1. Who are you, what organization are you with, and what are your current lean-oriented activities?
Hello, My name is Kevin von Grabe. I am the Vice President, Lean Deployment with LeanCor LLC. LeanCor’s purpose is to support our customers in preparing their people, perfecting their processes, and successfully implementing and operating the lean supply chain. In my role I am leading projects with various LeanCor customers that span from strategy development and deployment, network design for optimization of total cost, value stream mapping the supply chain as well as others. Internally at LeanCor we are focused on the development of our people through the LeanCor Academy. Similar to the way we develop our customers’ people through our Lean deployment activities, we are focused on creating a culture at LeanCor that challenges our current state. The Academy is also focused on development of our team into one that is full of Lean thinkers.
2. How, when, and why did you get introduced to lean and what fueled and fuels the passion?
I started my career working for a 3rd Party Logistics provider to Toyota in the start up at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI) back in 1999. Through that opportunity, I was introduced to the Toyota Production System and specifically how it extended past the four walls of the plant. Through that introduction I was able to see the simple yet extremely flexible approach to execution in the supply chain. I took a bit of a break from Lean during the second stint in my career. I worked for a large contract manufacturer and focused on Materials Management. I worked in Inventory Control, Material Planning, Purchasing, Production Planning and Master Scheduling. In early 2005, I received a phone call that changed my life. Robert Martichenko, LeanCor Founder and CEO invited me to start LeanCor with him. When I warned him that I had been out of the Lean world since having left my previous job and was focused on Materials Management and not on Logistics he assured me that the experience was more relevant than I thought. Boy was he right. Supply Chain Management is really just having a strategic approach to the movement of information and materials from supply base through to customer base. It was extremely relevant experience. Working at LeanCor has given me a number of incredible experiences in delivering and deploying Lean to our customers. What fuels my passion are those moments when we are supporting our customers and you can see that something “clicked” and that they are now changed forever. The way they think and the way they see things will never be the same.
3. In your opinion what is the most powerful aspect of lean?
In my opinion, the most powerful aspect of Lean is developing a problem-solving culture. It’s a culture in which every team member believes that by challenging the current state and by solving problems, tomorrow will be better than today. It’s knowing that as I respond to these five questions, my team is making LeanCor better. They are identifying problems, thinking about their standard work and using a set of tools to improve the business.
4. In your opinion what is the most misunderstood or unrecognized aspect of lean?
In some ways we, Lean practitioners, are our own worst enemy. The term “Lean Journey” misleads organizations. So often we hear that “We are just starting our Lean Journey. We will begin seeing the results and the benefit to our business in year three.” We seem to forget that Lean is about solving business problems and that if Lean principles are embraced, the benefits to your business will be immediate and bottom line impact will be the result. When embracing Lean, we need to make sure we understand why we are embracing it. If the reason is because your customer mandates it, your CEO just read a book over the weekend and is now changing the direction of the company yet again or if you believe it is some sort of magical solution that will quickly and easily make your problems disappear, then your likelihood of success is minimal.
5. In your opinion what is the biggest opportunity for lean in today's world? How can that be accomplished?
I’m not sure it’s the biggest opportunity but certainly a significant one would be to use Lean principles to improve the public schools of the United States. For example the traditional school year runs roughly from September through June providing our youth with a twelve week, summer break. This does not support the Lean concept of leveled flow. Each teacher must start each school year with a “refresher” on what the students learned at the end of the previous year. Sound like rework? Also, the approach to enrollment varies from state to state in regards to what the cut off dates are for which children will be enrolled with which. When I was in school it was calendar year to calendar year meaning that a child born on 1/1/1977 would be almost a full year or up to 20% older than a child that was born on 12/31/1977. This resembles big batch mentality. Why couldn’t we have more frequent, smaller batches of children enrolled with those that are of similar age?