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2015 Continuous Improvement Conference Gets Minnesota Nice

Patrick Sondreal

This past week, a team of nine operations employees from across our four facilities attended the 2015 Continuous Improvement Conference. This is the only industry event focused on helping companies achieve operational excellence by using the concepts of Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement (CI).

During the past six years that IWCO Direct has attended this conference, it was held in another state, but this year it was hosted in Minnesota. It was nice to know the area and get to display our Minnesota Nice by helping out-of-towners navigate streets and venues. It’s obvious that more people and companies are becoming dedicated to CI efforts after seeing or experiencing the benefits of using Lean. In fact, this year’s show set a record for attendance.

Our goal was to learn and increase our overall knowledge on CI methodologies and to gain insight from other companies who are embarking on a similar CI journey. The team brought back many ideas on how we can lower costs, reduce waste and increase profit margins by operating more efficiently. Here are just a few highlights from our favorite sessions:

Fix What Bugs You

One of our favorite sessions was given by keynote speaker Paul Akers, who preached the simple message, “fix what bugs you.” His energetic presentation demonstrated a clear passion for excellence and helped remind us of the power of small improvements and how they can positively impact employees and work culture.

How to Eat the Lean Elephant—Invite Friends

Doug Sparks of Flex Craft delivered another great session, which touched on how to tackle Lean initiatives in small pieces to add up to big improvements. His advice was centered on getting other members of your team involved in Lean Manufacturing by making the concept more approachable. To do this, he suggested relating Lean thinking to other aspects of life at home.

A constant message seen throughout the conference was that CI programs live and die by leadership, and our own leadership’s commitment to improving our work environment has had a positive impact on our CI programs. IWCO Direct has built a strong foundation with its Lean/CI teams, and other attendees at the conference told us how impressed they were that each site has its own team dedicated to CI. From what we saw at the conference, we are on the right track with our innovations and culture, but need to continue engaging employees for new ideas if we want to stay ahead of the curve.

We always leave the conference with an increased energy level for our CI initiative and found this year to be no different. The conference was extremely informative and there were so many great speakers and helpful presentations that our only regret is not being able to see them all!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/04/21/2015-continuous-improvement-conference/
Patrick Sondreal


Patrick Sondreal

SVP Operations & Customer Experience. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Commissioned officer of the U.S. Navy who brings a commitment to teamwork and continuous improvement to IWCO Direct every day. Wisconsin Badger fan who loves being part of his kids’ activities.

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