My absence from the blog the last few days is the result of having to perform tough duty attending the AME Champions Conference in Bonita Springs, Florida. (I know what you are thinking – Florida in February – but I swear I was not there for the weather. After all, I live in Tucson. Paying for sunshine is not something I need to do.) What I was there for was a chance to hobnob with the leading folks in the lean accounting effort, including Orrie Fiume, Brian Maskell, Mark Deluzio and Bruce Bagley. These guys spearheaded the last Lean Accounting Summit and will do so again later this year, and they are out making a big impact on bringing the accounting folks around to realizing that their outdated practices are killing lean in most companies. It is humbling that they include me in their coven of lean accounting wizards.
Even more impressive than the lean accounting folks, however, are the AME Champions. A relatively small group, these guys pack more lean experience and history into one room than any other group in existence. For those who don’t know much about AME, it spun off from APICS twenty years ago or so when a small group saw the Toyota Production System as something bigger than anyone at APICS appreciated. Through the evolution from JIT to TPS to Lean, the core group that created AME, along with a rather august bunch they gathered along the way, have been keeping progress in American manufacturing on the right path.
What comes through very loud and clear from the AME Champions is an extraordinary commitment to manufacturing. These guys are not in AME to get rich – quite the opposite, in fact. They have plugged away under occasionally adverse circumstances for over two decades for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do. Talking to men like Doc Hall is truly an honor. Most have retired from their day jobs, but they still push AME for the sole purpose of educating people like you and me; and they have brought in others with the same passion, like Ralph Keller, to carry the ball after they are gone.
It is easy for those of us in the second generation of lean drivers to overlook the old timers, but that is a serious mistake. For me, the opportunity to sit around the table with the AME founders was a great chance to put all of our efforts in perspective. I can assure you that any resistance you are meeting in your lean effort is nothing compared to what these guys faced – and conquered. They were kicked out of APICS for believing in lean long before Jim Womack knew what lean manufacturing was. More than one has been fired from the company in which they had a long and successful career as a result of their unwavering commitment to lean. Their story is one of two steps forward and one step backwards for years, but never giving up.
The founders of AME are the giants whose shoulders we get to stand on in our pursuit of lean. While their vigor has not ebbed one iota, they are not getting any younger. You will be doing yourself a huge favor by wrangling an opportunity to attend an AME event soon, and looking up one of the older guys you will find working behind the scenes. Any one of them can give you a lean education beyond anything you will find in any book or any blog – and the education will be very real, earned with a lot of scars. Don’t let them fade away without taking advantage of their enormous wellspring of knowledge and their eagerness to share it.