A Recipe for Continuous Improvement
The following post is contributed by Jim Workman, Assistant Vice President, Center for Technology and Research, Printing Industries of America.
Lean is more than a business philosophy, it’s a way of life. It’s also simpler to implement than the consultants would have you believe. And respecting your employees by recognizing and developing their talents must be a central focus. Those are three principle messages from Paul Akers’ 2 Second Lean book. Akers credits Lean with propelling his woodworking supply business from a garage startup in 1997 to a multimillion dollar enterprise with distribution in 40 countries. In April 2015 Akers will be the opening speaker at the Continuous Improvement Conference in Minneapolis.
Akers is a master carpenter, pilot, musician, and Eagle Scout, and was already oozing with confidence when he started FastCap, named after his initial invention, a self-adhesive cover for screw holes in cabinets. His dose of reality came when he ran into inventory problems and was dissuaded of the notion that he knew how to how to manufacture. A consultant introduced him to the Toyota Production System (a.k.a. Lean Manufacturing) and Akers grew into a devout believer, eventually applying a customized version to his manufacturing business.
Akers learned to spot waste everywhere, traveled to Japan to tour companies modeling Lean behavior, devoured management books, and brought an air of efficiency and simplicity to FastCap, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars. He then hit the wall, exhausted, having reached the point that many give up on Lean—realizing that the minute he stepped away from the business, improvement stopped.
2 Second Lean recounts Akers’ struggle and discovery of how to build a culture at FastCap so that continual improvement was in its DNA. He established company goals, instituted staff-wide morning meetings and rotated leader duties, read aloud from his favorite business books, taught the eight wastes and other concepts, and set aside an hour a day for the 3Ss (sweep, sort, and standardize) so that everyone could identify a daily 2 second improvement. He adjusted as needed, hired people who were humble and curious, and documented company ingenuity with endless videos.