Parsable Podcast

The Top 7 Lessons Learned from Conquering Chaos in 2022

In our 2022 episodes, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking with industry leaders and experts who have shared their valuable insights and lessons learned. From implementing new technologies to streamlining operations, we’ve covered a wide range of topics to help manufacturers stay competitive and thrive in today’s market.

We take a look at the 7 most popular episodes and the biggest lessons we learned from each of those guests. 

One of the key takeaways from our episodes is the importance of empowering people.

We also learned that having a strong company culture and clear communication can lead to improved productivity and employee satisfaction.

Another important lesson is the importance of investing in new technologies such as automation and data analytics to stay ahead of the curve.

Now, get ready to conquer chaos in 2023! 


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Check out the episode transcript below:

Josh Santo: Welcome to Conquering Chaos, the show for manufacturing leaders. In each episode, we are connecting you to the manufacturing leaders of today who are driving the innovations needed to future-proof the operations of tomorrow. If you feel like your time is spent fighting fires and trying to control the everyday chaos, this show is the show for you. My name is Josh Santo. I’ll be your host.

Welcome, conquerors, to the final episode of Conquering Chaos for the 2022 season. Now, I know we’re technically airing in 2023, but this is the official last episode from our 2022 season plan. For this episode, we’re trying something new. We’re looking back at the top seven most downloaded episodes of Conquering Chaos from 2022. We’ll be revisiting the conversations and lessons we learned from each manufacturing leader, touching on topics and takeaways, covering everything from people, processes, and technology, which when you think about it, are pretty much the keys to Conquering Chaos.

Stay tuned to the end of the episode to hear about my key learning from all these great lessons shared by real-life manufacturing leaders. Up first in early February of 2022, I spent some time with Sarah Dale, plant manager at International Paper, who is a millennial manufacturing all-star, who didn’t initially see herself as a career manufacturer. Luckily for International Paper, she carved out a path in a heavily male industry, even earning recognition by International Paper CEO Mark Sutton for her work, leading the global manufacturing system implementation across 47 facilities.

It’s safe to say she knows how to get some stuff done. Now, one perspective that Sarah shared that really stands out is the criticality of care and communication for empowering your teams to get things done and find creative solutions to do just that. Let’s take a listen.

Sarah Dale: For me, it really starts with care. I think it was McGregor who talked about Theory X versus Theory Y leaders and these theories on work and leadership. For me, I believe that with care and communication, that you can truly empower and enable your team to execute beyond sometimes any expectation that you can set. For me, one way to really get to the root of that and to support that and really drive that within my organization is to provide that care.

That to me fosters an improvement culture. We have to have the care, we have to provide the security and really that safe space for teams to come together and understand that there is care on the table and a safe space where they can communicate what it is that they think could make the facility or world better depending on what we’re looking at. Oftentimes, someone solving a tech-related issue may pull in some insights that could solve a manufacturing-related issue. Allowing for that true collaborative outside-of-the-box thinking builds a culture that allows for care collaboration.

That really feeds into the creativity because we are in manufacturing, and sometimes there are going to be things that come up, and quick decision-making is at the basis of so much of what we do and what gets done from day to day. We don’t always have at our fingertips code to correct a bug. We’re having to identify what we have in-house, whom we can call and rely on in order to execute and fix whatever problem has arisen, whatever we do need to do to communicate with the customer.

That is at the basis of creativity. I think they say invention is from necessity or whatever the quote is with regards to creativity. Manufacturing allows for that and it requires it. For me, that is how I lead, building a culture of care. It can look different to different people, but even for me, sarcasm and negative remarks are something that I do not support with the team and ask that are not brought into our communication and teamwork, team building, and our meetings.

If there is something that’s real and factual that we need to state, always bring solutions to the end of it. We all have tough days, and there is a space to let that out and to talk through it, but always ending with an understanding of– we can control our controllables. We have the ability to be creative, even if it’s with a broomstick, and that we’re going to do everything with focus on care, not just for our company and our people, but also for our community and their families.

Josh: Now, what’s undeniable is the power of people. In fact, in our next episode on our list, we cover how the future of manufacturing, the future of all factories relies on people. In June, we had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Stefan Kozielski. He’s the associate director of manufacturing and supply chain at Boston Consulting Group, and he’s led departments within manufacturing and supply chain companies like ThyssenKrupp, Henkel, and DHL. In our time together, we covered a handful of different topics, but one that stands out is Dr. Kozielski’s assertion that you must focus on and prioritize people to build your factory of the future.

Stefan Kozielski: I would like to point out three things about the factory of the future. Some are new and some are actually quite simple. Starting with one of them, which is a factory is still about productivity and getting an outcome. With all the topics that you mentioned, digitalization use cases, lights-out factory, smart factory, et cetera, we tend to forget that, that in the end, the overall objective is to be productive and to produce something to have an outcome, a transformation.

What the factory of the future is actually doing is, we are having a productivity revolution. While traveling around and working with clients and visiting factories, I’m still seeing that we are sometimes tremendously underutilizing our assets, be it strategically because we hold buffer for peak production, et cetera, so a supply chain question to solve, or be it because of poor efficiency. A production line at 60% OPI or OE, so 40% idle.

There are factors that help us in driving a productivity revolution, and not only by the old views of measuring productivity but in a more sustainable and holistic view. It’s about the financial outcome, the product outcome, but it’s also the sustainability and the wealth and share for society and people, which is actually from the three pillars, the second one. The factory of the future is still about people.

We are often talking, it’s about technology and what technology is enabling us. That’s fully true. In my view and in our view, the factory of the future is bionic. It has components of human functions, human enablement. It has a clear people focus, it’s a workplace for people. Then as the third pillar comes, technology, and when both come together, so technology enables us, doing the productivity revolution that I mentioned, but at the same time, in a usable way, creating an even better workplace for the people working in such a factory. When these three things come together, I am talking about a factory of the future transformation.

Josh: I love the way that you broke that down. Just to summarize what I heard, there’s three tenets there. It’s the productivity, it’s the people, and it’s the tech, and it’s all coming together. The tech is supporting the people, the people support the productivity.

I like how you positioned it that factory of the future or smart factory, whatever you want to call it, is ultimately a productivity solution because those are where the problems lie today. There’s an opportunity to be more efficient with the assets that are in place, whether those are machines, whether those are the people operating the machines, and technology should be that enabler that helps support the path to the highest levels of productivity that are achievable with the current state of things. There’s always constraints. It’s always going to evolve and get better. It’s a constantly moving boundary. I love that and I think that that’s a great way of conceptualizing it.

Now, I imagine our listeners, others I’ve spoken with, there’s some frequent misunderstandings that come up, and I’d love to hear from you, Stefan, when you think about the conversations you’re having with manufacturing leaders, what are they often getting wrong about the concept of the factory of the future?

Stefan: First of all, we don’t put the user experience of our people in the factory and our operators at the heart of the technology transformation. I’ve seen manufacturing plants and manufacturing lines with multiple industry 4.0 use cases deployed, be it advanced analytics, predictive maintenance tools, et cetera, and the frontline people had to lock in into three different systems. It was tremendous additional work for them. We often, as manufacturing leaders, think the solution is we need more training. We need a better user experience because technologies get deployed by the user experience and not by how much and how intense we train people. In today’s world and society, our frontline operators, they are exposed to technology in their private life. In their private life, they don’t accept anymore when something is hyper-complicated. Everyone has a smartphone. We use our iPads. When it’s too complicated, we simply don’t do it.

In the factories, what I see, in many cases, it’s still too complicated. Then comes the second misconception, that is, “Let’s build a lighthouse in our factory network. Let’s revolutionize our manufacturing.” Then we run into the same issue, it does not scale. In the business environment, if it does not scale, then you run into the problem that your business case of industrialization via digital is not calculating anymore because you don’t have the underlying productivity increases that were assumed when investing into technology. In the end, the big misconception I’m often seeing is that we dramatically underestimate the importance of the operators’ user experience in this factory transformation.

Josh: Now, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of what Dr. Kozielski called out in my work here at Parsable. Now, we’re a long way away from lights-out factories or robots fully replacing people, if that ever even happens. The most powerful strategy in future-proofing operations centers around people because when you put people first, when you tap into the collective expertise and creativity, when you listen and take action, you can see some pretty incredible results.

That’s exactly what our next guest did. In October, Tom Shorma, former CEO of WCCO Belting, which was recently acquired by Continental AG, gave us the blueprint for getting 20% more; 20% increase in throughput, 20% improvement to quality, and more. The success that he and the team achieved started with giving 20% to their people. Let’s take a listen.

Tom Shorma: I like to reference 2014 because that was a significant reinvention process that we had to go through. The leadership team that we had in place created a five-year plan to increase our throughput end revenues by 20%, with a plan that said, “We’re going to do it, or we’re going to be forced to do it because of the availability of workforce with 20% less people.” More than 20% growth in revenues and product production with 20% less people.

We knew that staffing was always going to be our greatest challenge. We live in a rural area, in a rural state. The entire state has less than a million people spread out across. It’s agricultural-based. We weren’t planning to downsize. We just figured natural workforce attrition would ultimately push us down by about 20%. That was really the starting point where we said, “We’re going to really take another big step.”

When we did that, we announced it to everybody at our annual employee meeting; 20% more for 20% less people. I laughed because I looked back and they looked at us and said, “Are you crazy? We’re already working hard. How can we do that?” They were a little skeptical at first, but we said, “Okay. We’re not going to just put you out on an island. We’re just not asking you to work harder. We’ve got some steps we’re going to go through in order to effectively implement change to reinvent.”

Now, we had done some good things. We had seen the growth. We had doubled. We had doubled. We had doubled again. This time was going to be different because, in the past, we generally had enough people to draw from in order to grow. This was going to be different. The first thing we told to them was, “We’re going to give you a 20% increase in wages.” Of course, they’re all– “Hurrah.” They’re looking at each other, “This is amazing.” Then we said, “It’s not more for same. It’s more for more. The math doesn’t work to just give you a 20% increase. We have to find a way to produce more.”

They said, “How are we going to do that?” They said, “Number two, we’re going to give you better training, more thorough training, give you the information you need in order to do your jobs more effectively.” We kicked off an internal technical training program. I say internal because, in our business, it’s very unique. We tell people that no one in the world makes the products we make how we make them.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 10 years of prior experience in manufacturing or entry-level, or you’re a VP, it doesn’t matter because no one does it our way. We have to provide extensive training. We started a 99-level entry-level training. Then we set it up like a college curriculum, 100 level, 200 level, 300 level, and 400 level. We now have more than 100 different syllabuses in training classes for people at different skill sets and different parts of the organization that we set up back in 2014.

Thirdly, we told them that we were going to look for and invest in a lot more process automation. We had to automate. We had to take some of the physical laborers out of the process and make it more technical and more redundant in order to increase the throughput consistently.

Lastly, and probably the most important part of the whole piece is that we told them that we’re going to become better listeners. Now, as a family business, we’re close to a lot of people, and we’re pretty good listeners, but we told them that they were going to have to help us come up with ideas that would increase throughput, safety, and quality. We basically started– you’ve heard the term, a Kaizen program in manufacturing. That’s really a formal process by which you implement change.

Ours was really more like an employee suggestion program on steroids. We solicited them. We encouraged them. We rewarded them, yes, financially included, in order to come up with ideas. Since that time, 2014 to today, they have provided us more than 3,600 suggestions on how to do little things, big things in order to improve quality, throughput, and safety. I always ask people, “That many ideas over that many period of time, how many do you think were actually implemented by the company?”

Josh: That’s a great question.

Tom Shorma: More than 50% over the entire period of time. Then people say, “Doesn’t that fade out? Don’t people just stop losing ideas?” In the last 18 months, we’ve added 100 people to our workforce. These are brand new eyes and ears and ideas. Those people are now embracing the idea of making improvements. In fact, we’ve gone from a year and a half ago, about 50% of the ideas implemented, we’re now at 62%. We’re climbing because the new group is coming up with even fresher ideas, new ways to make changes.

I’d like to say a lot of our change, our reinvention, our improvements were really driven by the new workforce innovators that we brought onto our team and the people that are in the flow of the day-to-day operations coming up with ideas as to how to make things better.

Josh: More than 50%, up to 62% of the 3,600 improvement suggestions were supported and implemented by the leadership at WCCO Belting. They accomplished their goals two years ahead of schedule. Not only that, it actually became easier to recruit new workers because referrals from employees skyrocketed during this time. People are the key to identifying, implementing, and sustaining continuous improvement. Leaders must connect with them on the why which leads us to our next episode.

Ray Ardahji, who’s the managing director, practitioner, and founder of Michiana Lean Tech LLC has over two decades of experience leading lean transformation, driving performance excellence, and maximizing ROI on supply chain and continuous improvement. In fact, he developed a secret formula for continuous improvement that he shares with us in this episode. Let’s take a listen to what Ray has identified as the critical factors for his formula for continuous improvement.

Riad Ardahji: This formula, it came from my Lean Six Sigma which is, we talk about the Y function of X, it’s an output model. We really try to understand the X, the variables that gives you the Y. Of course, we want to optimize Y, the maximum of Y, the output for a company.

Being for the last 30 years involved with so many transformations, and a lot of transformation initiative fail, 75% fail, and lessons learned from so many, I came up with this paper and basically the formula, and it’s eight factors. Basically, we talk about urgency, sponsorship, the executive suite, vision of the company, communication, so critical, change management, and the skills the operators need to be successful. The incentives. The incentive to me is how do you motivate people to change, not just during their day-to-day job, because now you’re asking them to go beyond what they doing every day. You want to go to a different situation or a condition, and I think we should add a very well-lubed machine, the incentive is like the oil, make it lubricate and go smoother.

The action plans is advice for action; what you’re going to do, what by who, by when. It’s very important to have a lean PMO role where you really have somebody following up, crossing T’s, dotted I’s to make sure happening. Resources. Who’s going to do this? Who’s the leaders and who’s the organization? Who’s the team? Really identify the roles and people. You have to do all those eights to be successful. For example, urgency. I can take you back. This is really all about the burning platform. I don’t know if you remember Nokia CEO when he wrote a letter to the employees about the burning platform. Do you remember that, Josh?

Josh: I don’t. No. Tell me about it.

Riad: Interesting. In North Sea, there was a oil rig, and an employee, a person woke up, and it was explosion and that fire on the burning platform. What happened is these people were faced– either jump 30 meters into the water, icy water, or die really burning on the rig. Burning platform. Stephen Elop, I think he’s at Microsoft now, but when he was at Nokia, sent a memo to the employee saying, “We have a burning platform in our technology and cell phones.”

It was interesting. When we took urgency, when we said, “What’s the burning platform, why change? Can you articulate and concisely tell the people why we need change?” Because of quality, because of safety, because of customers, whatever the driving force behind this change, make sure you articulate and explain it and make it simple to the people so they understand and they jump on your bandwagon and tell them the consequence. “If you don’t do this, we’re going to lose this, that, whatever.” Always improve on that.

That’s a really example I showed you, just one area of urgency, the burning platform. Every organization needs to do that homework first. Why do we need to change? What’s the outcome and what’s the benefit, and what the risks are if we don’t?

Josh: I love the focus on the why behind the change. According to Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. That’s not limited to the products you sell, but the ideas you share as well.

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Now, when people, processes, and technology come together under a shared understanding of the why, some pretty impressive things can happen. In fact, Bob Seaman, director of innovation and product development at Yuengling, shared with us that by focusing on those concepts and keeping it simple, Yuengling is unmatched in packaging line efficiency. Hear what Bob has to say on people, processes, and packaging lines from our September episode.

One thing I did want to ask you about, when you and I first chatted, one of the things that you said, what you called out is that Yuengling is the best in the world at packaging line efficiency. I would love for you to expand on that.

Bob Seaman: I hope I don’t ruffle some feathers. [chuckles]

Josh: Bob threw out quite the gauntlet. He said, “No one’s going to match us in packaging line efficiency.” Sounds like you guys got a method of success. I’d love to hear from the experts on that.

Bob: There’s a lot that I don’t understand. I’ll tell you that upfront. Every day I marvel at what’s possible, what we accomplished on some of that stuff. I think number one, it goes back to family ownership decisions to keep things simple. We do not have 35 packages that we run. We try to keep the number of different styles of packages and containers that we run to the minimum. Now it’s grown over the years, but I think having started out that way built a base of expectation and capabilities that allows us to still master when something new comes along.

This is some serious stuff. When I first came here, we ran somewhere between 12 and 15 hours a day on our packaging line at Mill Creek. We couldn’t make enough product that was flying out the door. That was a struggle. We were working five days a week, and then we expanded the number of hours that we ran, and it got up to somewhere like 19 or 20 hours a day that we were running and then shut down.

It became clear that at some point, it didn’t make sense to shut down anymore. However, one of the major challenges with that, or I should say one of the benefits of shutting down and starting up was that if something was seriously wrong, if something needed to be replaced or put on or installed or removed, we had that time after the line shut down or before it started up. When we finally pulled the trigger and went to 24-hour-a-day operations, there was no longer downtime to fix and repair, maintain, whatever, could be even something as simple as greasing or oiling machinery.

We had to figure out how to make that work. However, credit to our workforce, we went from, let’s say, 15 hours a day to 24 hours a day. We also went from at that point running no more than 85% packaging line efficiency. First, we went to 90, then we went to 95, and then we eventually ended up at somewhere between 97% and 98% efficient. Now, for anybody who does this for a living, we didn’t take anything out. We didn’t take cleaning time out, or we didn’t take greasing time out of that number. That’s a straight-up number on how well we run in a 24-hour period or for a week.

That’s no-frills numbers there. That’s not padded in any way. What I saw and envisioned, I’d like to think I was part of that leading that. It was also our maintenance crew, our operators, our team leaders, our managers, everybody focused and continually improved. Again, for anybody who’s done this before, been involved with it, the more problems you eliminate from a packaging line, the harder the remaining problems that exist are to solve because they’re there and they’ve been there a long time, and they could be tiny or they could be big, but it keeps getting harder and harder to get those problems, challenges out of the system if you will.

We eventually got to that 97 and 98 over about a year and a half, two-year period. What was left was this, to be completely honest, half of it was vendor issues, meaning supplies could be glass cartons, cans, lids, crowns, things that suppliers supplied us to run the line. The other half was us. What was really cool that I had not experienced before, I had this vision in my head of– it would be really cool to be able to do that. When we could supply that kind of detail on what was left and talked to our vendors and say, “Here’s what we’re experiencing, this is what happened,” several things came from that.

One was that I don’t know that anybody’s ever done that for them before. I think that they were kind of like, “What do we do with all this information? Because these guys have it down pat.” It took them a while. I remember these conversations sitting in quality meetings with some of our suppliers and saying, “Look, we’re not sitting here to complain about this. Obviously, we’re running 98%, which means you’re not that bad, you’re actually doing really well. What I want to share with you is these are the problems that we’re having, and if we’re going to talk about them, then I want to have a to-do list, an actionable item.”

I think it took a little while to get them to believe that this was not a slam session where we were trying to make them look bad or anything. We were trying to share the information, so they can go back and do something with. I think it’s gotten better over the years, but I don’t think that was their normal MO either. They were kind of suspicious of the whole thing. [chuckles] They were suspicious, I think, of what we were supplying, like, “Really? They want us to do what with it?” I don’t know, but it was good. End result, they’re doing very well. I told them, “You guys are doing really well, but we’re going to continually improve until we retire. That’s the way it’s going to go.”

Josh: In Bob’s example, he talks about how these results, moving from 15 hours to 24 hours a day of production and going from 80% to 98% packaging line efficiency, and the need to solve problems both internally as well as externally, mentioning vendor issues with glass, cartons, cans, lids, et cetera, that needed to be addressed with the vendor, it ultimately led to positive improvements with the vendor.

That actually reminds me of the next episode featuring John Gossett, US sales director of Smurfit Kappa. In the latter half of September, John joined to share his insights on meeting your customers’ true needs. To do that, you must understand who your customers are, not just what they need. John, my first question to you, is the customer always right?

John Gossett: Actually, I’ve gone through this a lot in my career. It’s not about the customer always being right, but the customer is always the customer. What I would differentiate a little bit and say that what we’re talking about is not necessarily whether they’re right or wrong, but have we effectively described the situation and the communication that’s necessary.

If you say that the customer’s always right, that means you’re always telling them yes. That’s not something that we operate under because you can’t always deliver what the customer is requesting. That’s a time when– personally, I call it a constructive no. I say no and I say, “Here’s what we can do. Here are the challenges that we have with your initial request. Here’s a timeline we can meet.”

In doing that, you don’t just shut the customer down, but you show them what you can do, what your capabilities are in this particular situation, and the things that you want to follow up on. The customer’s always the customer and that’s the most critical part to me. If you’re a yes person to the customer, whoever that customer is, you’re going to let somebody down, and quite honestly, that betrays their trust and it damages your credibility. I would prefer to confront the harder situations up front and say no when I have to say no and look for a solution that’s a win-win for both parties.

Josh: Because if you don’t, then they’re not going to be your customer anymore. Then the question of whether or not they are right is moot because they’re not your customer.

John: Exactly. I couldn’t say that any better because you only get so many opportunities to deliver a solution before somebody goes, “Every time they say something, they say they’re going to do things and then they fail to deliver.” You develop a reputation for being, what I just honestly would say is untruthful. I prefer to tell people upfront, “Be truthful. Give them all the information,” and you allow them to make an informed decision that way.

Josh: The customer is always the customer, and really reframing the question to not be focused on, is someone right or wrong? Really what I’m picking up from you, John, is really understanding what is the need that is being expressed by the customer. What I would argue is that the customer is always right about the fact that there’s a need, a fact that there’s an opportunity, or a problem that they need help with or that they’re trying to solve.

They’re not necessarily right in the ways in which they might be trying to go about solving that. That kind of gets to your point, John, of sometimes you have to tell people no. Sometimes you have to challenge them to think about a particular concept a different way. They’re still right about the fact that they have a need or something to explore further. It really becomes that mutual relationship that establishes that credibility and ultimately keeps the customer a customer. That’s how I’ve often thought about it.

Now, I know when I think of customers, so often I’m thinking of the end users of my company’s products. That’s not always the case. I think a lot of other people think that way too. John, would you say that customers are just the people who are buying our products, or are there other customers that we should be mindful of?

John: It’s funny you say that. I just literally had a situation in one of our facilities where I brought the lead team, everyone together, and we talked about this exact topic because everything we do in our daily lives, especially in the packaging business, we’re all in customer service. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a different department that doesn’t necessarily say customer service, but you are working to satisfy your customer, which may be the next process. If you’re in manufacturing, it can be going from one conversion operation to another, from a conversion operation to shipping, and from shipping to the actual end user. It could go to a middle stop there in the process.

Those people are your customers. Each of us every day is working not just in our little block, but in the entire world that involves all of our customers, both internal, external as well as our partners because you have customers that get things that they need from, for instance, human resources here at the facility. They’re working closely with them. Their customers are all internal so that actually never goes outside. That customer then– the person working here who receives a product or a service from our human resources group, they’re now being neither satisfied or being– It’s a service failure, and then you go into recovery mode, but the main thing is that we’re constantly thinking about the fact, we’re trying to deliver a good product or a service to our next customer. Yes, it’s internal, it’s external, and it’s a partnership.

Josh: Everyone you work with, everyone you interact with internally or externally is your customer. That’s such a critical lesson that John shared, and it’s changed the way I think about my relationship with Parsable customers, podcast guests, coworkers, and even family to an extent. Adopting that mindset makes a difference in your day-to-day interactions, and keeping it up for the long term will pay dividends and interest in all sorts of other financial terms that mean positive things.

Speaking of keeping things up for the long term, that’s one of the key lessons Bill Neeve of Cycle Time Management shared with us in June in our top episode of 2022. Management, leadership must base decisions on a long-term philosophy. Too often, Bill argues, lean is broken up and implemented as tools, but lean is a discipline. It’s a way of operating the entire business. It’s not one-and-done, it must be refined and improved continuously. Let’s hear it from Bill.

Bill Neeve: One of the first principle is, base your management decisions on long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals. That’s just an indicator of companies realizing if they’re looking at the big picture, they understand it’s not going to take three months to implement lean. It took Toyota 70 years and they’re still new in terms of continuous improvement. They continually try and improve the methodologies that were developed over that timeframe.

Companies that understand the long term utilize some of the methodologies, like tying to their strategy when they’ve got their, say, five-year strategy, tying tools in with that so that it’ll drive the organization forward with lean methodology like Hoshin planning, which was developed by Toyota. We actually– when I worked at Hewlett-Packard, we used Hoshin planning for total quality control. Hewlett-Packard back in the ’80s was famous.

John Young was the CEO and he led that worldwide. The whole total quality control, which over the years has become total quality management, and that sort of thing, using the tool Hoshin planning, which allows you to feed in off of your strategy some of the key objectives and down methodology to start at the top with the objectives and drive them down through the organization, so people understand how they can contribute to making the company better, using lean methodologies in this case, to improve their processes and all of that sort of thing.

The idea there in that principle is it’s not going to take three months, it’s going to take years, and you’re in for the long haul in changing the organizational operating practices. That’s what that one’s all about. The second one is create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface. Most organizations and consulting firms, training firms, they look at organizations when they want to improve vertically, and companies do this.

The purchasing department needs improvement, or some other department, or the shop floor on its own needs improvement. Value stream mapping to find out the flow is really the way to go, and to look at your organization, how it flows horizontally and not vertically. If you look at improvement vertically, you improve a department, and that may slow down the process through the organization. You have to look horizontally. This is how we came up with cycle time reduction way back when, is we said cycle time reduction should be from end to end, from the time you get a customer request till the time they receive the product.

What is the cycle time it takes horizontally to go all through your departments and that sort of thing? The idea is, if it was three weeks, how do you make it three days? How do you shorten that timeframe? Well, what we run into from a flow perspective, you had all these things going on like long setups and on the floor, all kinds of rocks, I call them, in the middle stopping the flow, and to straighten that out and streamline it using value stream mapping is really one of the keys in that whole situation.

When you use value stream mapping for flow throughout the company, a lot of companies think, “Well, we did the value stream mapping, so it’s over.” Well, it’s not over. Products change continually. Customer requirements change. All kinds of things change in the organization. It’s a tool that has to be used dynamically, as far as I’m concerned, on a continual basis to maintain the flow.

As you said earlier, Josh, how do you sustain this? Well, this is one of the tools that needs to be used on a constant basis when you have any kind of big change. Let me look here. Another principle five, build the culture, a culture of stopping to fix problems to get quality right the first time. Well, in that, it really says, and we we’re all aware now in 2022, you don’t make a product, get it to the end and then inspect it and find out that the 45 components that were put in there, the second one that was put on was wrong, and you got to disassemble it and all that.

We backed our way up to what we call quality at the source. Giving the people the proper training and understanding, how to measure their quality levels right at the source where they’re doing the activity, which also leads to– if you have difficult areas, going into error proofing. Don’t let the person make a mistake, employ error-proofing, and avoid the mistake right from the beginning. That’s that one.

I’ll touch on another one which is really key here. Number nine on our list, it’s about growing leaders who thoroughly understand the system and lean and the work and live the philosophy and teach to others. What we’re saying there is “grow your people” is a subject onto its own. When you look at lean and you’re going through a transformation, the main part about this whole thing is about people and culture and how do you change people.

Training’s a good subject. How do you train people? Well, a lot of companies I talk to, and I know when I come through the ranks years ago, and I worked in manufacturing, supervisor used to come around and say once a year, “Bill, what training do you need this year?” “Well, I don’t know.” [chuckles] My point is, in a lot of companies, even today, there’s no structured approach for training and growing your people.

I don’t want to make it sound like nobody does that, a lot of people do, but my biggest learning point was when I worked at Hewlett-Packard. When I joined, they had an onboard training program. They had a catalog of courses, and this is back in the ’80s, of training. They went through it thoroughly. They spent, I think it was 10% of their gross, on training their people. It was a natural thing in the organization.

Toyota’s no different. They do the same thing. Train, train everybody you can, but that’s how you grow people. You engage them, you train them new things. You try and broaden their mindset in terms of what they’re doing. You don’t keep them at a workstation, and they’re pounding the press down for the rest of their life. The idea in a good company that’s going through this kind of transformation is to become a training organization. That’s how you grow people through the process.

You got to get more structured and you budget for training. Most companies don’t budget for training. They see a conference and turn and somebody will say, “Do you want to go to this conference?” It’s not in context with anything. Therefore, you go to the conference, you get all excited and come back and nothing changes. [chuckles] To have a structured approach and you send somebody out to a conference and it connects with what you’re trying to do in your organization, and you’ve got the right people involved, perhaps you can get the benefit out of it.

Josh: Just to echo what Bill said, when you look at lean and you’re going through a transformation, the main part about this whole thing is about people and culture. Well, I certainly learned a lot in 2022, and summarizing this list of the most downloaded episodes of Conquering Chaos from 2022 into a theme, it’s all about empowering people. Conquering the everyday chaos of manufacturing and supply chain operations is only possible through empowered people.

Now that sounds totally obvious, right? Then why the chaos? It’s difficult to stay focused. It’s difficult to stay disciplined in this philosophy with the demands and disruptions of today. Like you heard from Sarah Dale, it starts with a safe place. That’s where creativity can thrive. Dr. Kozielski called out the productivity revolution comes from bringing people, process, and tech together to achieve new results that were previously unattainable.

Tom Shorma led his team to deliver 20% by first giving his people 20% more. Ray Ardahji brings this together and drives change through urgency, sponsorship, executive alignment, company vision, communication, change management, and skills development. Bob Seaman’s focus on bringing people together, employees, and vendors earned him in Yuengling bragging rights in the brewing industry for packaging line efficiency.

John Gossett speaks of empowerment through understanding, seeing things that your true customers, who is everyone, may not see in helping them get what they may not know they need, even if that means saying no, and like Bill called out, it takes everyone coming together and committing to and sticking with the long-term plan through the hardships. Do you want to conquer your chaos? Empower your people. Thanks for listening and see you in the 2023 season.

Listen to find out what the top learnings were from all the great manufacturing leaders featured on Conquering Chaos in 2022!