Live from Chicago! It’s Lean 2008

All setup for Lean Tech’s first trade show.  At the Marriott in Schaumberg, IL for Lean Manufacturing 2008: Lean Tools for Maintenance & Reliability.  Here’s my booth!


Thanks to Tom Flynn of Lessing Flynn in Des Moines for the awesome booth design, Chuck Bloyer at Beeline and Blue in Des Moines for the booth printing and rental, and Jamie and Sarah Gyolai and Mike Kleis for their trade show insight!

For some reason the picture came out a little dark…may have to try another shot later without the blinding flood light on.

Everything gets going tomorrow morning.  First keynote is from Klaus Blache of General Motors.  See you in the morning!

By |2008-10-05T19:53:50+00:00October 5th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People, Tradeshows/Events|0 Comments

Congratulations Vermeer!

Thought I’d give a shout-out today to a local Pella business, Vermeer Manufacturing, which is celebrating its 60th Anniversary of being in business this year.  There is all kinds of Vermeer celebration-related activity going on around town right now, and I also stumbled upon this article about their 60 years in business.

Vermeer probably became famous from its round baling equipment (“Vermeer made the world go round”), but they also make construction equipment, other farm machinery, and trenching and trenchless equipment.  Vermeer is still family owned and is heading into its third generation of family members.  They’ve been on their lean journey since 1997 and could probably use our software…I need to get over there and peddle my wares!

By |2008-08-21T08:14:21+00:00August 21st, 2008|Business, Manufacturing|0 Comments

Tools for your lean belt and your tech belt

Rob Tracy at Intek Plastics (one of my customers) has written this excellent synopsis on Driving Lean through Your Supply Chain.  Aside from discussing how the breakdown of your supply chain can negatively impact you and your customers and including a supplier checklist for your use, he also talks about the incorrect assumption that going overseas for suppliers is the best way to improve your supply chain.

In the global economy, you often get a better deal by choosing suppliers in low-cost countries — assuming that upfront cost is your only consideration. Forward-thinking domestic suppliers combat this threat by using lean methodologies to define and maximize value from their customers’ point of view. This could include services such as part design, ready-to-use components, shorter lead times, zero defect products and stockless production.

This kind of thought (that cheaper overseas suppliers is the way to go) and the thought that US manufacturing is on the decline are myths that Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence has been working to dispel quite often lately.

Now, my tech tool for the day.  How did I come across the aforementioned Intek Plastics white paper?  I recently started using Google Alerts.  They are a great way to get current information about new stuff popping up around the net about your favorite topics.  I’ve been using it to get news and info about lean, technology, and even my customers.  Great stuff!

By |2008-07-28T14:56:34+00:00July 28th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People, Technology|0 Comments

Software doesn’t innovate, software doesn’t make decisions

…and software can’t manage people.  This is the tag-line for our Thrive product.  Why?  Because this is true.  Software by itself typically adds no value to the process it is analyzing (this is a very scary thing for a software vendor to say!).  It is the interaction with software…the entering of data, the analysis of data, the interaction with the data, the interaction of people together in response to the data.  That is where the value comes into play.  Software enables people to be more streamlines operations in collecting, analyzing, and managing information that surely could be accomplished manually, but when was the last time you used an abacus?  It enables them to see data in an aggregated visual manner that otherwise couldn’t be accomplished with a cursory glance at a set of data.

Robert X Cringely discusses SAP implementations on his blog (link courtesy of Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence from his blog entry).

Putting in an ERP system isn’t going to improve the business by itself: you still have to figure out what the data means and make decisions.

Of course, this is often the case: that people expect that just by putting the system in place they will see impact to the bottom line.  He goes on to say:

The problem is there is not enough return on investment from the ERP system itself to justify the cost. You need more. The real savings must come from improving your firm’s business processes. So a huge business redesign project is often coupled with many ERP projects.

And this is where I would argue you generally don’t get the information you need to improve your business processes.  The ERP is so financially focused (and the information is always end-of-the-month reactionary data), it does not effectively expose where the true operational waste is coming from.  A department that appears to be over budget could be that way because of waste caused by upstream or downstream operations.

Cringely’s article is interesting, because he argues that ERP’s are difficult to use by design, so that the ERP companies can pull in more revenue through consulting.

Manufacturing waste: opening up a can of worms

Seems like a lot of things in manufacturing end up with acronyms.  Occasionally you’ll step into a room and think that Robin Williams stepped out of Good Morning Vietnam to conduct the morning training session.

A lot of time the acronyms are just created to avoid something long to say, but the ones that are truly useful help you to remember a concept.  Here are a couple I’ve heard regarding the wastes in manufacturing.  This one I heard while at Pella Corporation when I was part of one of their teams a couple weeks ago:


  • Transportation
  • Overproduction
  • (Excess) Motion
  • Defective Products
  • Waiting
  • Inventories
  • Processing


worm_can This alternative spin on the letters was shared with me by Paul Vollmer from Specialty Manufacturing in St. Paul, MN.  I like this one because it also includes a nice visual that they can hand out to people to remember.

  • Waiting
  • Overproduction
  • Rework
  • Motion
  • Processing
  • Inventories
  • Transportation
  • Talent

This version also includes the eighth waste that some companies have adopted, and that is the under-utilization of talent.

By |2008-06-24T08:56:45+00:00June 24th, 2008|Manufacturing, People|0 Comments

Pick a number, just any number…

jumble Seth Godin has it right on this recent post.

"The power of a number is the effect we saw when they put a number on restaurants (Zagats) and wines (Parker) and gas mileage (the EPA).  People notice a number, and they work to improve it."

Lean practitioners have been quoting Taiichi Ohno for quite some time, who said, "Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen."  In other words, find something to measure…give it a number…and now you have something to improve upon…a way to know that progress is being made.

By |2008-05-06T22:50:32+00:00May 6th, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People|0 Comments

Jim Womack’s e-book thingy

Not sure what it’s referred to as, but at the end of a free webinar today, Jim Womack shared a recent publication of his.  It looks pretty cool, and while it can be printed, has some videos that wouldn’t work well on paper.  Not sure if it’s accessible to the general public or if you had to attend the webinar (I might have missed that part, I had to sneak out to catch the first Pella Tulip Time parade of the year).


By |2008-05-01T16:30:55+00:00May 1st, 2008|Business, Manufacturing, People|0 Comments

Trimming the fat in healthcare

The Iowa healthcare system is using lean principles to improve quality and cost of healthcare.

I was traveling this week and had a chance to get caught up on some podcast listening.  During the America’s Business program from last week, Mike Hambrick introduce Vince Newendorp of Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella, IA.  Way to go Vince!  Vince is the current Vice President of Human Resources and also the dad of a high school senior that I mentor.  Vince used to chair the Iowa Committee on Lean and Healthcare (Iowa Healthcare Collaborative).  As healthcare costs continue to rise, their goal is to find ways to improve healthcare costs.

By |2008-03-15T22:22:20+00:00March 15th, 2008|Innovation, Manufacturing, People, Podcast|0 Comments

Another resource and some blogger accountability

Had a great conversation with Scott Whitlock of Flexware Innovation last Friday. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a little island working on technology solutions for manufacturing companies (and I guess a tech company in rural Iowa kind of is a little island), but it was good to talk with Scott because we could share in the experiences we’ve had in setting out to solve problems and build the better mousetrap for manufacturers.  Scott and his team are developing MES solutions, so if you have a need, check it out!

And, even if nothing else came out of our conversation, at least Scott provided me with some much-needed blogger accountability.  During our conversation he noticed my conspicuous absence in making postings (dating back to November 13, 2007–Yikes!), and then even referred to me in his blog.  Hence, the abundance of my posts over the last couple days!

By |2008-03-06T23:38:58+00:00March 6th, 2008|Manufacturing, People, Technology|0 Comments