Several brief news stories have crossed the wires lately, telling us how companies have implemented lean to survive and grow in the United States. Here are five of them.
Wind turbine giant Vestas Blades Inc. confirmed on Friday plans to
expand its American manufacturing presence with a new blade factory and
a nacelle assembly factory in Brighton. The expansion, adding
approximately 1,350 jobs to the Brighton market, places Vestas as the
forerunner of Colorado’s largest renewable energy manufacturer.
“We are extremely pleased to be building Vestas’ largest nacelle
assembly factory to date. Denver and the surrounding areas give us
direct access to a large, qualified workforce, and this was one of the
primary reasons for choosing Brighton,” Søren Husted, president of
Vestas Nacelles A/S, said. “Our new factory will be designed according
to the most efficient lean manufacturing principles, and we expect
Brighton to become the center for Vestas Nacelles’ activities in the
It’s all about people.
In a period when many companies in the aviation industry are scaling back, PAS Technologies Inc. looks to be an exception. In early 2006, it was considered an underperforming operation struggling to meet delivery times for aviation companies that required quick and efficient service on aircraft engine components and parts.
Gridiron recruited Bob Weiner to lead the newly named PAS Technologies as president and chief executive. Weiner, who previously led Pratt & Whitney’s commercial and military engine services divisions, is a disciple of
“lean manufacturing,” the principles of which are derived from the
Japanese automaker Toyota.
In six months, PAS showed significant improvement in its repair
service, shortening delivery times and reaching nearly 100 percent in
on-time performance rates. Weiner said the company went from being
below average by industry standards to among the industry’s best.
said he had been involved in implementing lean principles at four other
businesses in his career, but the six months the turnaround took at PAS
was the fastest he ever experienced. He credited PAS workers, about 300
of whom are in North Kansas City. The changes have put PAS in growth mode in terms of sales.
It’s all about people. The people and the their leaders.
When Bob Vermeer and Mary (Vermeer) Andringa speak of their father,his innovative spirit highlights the conversation. The second generation leads the Pella, IA-based Vermeer Manufacturing today as they navigate today’s business environment, which they say all market drivers relate to energy–whether its industrial drills for pipelines, environmental equipment for biomass processing or forage products for biomass harvesting.
The company has been implementing lean manufacturing since 1997. In fact, they call it their lean journey. This journey has yielded great profit: for example, in 1999 it took 52 days from the time of order to out of the factory door for a brush chipper but today a dealer orders a brush chipper, and that piece of equipment is put in the order system and out the door in two and a half days.
When you tour one of their factories, it’s almost overwhelming how focused they are on their on steps toward "daily improvement." Everything has its "footprint" marked in tape on the floor, items are color-coded, flow through the factory is intuitive. I’m going to try out "daily improvement" principles in my life, and we’ll see how my desk at work fares.
52 days down to 2. Not too shabby.
Here’s a storyline you might find hard to believe if you get
overdoses of election-year rhetoric about protecting American jobs. It
goes like this: A growing conglomerate from India takes over an
86-year-old drug manufacturing operation in a small city in America’s
Pacific Northwest. It decides not to ship the highly-skilled,
high-paying jobs to a cheaper location overseas. Instead, it preserves
wages and benefits, hires more, and invests millions of dollars in an
expansion plan. That’s what has happened over the past year at Hollister-Stier
Laboratories, a contract drug manufacturer and community institution in
The Indian bosses apparently have a serious commitment to Six Sigma,
the lean-manufacturing management philosophy popularized by that
All-American business icon, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. I’m
no political consultant, but that doesn’t sound like grist for a good
fear-based attack ad.
It’s all about people. But I do have to take the reporter to task for claiming lean manufacturing was popularized by Jack "the turkey" Welch. That’s one of the most off-base claims I’ve read in a long time.
Alberto-Culver Co., a manufacturer of beauty and personal care
products, officially opened its new manufacturing facility in Jonesboro
Tuesday with local and state officials on hand, including Gov. Mike
Beebe. [400 jobs expected to be added]
The 475,000-SF facility began initial production in
January, the company said in a news release, less than a year from the
ground-breaking on Jan. 17, 2007. The Jonesboro facility is
Alberto-Culver’s largest and was designed, built and will function
using Lean Manufacturing concepts. The initial investment was $60
million. The company makes products including TRESemme, Alberto VO5, Nexxus and St. Ives.
Hats off to all of you for realizing that manufacturing can succeed, and be profitable, in North America.