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The Latest in Lean: What We Learned at the Continuous Improvement Conference

Patrick Sondreal

Over the past eight years, IWCO Direct has made Lean Manufacturing initiatives a particular focus. While Lean initiatives share common principles, the tools and metrics used to maintain them change as industries evolve. The Continuous Improvement Conference, held this year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the strongest sources of information IWCO Direct has for staying ahead of the curve.

The 2016 Continuous Improvement Conference re-emphasized the key aspects of a successful lean initiative, including strong leadership support, employee involvement, metrics, tools and results-orientated projects.  The principles reviewed at the conference helped to remind us of the progress we’ve made over the past eight years as well as the focus necessary to continue our pursuit of creating a culture of Continuous Improvement (CI).

IWCO Direct’s CI leaders Russ Palm, Scott Dunham and Eric Welle attended this year’s conference which was focused on operational excellence – and, as always, they came back with great insights and enthusiasm.

Informative Keynotes and Timely Reminders

This year’s event featured motivational keynote presentations by presidents and CEOs from major companies, all of whom shared success stories from their experiences with Lean Manufacturing. Attendees included a mix of familiar faces and newcomers that allowed opportunities to network and share experiences implementing CI in the printing industry.

Numerous sessions highlighted the importance of an effective visual management system; presenters explained that these tools are most effective when they provide real-time results to both associates and leadership. They also cited prioritizing quality over quantity and maintaining a continual feedback mechanism within a business as keys to CI success.

The IWCO Direct team’s favorite presentation was a keynote entitled “Continuous Improvement as a Competitive Weapon” by Snap-on Inc. President and CEO Nick Pinchuk. His speech focused on companies knowing their strengths and focusing on them, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. Pinchuk’s intent – to motivate business leaders to recognize the importance of CI efforts – was evident in his choice to use the word “evolve” rather than “change” when talking about how best practices shift over time.

Putting Lean Theory into Practice at IWCO Direct

At these sessions, the team made note of a few key points that we will be able to employ at IWCO Direct. One of these takeaways was the importance of having an implementation plan for any project. Finding solutions to problems is only half the battle; once identified, they need to be implemented properly in order to be effective. Proper training, auditing, metrics, follow-through and change management greatly enhance the chances of a successful project and sustained success. This helps companies to be more proactive and less reactive in addressing customer needs.

Teaching, Learning and Growing in the Industry

The journey to consistent CI implementation is a complicated one. The 2016 Continuous Improvement Conference provided a forum for companies, no matter how advanced their CI initiatives were, to come together, share experiences and learn from each other.

Russ, Scott and Eric came away from the conference realizing that IWCO Direct has made great progress over the past decade, and we’ve successfully overcome some of the CI challenges faced by other companies. It also showed that we, like many industry-leading companies, still have a long way to go in our efforts to continually improve.

It was evident that a company’s success can’t be measured just by the number of projects it undertakes, but by the quality it achieves when executing them. Ongoing education in CI principles is also paramount to success at IWCO Direct, and we’re excited to show you how our efforts create proven results. For more information about how IWCO Direct’s Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement efforts make for a better culture, service and experience, drop me a line.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2016/04/20/2016-continuous-improvement-recap/
Patrick Sondreal

Author

Patrick Sondreal

Director of Client Services, Continuous Improvement and Lean. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. 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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