We Thrive. ASSA ABLOY EMS in Phoenix

At Lean Technologies, we are focused on solving customer problems and providing year over year value to client organizations. One such client is ASSA ABLOY where we work with a number of the North America sites. Although the name ASSA ABLOY may not yet be a household name in North America, you are likely to be familiar with one of their many popular brands of entry systems. In fact, you probably scanned an access card, turned a handle, or walked through one of their doors the last time you entered a school, hotel, hospital, or workplace. ASSA ABLOY is the global leader in door opening solutions and a market leader in most of Europe, North America, South America, China and Oceania. The EMS Division plant in Phoenix, AZ called upon Thrive Goal Boards to solve a particular need on the plant floor to monitor production activity, provide real time feedback to the operators, communicate performance to management, and track day to day performance gains.

The operations team leaders at ASSA ABLOY EMS were gracious enough to sit down with a video crew so we could share a little bit of their Thrive experience with the rest of the world. We are thankful for their willingness to participate in this video and continued use of Thrive throughout their organization.


For more information, contact the Lean Tech team at or fill out the contact form on our website


Heads up, your business may be drowning

My friend Sam Duregger (@duregger) pointed me to an article about the obsessive-ness people have developed with their smartphones.

The article opens with a story about a man who was so engaged with his smartphone he didn’t notice the bathtub water he was filling for his daughter was overflowing onto the floor.  Why is this technology so engaging?  What is going on in peoples’ heads?  The article explains it with this:

It is because they are human, and human beings tend to repeat actions that are pleasurable and rewarding, particularly if they get our endorphins flowing. The complication is that we devalue delayed rewards — the feeling, for instance, of looking back on lovely moments with family — in favor of the immediacy of the new. In this case, it’s data. It makes us high.

Meeting short-term expectations of investors or the board is the smartphone of the business world.  The short term rewards feel good, and people want businesses to produce similar results time and again.  The reality is those short-sighted goals can lead to painful long-term results (and not always for the people setting those objectives, unfortunately).  This description at least gives me some perspective on why any business could possibly be short-sighted…this smartphone mentality simply transfers to their approach to business.

Hey, and for fun, the article even gives an example you can try out on your friends!

Get some friends together and tell them you will give them $100 now or $200 next year. Most of them, he said, will take the $100. Now tell them they can have $100 in 10 years or $200 in 11 years. Most will take the $200 because there is nothing immediate, or more exciting, fogging up their calculation about which is the greater reward.

Lean is for the long haul.  Lean focuses on building long-term value: for customers, for employees, for stake-holders.  You may not see the results in Q1 of implementation.  Endurance is needed.  But if you stick with it, the results will come and will be sustained long after the other guy’s bathtub is spilling onto the floor.

Technorati Tags: ,
By |2010-03-16T11:26:15+00:00March 16th, 2010|Business, Manufacturing|2 Comments

Don’t wait for recovery, lead the recovery

"We’re cutting R & D."

"We have money right now, we’re just not spending any of it." (something I heard from a potential client of mine in the last few months)

A VP I was speaking to at a large manufacturer said a mistake their organization made in 2001 was to not invest capital in the future, and they’re still recovering from that.

A client of mine I spoke to last week said a company he used to work for cut back spending in R & D about 10 years ago and never recovered from decision.

Mark Perry says recovery is on its way:


But I hope that if people hear this news, that they’re not just waiting for it to happen.  Recovery requires action, which won’t happen in the form of a handout.  And there’s no better time to take action than during a down economy.

Get back to work.

By |2009-02-03T13:42:31+00:00February 3rd, 2009|Business, Manufacturing|0 Comments

Lean operations is like wingsuit base jumping

What?!  Yeah, okay, maybe it’s a stretch.  But bear with me.  Maybe I was desperately searching for a way to include this cool video, but if nothing else, you’ll get to see a really cool video.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

In lean manufacturing, people talk about "lowering the water level" by minimizing inventory.  This exposes the "rocks" of waste that exist on the shop floor.  You know who they are.  There are seven, right?  Oh wait, is it eight now?  Is it TOM D WIP or WORM PITT, TIMWOOD, or DOTWIMP?  I think And when your ship "S.S. Operations" starts encountering those rocks, it hurts!

But it’s all about risk/reward.  So you lower your inventory levels.  It may feel like greater risk because you’ll expose quality problems, excessive transportation, rework labor.  But the rewards can be so much greater.  Increase profitability.  Increase customer satisfaction.  Take market share.

The wingsuit base jumpers could ride safely away from the shear cliffs.  But where’s the reward in that?  They have chosen to decrease the space between them and problems, and have increased the reward of having a significantly better experience.

Not the best analogy?  Okay.  Whatever.  Enjoy the video.

By |2009-01-22T11:50:32+00:00January 22nd, 2009|Fun, Manufacturing|0 Comments

2009 will be the year of lean

John Shook at Lean Enterprise Institute says lean is “just what the doctor ordered” for 2009 and is hoping for a better year.

Brian Buck expects creativity and innovation to arrive on the scene.

Jon Miller talks about how Tom Vilsack might bring lean to the federal level (hooray!).

Kevin Meyer suggests Toyota could use some of its lean knowledge to energize the rest of the automotive industry.

In the lean software arena, “Mastering the Recession with Lean, Agile, and Scrum.”

And have you seen all the lean people that are now on Twitter?  Brian Buck and I surmised it must be some kind of New Year’s resolution.  Regardless the cause, there’s any obvious effort to get the word out about the value of lean, and Twitter is another tool to spread the word.  Here are the lean tweeps I’m currently following (I’m sure there are more): @brianbuck, @evanjmiller, @GembaPantaRei, @gerrykirk, @giladl, @GotBoondoggle, @leanblog, @lssacademy, @matthewemay, @mglombard, @Paulflevy, @RalfLippold, @Rwilliard, @shmula, @superfactory, UPDATE: @lizguthridge

If you aren’t creating value for customers…if you aren’t eliminating waste…if you aren’t respecting your people, this won’t be your year.  This is true now more than ever, as consumers and business get more picky about where they’re going to put their resources, and as the personal savings rate has actually gone up (this is a good thing since it had gone negative, but indicates spending will be tighter!).

Don’t think lean is drawing attention?  Check out the search terms people are using lately.  This is drawn from the Google Keyword Search Tool.  I just checked out “lean manufacturing” as an example.  In the month of December, there was an 18% increase in the interest in the term “lean manufacturing” over the average of the previous 12 months (the totals of the entire result set were 109,459 for December versus 92,808 for the average).


And this is just the term “lean manufacturing”.  What about all of the other arenas like healthcare, software, and others?  Even just the term “lean” has a WHOPPING 50% increase (2,740,000 for December versus 1,830,000 prior 12-month average).  Granted, “lean” in this case might include people looking to improve their physical fitness, but regardless this is a huge jump.

Where are people conducting these searches?  For that info, check out this cool tool.  It gives you a “heat map” of where these searches are being conducted (US data only).


Principles that started in manufacturing have spread to so many different arenas.  And why not?  Look at how Tom and Mary Poppendieck describe the principles within software development:

The seven principles of Lean Software development are:

  • Respect people
  • Eliminate waste
  • Defer commitment
  • Create knowledge
  • Deliver fast
  • Build quality in
  • Optimize the whole

Sound familiar?  Manufacturing, healthcare, education, services, construction, government, and software development have all found how valuable these principles are.  Granted the tools and practices probably look different from one to the next, but the principles are constant.

(side note…I’m now going to use the phrase “deferring commitment” instead of “procrastinating”…it sounds a lot better! 🙂 )

Maybe we should organize a big “lean-fest” or lean tweetup to exchange ideas across industries and share best (or better, as some are now saying) practices (maybe the Lean Global Network is already doing this?).  A nice, central-US location might be nice.  Say…Pella, Iowa (street view from Google Maps)?

Lean people on Twitter, anyone up for FriendFeed?

Hopefully making for some more useful conversation, I’m starting to find some more lean people on Twitter.  I’m starting to connect with people around the world that I otherwise would never meet.  Here they are in no particular order:

Are there more?  I’m sure they’re out there.  We could get some groups going…would really like to do this on FriendFeed though (see below).

I can be found here:  I try to stay on the manufacturing side of things, but am generally interested in all things lean.  I, of course, develop software (primarily for manufacturing, but even that scope has crept a bit) and am interested in what’s happening in that arena as well.

What I’d really like to get going, though, is some more active participation on  I think it’s a much better place to share information and have conversations.  Maybe there’s already some lean stuff happening there, and I’m just not aware of it?  Please let me know if that’s the case.  I’m here:

By |2009-01-02T12:50:20+00:00January 2nd, 2009|Healthcare, Manufacturing, People, Technology|2 Comments

Friday Lean and Manufacturing Rundown

Lean Enterprise Institute has a blog now.  I was waiting for them to start one up.  John Shook is the primary author (maybe only?).  You can find it at

Just before Thanksgiving, Kevin Meyer shared this great post (and I’ve been passing along to others) on how American Apparel continues to succeed.  On a related note, I mentor high school students and for some odd reason we were talking about favorite T-shirts earlier this week and one student commented, “I love American Apparel shirts.”  So, wow, not only do they run a good company, but they’re also hip (“hip” is really probably a very outdated term…I think we’re way past “dope”, “the bomb”, and “fly” too so I’m not sure what to call it)!

A few perspectives on the Big 3: one from Jon Miller of Gemba Panta Rei: “With Competitors Like These, Who Needs a Winning Business Strategy?” and another from Tom Peters entitled “Service?  Sacrifice?  Equity?  Honor?” and one final one expressed in the cartoon below:


I guess this one isn’t necessarily directly manufacturing related, but I’ve been enjoying Mark J Perry’s economic analysis from his blog.  He’s a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan.  He also shares some amusing items, including this road map to “success” (shown below) and this bailout application.


Incidentally, I share a lot of this stuff on which is a great place to have a discussion about these items, and I would be glad to follow you on Twitter…you can find me at  Hopefully see you there!

UPDATE: John Shook weighs in on the LEI blog on the Big 3 and provides this interesting insight: “GM wants to survive, all right, it wants to survive so it can continue to make money. Toyota on the other hand, wants to make money to survive.”

Also, I’ve often thought I’ve used my lean background in meeting customer needs with software, but beginning next week, we’ll see what I really know about lean methodology as applied to software as I start attending their Lean On-line Learning for Lean Software Development.

By |2008-12-05T15:53:21+00:00December 5th, 2008|Manufacturing, People|Comments Off on Friday Lean and Manufacturing Rundown

Thrive software referenced in ISO audit in a positive light!

Had to add “in a positive light” because being mentioned in an ISO audit may not be a good thing, but in this case it definitely was.  For those wondering about how Thrive can support your ISO certification, it is definitely a “value add”.  Here’s what was said in a recent audit:

The investment in tools like Thrive for a common communication platform is evidence of the organizations commitment to “….a dedicated focus on continual improvement” as stated in your Quality Policy.

To my knowledge, this is the first “in print” reference to Thrive in an audit, but I have spoken to two other auditors at other clients before who have said that Thrive exceeded their expectations for how software could support an ISO certified organization.

By |2008-10-30T10:13:38+00:00October 30th, 2008|Business, Information Management, Manufacturing|Comments Off on Thrive software referenced in ISO audit in a positive light!

Lean 2008 Maintenance and Reliability in Review

Well, my first trade show is over.  It was a good experience!  I learned a lot (about being a vendor at a trade show instead of an attendee) and met some good people that are working hard to improve their organizations.


I made a quasi-three-dimensional tour of the vendor area.  You can view that here, if you’d like.  (It’s made with Photosynth…you’ll need Internet Explorer…sorry FireFox and Chrome users).

Also made some contacts at a couple of partnership opportunities.  Hung out in the booth next to Glenn Davis of VenTek.  He’s got some cool remote sensing technology that’s worth a look…and it appears they’re might be some synergy between the hardware they provide and Thrive.  Also spent some time talking with Mike Bresko of General Physics.  They help many of the country’s Fortune 500 companies to "achieve operational excellence" (a throwback for me to the original Compass tag-line…"Compass" being the original name for Thrive before some trademark concerns…trip down memory lane displayed below).  Check them out if you need consulting or training services.

Compass throwback logo!


Some Summaries

While I didn’t attend them all, I did go to some of the keynotes.  I’m just taking a quick scan of my notes, and will probably end up highlighting some pretty arbitrary stuff here, but here goes!

Klaus Blache, General Motors

Klaus kicked off the whole event on Monday.  He had some pretty diverse experiences with General Motors, including transforming the culture to lean at both existing GM facilities and at newly created ones.  Interesting connection that Klaus made through data during his experiences was an indirect connection between ergonomics and quality.  Ergonomics impacting peoples’ attendance, and poor attendance impacts quality.


Also, I loved Klaus’s presentation because somehow he managed to get his hands on some pretty old-school slides!  It’s like they’re out of some film produced in the 1970’s.  Good stuff!

slide1 slide2

Rick Fox, Alcoa Power Plant

Rick "chaired" a panel discussion with some other Alcoa employees.  They rattled off some impressive statistics about their successes through lean, including a $5 million ROI, 2 years without a recordable injury, and a maintenance backlog that went from 22 weeks down to 3-5 weeks.  And they shared an interesting statistic that the price of electricity changes every 6 minutes…woah!

David Hicks, Auburn University

I thought David had an excellent presentation and certainly disproved my generally held belief that people from academic institutions are often out of touch with the "real world" (wherever that is, anyway).  The Auburn University Technical Assistance Center surely gets my endorsement if you’re in need of assistance.  What really stood out in his presentation was their use of visual performance/information boards.


Todd Bennett, United Southern

Todd’s and United Southern’s (USI) is a great story that is still unfolding.  With significant competition in the plastic injection molding industry, USI has had to adopt a tremendous change in culture just to stay in business.  Through "zone control" on the shop floor, they have been able to drive significant improvement in quality, delivery, safety, and cost.  Some of the more impressive stats are that they took PPM down from 3417 to 255 in just two years and have an approximate annual savings of $80K in scrap costs, which for a company their size (I forget, but I believe it’s less than 100 people), makes a tremendous impact.

Okay, Worn Out

Alright, that’s about all the summarizing I can do for now.  In the meantime, I’m thinking about some future shows: one of which is in Florida in April (can’t find their web site right now) and the other is the GATF/PIA Continuous Improvement Conference in Lexington, KY in April.  Maybe see you there!

By |2008-10-22T10:07:47+00:00October 22nd, 2008|Manufacturing, People, Tradeshows/Events|0 Comments