Vermeer may be a privately held manufacturing company, but like public companies it has a board that includes independent directors. It was one of those independent directors -- he was from the Hon Co. -- who urged Vermeer's leaders in the mid-1990s to investigate the benefits of lean manufacturing. In fact, he brought it up on multiple occasions, according to Mary Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer Corp.
"I give him credit that he was a thorn," she says.
These days Andringa has taken up that mantle at times. She admits to having been a thorn in the side of several companies or groups when it comes to sharing her passion for lean and continuous improvement -- in a good way.
It definitely holds true among firms directly associated with Vermeer. For instance, Andringa says she has already helped kick off lean in a manufacturing firm in which Vermeer recently took part ownership, addressing the importance of embracing the process.
|"It's exciting to see [them] realize how the process can work so they can be more effective in delivering value to their customers."|
"I've done this with virtually every new plant that we've gone into," Andringa says. "I've also spoken to several key customer groups several times, trying to engage their leadership. It's exciting to see [them] realize how the process can work so they can be more effective in delivering value to their customers."
She's also taken the message to organizations well outside of the manufacturing community. Education, for instance. Andringa has introduced lean to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., where she is a trustee.
"This institution has a lean steering committee, many of them have gone to academic training for lean, and they are using the process to better utilize resources at the institution," Andringa says.
Andringa "has been our chief cheerleader for lean," says Wendy Wakeman, vice president, enrollment and student affairs at Fuller. Not only did the Vermeer leader provide seed money for lean training at the institution, but Andringa provides continuing encouragement as the seminary pursues its lean initiatives.