who have been with the company for over 60 years each. I urge you to go and see what a spirit of kaizen looks like. The only constant at this company is change (improvement). It is a very interesting dynamic because this continuous improvement activity is led by people at all levels of the organization. Investments in the future of metal finishing technology are constantly being implemented side-by-side with over 100 smaller incremental improvements toward flow led by the people on the floor who actually do the value-added work. A large percentage of the 90 people in the company have either led or participated on A3 teams.  I watch experienced A3 leaders willingly help first timers through the DMAIC and yokoten (the weekly A3 "closings"). 

Toyota measures "morale" by the number of employee suggestions. LMC has demonstrated the ability to leverage diversity and gain agreement and implement 4-8 improvements per week...and they are going faster and faster. I spend a few hours per week at LMC, and I can go onto the plant floor and people are willing and capable to seed as many improvements as the A3 board will hold. They are learning lean tools as they go and have closed A3s using 5S, kanban, poka yoke, standard work and concepts of SMED. People like Esteban Ortiz (pictured above), Viola Kimbrough, Khari Mayes and Eric Bailey have demonstrated over and over the sense of ownership that only comes from respect for people as demonstrated by leaders (coaches) like Richard, Chris Deconti, Steven Fries, Ralph Walsh, Tyler Bourn, Steve Rood & Tom Caldwell. 

The better the coaching, the higher the level of ownership, the stronger the spirit of kaizen, the more profitable we get. Trust me, keep Light Metals Coloring on your radar.

If you'd like to put a smile on your face, check out (and LIKE) the Facebook page for LMC's PHOS department at to get a sense of ownership in these people!


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