Although Parker considers its lean program to still be in the infancy stage, it did not abandon the trajectory of progress that lean has brought to both the factory floor and the office during the recession, explained Kathy Miller, Vice President Lean Enterprise & Quality for Parker Hannifin.

During a keynote presentation on April 21 at IW Best Plants Conference, Miller led the audience through the path that her company has taken with its WIN strategy for implementing lean. Introduced in 2001 by CEO Don Washkewicz, this strategy has "guided us consistently through this sometimes tumultuous past decade," Miller said.

The Parker Lean System (PLS) journey consists of four major components -- Language, Leadership, Linkage and Learning by Doing.

With the requirement that every division in the company was to have at least one full time resource dedicated to working on implementing lean, the company set goals on how many kaizens every organization had to complete in a year. While a lot of projects were completed that resulted in improvements, the process became what they call "Random Acts of Kaizen." So the company brought in sensei's to teach the company to truly see what was happening in their facilities.

"We worked very hard developing training, templates and standard work to support the concepts in our Parker Lean System. We collected best practices from across our organization with pictures and details to help people see that lean did indeed work for our many and varied operations, and people were deriving true business benefits from implementing PLS," explained Miller. A common language was established.

Once the tools were in place the leadership needed to have "knowledge of the lean principles to help them successfully transform our company," Miller says. " We needed for them to know the right questions to ask. We needed them to know that the change would involve a difference in the way the business would be run. And that over time, their lives would change from managing chaos, to aiding their teams in solving problems that are made very visual for everyone to see and implementation of continuous improvement ideas."

Next employees needed to see the linkage -- how lean would help improve lead time, productivity, quality and customer relations. Applying lean to office processes might not be as easy a case to make, Miller said, it was clear when the lead time for quotes were reduced by 60%. "We knew if we could get our bids out faster we could win more jobs and that was our order to cash measurement." The company also applied lean to product design and saw a lead time of phases of product development cycle decrease by 25%, with better quality and consistency of process. "Customers are taking note," Miller pointed out.

Using a variety of metrics including productivity, inventory, capital expenditures and stock prices, the company has been able to drive consistent improvement through its decade of lean implementation. "Obviously during this recession we dropped off but you can see that by maintaining our focus on lean we have been able to rebound quickly year-to-date," said Miller. In fact Miller said that while other companies might have cut back on their lean efforts Parker did not and felt that it was by being consistent and holding steady to the lean journey that would place the company in a competitive position when the recession ended.

Parker is committed to lean. In looking toward the future Washkewicz has told his workforce to make sure "we never become complacent with lean. It must stay part of our DNA and we must always push the envelope."

The entire keynote can be viewed here.