“Lean” is all about “the identification and elimination of waste in the process”

“Lean” is all about “the identification and elimination of waste in the process”

To do better, you have to know how you’re doing.

East Dubuque Savings Bank leaders spent a lot of time on strategic planning, and using Scorecard helps align resources with the vision and mission, said Lori Thielen, president.

The goals balance employee development and financial progress.

Using Scorecard started in 2012 as a “very logical way to connect with the board” and reveal what progress was being made throughout the year against the agreed-upon goals,” Thielen said.

“The first few years, it was top down. Then we rolled it out to people and got staff involved in planning,” she said.

When employees understand the mission and goals “they can get their energy behind it, the organization can reach exponential results. It moves quicker and easier. Instead of a handful of people,” it’s all employees, including the people who connect directly to customers, working together toward goals.

“If you’ve never done it, it looks like a lot of work to establish and consistently apply. It is as much for the company as it is for people,” she said. “Start small. Set three goals and track them. You want to get clear about what you want to accomplish and how best to define success.”

If goals are not clear or aligned with the mission, they won’t be met because it will be easy to lose focus and direction. Employees sense the drift and feel like it’s a flavor of the day kind of leadership.

A lending officer might have an individual goal of increasing new business, which aligns to the overall growth.

“We now see the common goal. And that common goal is tied to me and tied to you through our individual goals,” Thielen said.

Scorecard tracks progress on each key objective of the organization, such as increasing mobile banking, e-statements and employee learning and growth.

The people doing the work know how to do it better, and if companies are transparent and help employees understand their part in the whole operation, businesses get better.

“Lean” a cultural transformation

“Lean” is all about “the identification and elimination of waste in the process,” said Seth Gilbert, of Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Center. “A key principle is that the person closest to the task is in the best position to talk about it.”

Employees must know that their suggestions won’t mean their job will be eliminated. Leadership has to be invested. Results and savings can be immediate.

“It’s actually a cultural transformation that can be phenomenally powerful,” Gilbert said. “It changes the relationships in an organization.”

Someone who punched a time clock is celebrated for saving the company money, and an employee who believed his or her voice was not heard now believes as if their knowledge and expertise matters.

“If you are interested in Lean and don’t have thousands of questions, you’re not ready to begin,” Gilbert said. “It is a humbling experience. There are pitfalls if someone doesn’t understand the nuances of Lean. It’s typically shared ignorance that gets you in trouble.”

15 years of experience

John Deere has used the Lean manufacturing concept for nearly 15 years.

“John Deere uses Lean manufacturing techniques in plants around the world,” said Ken Golden, director of global public relations for Deere & Co. “In this environment, manufacturing cycle times, capacity and inventory are optimized. Lean manufacturing also responds well to changes in market demand, allowing the company to react to change in demand for products much more quickly than in the past. This helps avoid building up unsold inventory.”

“Deere has some managers who focus on the implementation of Lean manufacturing within our factories. However, it is more important to recognize that the success of Lean manufacturing is actually in the hands of the employees on the shop floor. When our employees are successful in the adoption of Lean principles, they reduce unneeded work, improve quality and are more productive. This can impact their job security and their pay,” Golden said.

The concept aims to find cost cuts that don’t harm the company.

“The goal is to reduce work activities that do not add value to the end product. Reducing excess motion by the worker and waiting time in manufacturing are two examples of areas that can be identified and reduced. We also can focus on avoiding overproduction, reducing inventory and eliminating the excessive movement of materials and components before they are assembled into a final product,” Golden said.

Without employee involvement, the process would not work, he said.

“As we actively involve employees in the manufacturing process, we have an opportunity to improve quality and control costs. In the simplest definition, lean manufacturing is about waste elimination. Our employees are experienced at identifying what work is needed, what work is not needed, and what changes could be made to improve their work,” Golden said.

Staying on target

Programs put people on the same page.

“Everybody from the shop floor to the executive suite knows what’s happening,” said Mike Ralston, president of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

Ten years ago when he toured factories, he saw no signs as he does now that show a goal and whether the company is on target to reaching it.

“You don’t have to wait for a meeting,” Ralston said.

Ralston said companies report satisfaction with results.

“I can tell you it has worked just phenomenally for us,” said Mike Burke, manager at Allen Blasting and Coating in Burlington, Iowa, which uses Traction. It spells out what needs to be done, he said. “It’s all about accountability.”


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