Think lean

Jim Ruetz is president and general manager of All Fasteners Inc., a vendor managed inventory provider. The company designs integrated supply programs for nuts, washers, bolts, screws, fasteners, hoses, fittings and specialty products. Every company should “lean out” its entire operation, he says.

“Many companies look at lean as a tool that can help them manufacture or assemble better. In reality, lean practices, if applied throughout the culture of the company, can impact every department, regardless of the business you are in. For this to happen, it must be a top leadership-led initiative.

“At All Fasteners/All Tool Sales we have found that lean practices expose that we don’t know what we don’t know. You must be willing to continue to ask the ‘Why?’ question until you arrive at the core issue to the problem.

“Case in point: The Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., was crumbling at a fast rate because it was being washed so often to eliminate the heavy amount of pigeon droppings on the memorial. Why so many pigeons? Research identified a large population of spiders at the memorial, which the pigeons were feeding on. Why so many spiders? Research identified that the spiders were attracted to the midges (tiny aquatic insects) congregating at the memorial. Why are the midges attracted to the memorial? Research showed midges were attracted to specific light levels on the memorial, particularly during the dusk hours before nightfall. The perfect light conditions for the midges occurred when the lights were turned on prior to darkness. Solution: Wait until after dark to turn the lights on at the memorial. No more midges, no more spiders, no more pigeons, no more pigeon droppings and significantly fewer cleanings of the memorial. All of that resulted in less wear and tear on the memorial and lower maintenance costs.

“This case study is widely used by lean practitioners to help students of lean understand the need to dig past what appears to be the obvious so as to find the not so obvious — but much more efficient — solution to a problem or process. Does your team think lean?”

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