Columbia Aircraft lays off 59 employees. On the surface not a unique story as unfortunately many companies are laying off… and even more are hiring judging from the ongoing growth in overall jobs. But this story indicates that the company was implementing lean, but perhaps doesn’t quite get what it’s about:
[CEO Bing] Lantis said the company does not expect to make additional staff cuts, but that more layoffs may be necessary as it continues to refine its production efficiency and implement its "lean manufacturing" practices.
Anyone that truly understand lean realizes that layoffs and lean are not related, and in fact layoffs are destructive to any lean effort. The people are knowingly putting their jobs on the line by helping the company create and implement waste reduction programs. Whack those people, and that desire to help the company goes away. And its not like they were in a business crisis that required such cuts:
The company continues to build and deliver aircraft and maintains a 90-day backlog of orders. In January, Columbia announced a record 185 plane deliveries in 2006 and that orders were up more than 200 percent from the previous year. Columbia Aircraft, formerly Lancair, was laid low in the post-9/11 aviation shutdown, but has soared in recent years with its highly regarded high-tech line of planes.
Orfers up 200%… not bad. Time to eliminate some experience and knowledge. I bet they also have a "employees are our most important asset" sign in their lobby. But perhaps they didn’t understand lean manufacturing to begin with, especially the concept of one piece flow, and Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom decided to teach the company a lesson:
… a hailstorm that necessitated the refinishing of more than 60 aircraft, has hampered Columbia’s ability to operate profitably.
Ouch. I hate to think what that cost. I wonder how that compares to the price break they may have gotten from non-lean suppliers on large batches of raw materials.
Don’t fool with Mother Nature!