• Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean

Top 5 Lean Tips from 2018

As the year 2018 comes to a close, we can look back and recognize the things that we did well and the areas where we need improvement. In reviewing the Lean Leaders Meetings that took place in 2018, I can offer the top five Lean Tips that we learned from the various NELC companies.


Top 5 Lean Tips from 2018

  1. Employee Engagement comes across as the most outstanding need and accomplishment for many of the companies. Finding a way to engage all the employees of a company is the key to success of any improvement program.

  • Over the past year, we saw and learned of many creative and innovative ideas that were originated and implemented by the members of the workforce

  1. Value Stream Mapping is one of the most powerful tools of Lean. Those companies that use the tool on a regular basis achieve outstanding results.

  2. Visual Workplace, including 5S, eliminates or minimizes many of the eight wastes remembered in the word DOWNTIME.

  • Standard Work and Work Instructions eliminate or minimize Defects, Waiting, Overproduction and Extra Processing

  1. Pull Systems minimize WIP, Work In Process Inventory, as those companies that use Kanban systems and FIFO Lanes tend to have minimal amounts of Inventory

  2. Properly utilized Gemba Boards and Gemba Walks allow management to stay in close touch with all the problems and issues taking place in Production, and can offer immediate resolution of those same problems and issues during the Gemba Walk

Setting Goals and Objectives for Your Company in 2019

An important activity that a company can conduct at the beginning of a fiscal year, or in the months leading up to the beginning of the fiscal year, is a Hoshin Kanri exercise (also known as Policy Deployment). This is an opportunity for the entire management team to assemble and establish goals for each layer of management including the value add people in production.

It is an opportunity to establish a Vision for the Company and turn that Vision into a Mission, and a Strategy to accomplish the Mission and a Plan to execute the Strategy.

Overall Goals and Objectives are set for the company. Each successive level of management establishes their own goals and objective in a “catch ball” downward cascade that answers the question, “What does my organization have to do in order for the company to achieve its overall goals and objectives?”

One of my favorite things to do when touring a new company is to talk with the people on the production floor. I like to ask them the questions:

  • What are the overall goals and objectives of the company?

  • How does your work help the company achieve its overall goals and objectives?

In a well-implemented Hoshin Kari plan, the person should be able to answer the questions without hesitation.

The Top Lean Improvement I have seen this year

During the past year, we held eight Lean Leader Meetings and attended three other Plant Tours of non-member companies. It is really difficult to pick one company or one improvement at a specific company as the top improvement in a given year. In addition, some of the best and innovative improvements took place at a company that does not want any publicity related to its Continuous Improvement Program.

However, I can offer some recognition to those companies that have outstanding programs or have implemented some significant ideas.

  • Best approach to business Management – Colonial Mills

  • Don Scarlata, CEO of Colonial Mills, operates his business according the book, “The Great Game of Business”. The premise of the book is the sharing of all the business metrics and information with all the employees.

  • The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the final outcome, good or bad.

  • “We show them how to keep score and follow the action”

  • “We give them the information they need to do both”

  • “We also give them a big stake in the outcome – in the form of equity, profits and opportunities to move ahead”

  • In addition, the Company also has an incentive program the status of which is prominently displayed on the wall in the employee cafeteria for all to see.

  • Unique approach to business Management – Gem Gravure

  • Bob Strunk, COO of Gem Gravure operates his business on the story, “Ambulance in the Valley”.

  • This is a story about fixing the symptom of a problem and not finding the root cause of the problem, with consequential results.|

  • Most Innovative Way to jump start a 5S Program – Volk Packaging

  • Derek Volk, President of Volk Packaging, was looking for a way to re-energize the 5S Program at Volk Packaging. He developed the “5S Challenge” at Volk where all the employees were divided into teams and given 90 days to 5S their respective areas. At the end of the 90 days, a team of judges came in and evaluated each area on a point system. The team with the highest points won first place and given a monetary award. Awards were also given for second place, third place and fourth place.

  • Winner of the Massachusetts Cactus Award - E. A. Dion

  • Applied Materials Named One of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2018 SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Applied Materials, Inc. announced today that it has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, on its 2018 list as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies®.

  • Commitment to Sustainability – Tiffany and Co. NEW YORK, Aug. 30 /CSRwire/ - Tiffany & Co. published its eighth annual Sustainability Report, highlighting the company’s ambitious social and environmental commitments, its latest progress and leadership in corporate responsibility. “Sustainability lies at the heart of the Tiffany & Co. brand—it’s both our legacy and our future,” said Alessandro Bogliolo, Tiffany & Co. chief executive officer. “We focus a great deal on legacy and luxury, and there is no greater luxury than being able to gift future generations with unspoiled, natural wonders and wide open opportunity. This is the legacy Tiffany is building.”

  • Recognition for being a Lean Zealot and most Community Involvement – Karl Wadensten, President of Vibco Vibrator

  • Karl Wadensten, and Vibco Vibrators has been a winner of numerous awards including Providence Business News “Best Places to Work in Rhode Island” & the Progressive Marketing PM100 Award – Treasurer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board, working with 3 Governors to bring Lean Culture to the state of Rhode Island.

  • Adjunct Professor – University of Rhode Island

  • Board of Directors – Polaris MEP


Looking to join a Lean Consortium in 2019?

Read more about the New England Lean Consortium here