Attendees Call 2013 Lean Roundtables a Success
“I got to my car last night after the session and kicked myself for not standing up to commend you two on a fine Roundtable season…It was truly a job well done!”
Principal, GPS Management Associates
The Next Industrial Revolution is a hot topic in the national economic debate and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers [SME] is spearheading the evolution of manufacturing with a number of innovation initiatives. In Maine, the local SME Chapter has identified Lean Manufacturing as key to the future of the state economy and is working to help manufacturers improve their Lean processes. Our Lean Roundtables have been offered for the past few years in an effort to give companies tools for improving profitability and increasing competitive advantage.
The recently completed 2013 Lean Roundtable series was a resounding success and we’re happy to note that the Presentations are now available for download to anyone on our Downeast Chapter website below this overview.
This year Jøtul, Hancock Lumber, Lanco, LLBean and Geiger Group hosted the interactive workshops at their facilities, where plant tours were an integral part of the program. Attendees agreed that seeing Lean practices on the factory floor greatly reinforced the abstract principles.
According to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Lean is “A systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of value”. Board members Lisa Westberg and Paul Andrews who chaired the Roundtables clearly demonstrated this process with a format that was devoid of waste and filled with value for attendees. The 3-hour sessions were fast-paced and energetic with sufficient time for colleagues to participate in a focused conversation on real-world challenges from the trenches. With a limit of 40 participants, the group was small enough for dialogue yet large enough for diversity of ideas.
The format had focus and structure, both in the subject matter and the logistics. After a brief introduction of the topic, the sponsoring company gave examples and then conducted a plant tour to see the subject matter in play. Breakout sessions ensued to discuss what was observed, followed by structured reporting back to the entire group. Attendees particularly liked the pre-work or focus questions that they received in advance in order to prepare for the event.
Specific topics were the focus of each Roundtable. Jøtul sponsored a Roundtable devoted to Strategy Deployment, while Hancock Lumber’s Roundtable was dedicated to visual systems and employee engagement. Lean new product development was the subject of Lanco’s Roundtable and L.L. Bean’s Roundtable tackled value stream analysis and thinking. The series opened with leadership and management standard work cultures at the Geiger Group. Topics were selected based upon a formal survey of the previous year’s attendees, along with input from Ms. Westberg and Mr. Andrews.
Plant hosts reported they derived as much benefit as the attendees. The plant tour was a chance to showcase their businesses but they also had the opportunity to get feedback from 40 Lean enthusiasts from outside their internal structure. Says Kevin Hancock, President of host Hancock Lumber:
“It was GREAT to be able to host an SME event. We found it very rewarding and beneficial. Knowing the topic was coming months in advance, our team made a lot of internal progress just preparing. Hosting an event definitely increases awareness within the host organization regarding the topic at hand.
The actual event itself was excellent. The quality of the people in the group is really high and they were into the event. They gave good feedback and helped us see our operation with ‘fresh eyes’. It is a big opportunity to be a host of an SME event. I have nothing but good things to say about the opportunity.”
Although Lean practices can be applied in any endeavor, this year’s SME Lean Roundtable hosts and topics were manufacturing oriented. That seemed timely given that even the President of the United States was talking about the industrial revolution in his State of the Union address. The Maine Chapter is certainly doing its part to spearhead innovative manufacturing practices through Lean Manufacturing.
The Lean Roundtables will continue in 2014. Be sure to watch this space for information to participate in this timely and valuable program.