In this week's edition of 5 Questions we meet Jim Huntzinger.
1. Who are you, what organization are you with, and what are your current lean-oriented activities?
I'm Jim Huntzinger, the founder and President of the Lean Accounting Summit, TWI Summit, and Lean and Green Summit. These conferences and other activities associated with them focus on developing and deploying knowledge and experience in these niche lean topics which are key to successful transformation of the business enterprise. I spend time researching these topics and their history and its impact on current business and industry.
2. How, when, and why did you get introduced to lean and what fueled and fuels the passion?
In 1988 I was fortunate enough to join a Toyota Group Company, Aisin Seiki, upon graduating from Purdue University, as they were in the process of transplanting to North American to supply and support Toyota. I took the position because it was a plant start up – my part of the plant had not even been built yet – and it had nothing to do with lean or TPS. I had never heard of TPS.
That changed after I was hired. I spent 9 weeks in Japan training and learning about the products, processes, and machine tools that I would be my responsibility. This also meant TPS training. I returned from Japan to become completely involved in the operation’s construction, equipment delivery, line set-up, production ramp-up and operation (machining, fabrication, and assembly) of brake components, oil pumps and water pumps – and, of course, TPS.
I worked for Aisin for nearly 2 years but had the desire to be directly involved in the development of new processes, which I had not had the opportunity to do with Aisin. Process development was accomplished in Japan by the Japanese engineers. This change took me to Briggs & Stratton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here I would have this opportunity. But within 2 weeks of arriving at Briggs, I came to the realization that the rest of the industrial world did not operate or function like the companies (Toyota and Aisin) that I had just left.
This realization of my current situation transformed me. Even though Briggs had hired me because I supposedly know something about TPS and lean manufacturing, I immediately realized that my learning had only just begun. My passion began at that point and has never relinquished. And I must admit my situation for learning was not just fueled; it was on fire during those days at Briggs.
3. In your opinion what is the most powerful aspect of lean?
One aspect would be that from a business model. Lean is unequaled in its ability and speed to generate wealth. The second aspect – which is related to the first – is what is yet to be discovered in developing and evolving the business enterprise. Being involved in lean accounting (and any of the niche topics) from the perspective of the Summit and my own research has shown me that knowledge and execution has only begun. Most of what will make lean accounting – or any aspect of business from a lean perspective – successful, even though it is already making very significant gains for organizations, is that it is constantly evolving and developing. It is also driving other new development and realizations of functions and improvements yet to be discovered. I have the pleasure to speak with people from organizations that are out on the leading edge of this activity. They are discovering new and dynamic changes to their organizations every day. Changes they could have never conceived before their venture into lean accounting. This same unique vision and understanding is gained by any organization venturing into these realms. This is exactly what Peter Senge and others refer to has becoming a learning organization.
4. In your opinion what is the most misunderstood or unrecognized aspect of lean?
That lean is about tools. That lean is about people. That lean is about learning. That lean is really about integrating all three into an ever evolving organization, which continually and dynamically stabilizes a system to leverage all three, while simultaneously changing again and again in a systematic manner. This is very counter-intuitive – simultaneous stability and improvement (instability).
5. In your opinion what is the biggest opportunity for lean in today's world? How can that be accomplished?
Lean has only fractionally been tapped into. We have only accomplished a tiny part of its capability. We must deploy and leverage it to its fullest extent. This requires drastic change in understanding, thinking, and behavior. It requires us to focus on wealth creation at a level we never experienced before. This requires complete change in our business models, educational systems, and political systems. It may be difficult and take much hard work, but it is absolutely possible to achieve.