Thursday, April 10, 2003

Wiremold Leads the Pack

Last week, my friend, Mary Pat Cooper of Wiremold was our guest speaker at the Lean Network of Wabash Valley (sorry, no web site for our volunteer-run group!). About 50 of us from manufacturers in an eight-county area were fascinated by her summary of 16 years of Lean experience at Wiremold. Some of the highlights:
  • They started small, with, literally, one single cell making surge suppressors. Mary Pat organized it, literally hidden behind 16 foot high stacks of inventory. When the rest of the plant was falling apart, they used pull and flow to keep making suppressors, to order, in lightening-fast speed. With no expediting. That caused others to watch and seek to emulate.
  • They used "pull" to introduce Lean as others wanted to figure out how they too could make quality product with no hassles.
  • They used standard methods to run both their production process and their change process. Habits are hard to set. They have a method and stay with it.
  • They constantly changed which seems to be an oxymoron. But it is a characteristic of Lean applications. If you haven't read the crucial article on Lean in HBR (note: a $6.00 download fee is well worth it, read the abstract for free), you will note that all good Lean systems are simultaneously rigid and flexible. Wiremold is so as well.
I'm grateful for the openness of Wiremold. They welcomed me to a week-long kaizen event last summer and the relationships continue. They are a true leader and have figured out how to thrive in the brutal business environment we are in. Look for information about them on the web. One of the best is this interview with Art Byrne, their president throughout most of their transformation.

I hope this is helpful.
Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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