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What We Learned at Recent Continuous Improvement Workshops

Meg Hanaman

The Manufacturers Alliance is an association that provides a platform for manufacturers to come together for training, education, best practice sharing, and exchanging industry ideas. IWCO Direct has been a member for many years, participating in numerous seminars and workshops. We have been especially active these past few weeks, attending four Continuous Improvement workshops! From these few events, we learned many amazing skills and met many like-minded people from other companies. Here are some brief overviews of each event in addition to our biggest takeaways.

Lean Enterprise Peer Group

I had the pleasure of visiting 3M in Menominee, Wisconsin, on July 24 to learn more about “Creating Continuous Improvement Culture through a Daily Management System.” This experience allowed attendees to see how an industry leader in Continuous Improvement (CI) operates and engages with their employees on a daily basis to drive a CI culture.

Given the focus we place on our own Lean Management Systems (e.g., +QDIP), it was great to see these concepts applied in a large setting and to see how we can iterate and build upon our framework in the future. Insights shared from peers that day show that all companies have the same opportunities/struggles when it comes to cultivating a culture around CI; balancing leaders’ workloads to allow ample time for employee engagement; and the dedication, consistent support, and reinforcement required to make a large shift in culture, strategy, and daily operating styles.

I also learned about a technique we will be implementing in our Lean Management System called the “Thermostat vs. Thermometer” technique. With a thermometer, you can only tell the temperature—you don’t have the ability to manipulate it or change it. With a thermostat, you can adjust the temperature as needed. This mindset will help us with handling and understanding our metrics. We need to ensure that every member of our team not only understands our metrics, but knows the different ways in which they can affect these metrics.

I also attended another Continuous Improvement workshop hosted by Loram in Hamel, Minnesota, on July 25. This gathering focused on Project Portfolio Management. We discussed the role that CI and Lean Managers have in mentoring business owners on CI efforts and how to create a robust system that allows limited CI resources to support the entire organization. This topic especially resonated with our team, as we have one to two resources per facility to support. It was incredibly beneficial to see the tools and steps others used in our situation, and we are working toward implementing them in our system in the near future.

Arctic Cat Continuous Improvement Workshop

My colleagues Eric Welle, Jennie Zautner, and Clint Lipke had the opportunity to attend a workshop in St. Cloud, Minnesota on July 25 to learn about Arctic Cat’s mistake-proofing processes. Jennie was especially enthusiastic with the take-aways from this workshop stating:

“I realized that visiting companies that have very different product lines from IWCO Direct is actually an advantage. Those companies have a different perspective and approach, which allows you to see things in a different light and get creative in adapting solutions for your own work. We may not build engines, but we still have machines that are calibrated for specific needs—the same as any other manufacturer on the market. Forcing us to think outside of the box can help us to identify and apply solutions that we may never have considered previously.”

Fellow attendee Eric added that, “successful mistake-proofing isn’t about the product you’re making, it’s about the determination and mindset going into it.” Both concluded that it was a very worthwhile event, and they are ready to put their new knowledge to work here at IWCO Direct.

Educational Seminars

Finally, we attended a seminar at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota to listen to Andersen Corp., Loram, and Integer present on Leader Standard Work (LSW). During the presentations, companies shared why LSW failed when they initially tried to implement it in their companies along with insights about what we need to watch for when implementing our own LSW at IWCO Direct. The learnings from this seminar will now be used to spearhead our efforts to redeploy LSW across all departments and levels of IWCO Direct. Our biggest take-away was that LSW is all about rhythm; it’s the daily heartbeat of the organization and it needs to happen consistently and with purpose. We will be sure to integrate this learning in our renewed efforts to institute LSW at IWCO Direct.

Being a member of The Manufacturers Alliance isn’t just about learning by attending other organizations’ Continuous Improvement workshops. We also get the opportunity to share our best practices within the industry. We look forward to hosting the Lean Peer Group in January 2020 and sharing our own insights!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/08/06/recapping-continuous-improvement-workshops/
Meg Hanaman


Meg Hanaman

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