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Lean Machine: The Secret to Make Money, Grow Business

|Sep 3|magazine13 min read
Penny pinching prowess is sought after more than a Tim Hortons Timbit in today’s rocky economy. COO’s are getting slammed as hard as the Maple Leafs did this past season. And every corporation across Canada is feeling the need to control costs. However, pinpointing wasteful processes can be as obscure as measuring the revenue generated by the Vancouver Olympic Games.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of consulting specialists eager to implement their brand of lean techniques. Many focus on manufacturing, others on service and some solely on software improvements. Whichever direction a company chooses, there are a few universal points every business needs to address along the lean journey. Here a few words of advice from Canadian lean consultants to optimize enterprise and better bottom lines.

Peter Rice, Rice Consulting Associates

Rice has more than 43 years of industry experience including 18 years in various management roles and 17 years in consulting/management advisory roles. He is the founder of Rice Consulting Associates and has assisted clients across Canada and the US.

“The term I use with my clients is ‘see what better looks like.’ Managers have to know what better is before implementing change. Once mangers know, they have to bring team members onboard. It’s key to include those who roll up their sleeves and the financing people, sales, accounting. Lean is a companywide initiative.”

“I do one-day workshops at companies and bring in managers. I take them through the lean toolbox and give them some sobering information. I always start out with slides of companies that were once dominant in their field. I then turn the slide over and reveal that the company no longer exists. That gets mangers’ attention real quick.”

“We start with the basics, the low hanging fruit—5S, value stream, waste reduction. We do a walk around, both around the office environment and the engineering/operation environment. During the walk around, I ask the managers to apply what they just learned from the lean toolbox.”

Steve Jackson, Synchronix Inc.

In 1988, Jackson was one of the first independent consultants in the world to be invited to receive “Jonah” training by Dr. Eli Goldratt, author of The Goal and originator of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) technology. Jackson is now one of the most experienced TOC educators and consultants in North America.

“Once the goal of the system is known, the theory of constraints is the most direct manner for improvement. The first step is to discover the most direct constraints to improving performance. Once the constraints are known, the second step asks how to squeeze the most out of the system—exploiting the constraint.”

“Question number one is whether the company faces a market constraint, meaning there are no more sales to be made. If that’s the reality, plant performance improvement is irrelevant. Conversely, is the plant’s constraint the ability to ship product out the door. We call that internal constraint or production constraint. Theory of constraints aims to make money through growth. Lean tends to focus on eliminating waste.”

“We start with huge, quick improvements and then add continuous improvement. My partner and I, we work with companies with $2 million to $70 and $80 million in sales. We have colleagues working with $100+ million companies. Our colleagues worked with Letourneau Technologies in Texas. The company grew from $250 million to $1.2 billion in four years using the theory of constraints.”

Bill Cloke, P. ENG, Certified Management Consultant, Grant Thornton

Cloke is responsible for helping manufacturing and distribution clients improve processes and ensure profitable growth. He has more than 25 years of industry exposure in consulting and line management and holds a B. Sc. from Queen’s University, Kingston and M. Eng. from McMaster University, Hamilton.

“Some mangers have all of the lingo down—the lean speak and a bunch of Japanese words. The managers with big egos are showing how much they know instead of really communicating.”

“One of my first Kaizen blitzes was trying to reduce an order entry cycle—how long it took from order received to production. We mapped out the process the first day and outlined the objective of cutting the process in half. The next day we taught them the tools to cut cycle time. We then turned the task over to the employees, and they accomplished a more than 50 per cent reduction in cycle time—from 12 days to 4 days.”

“The team knew the objective was to cut the cycle time in half. They knew what they could change and couldn’t change. If a leader has a big ego and can’t step out of the way and let people solve the problem after it is defined, results are impossible. And if a leader doesn’t give credit, but instead takes credit, the leader won’t see future participation.”