Lean Training: Back To School

Lean Training: Back To School

Schneider Electric gets results with outside lean training programs.

Before 2004 Schneider Electric's Peru, Ind., operations struggled to implement a successful lean manufacturing program. The electrical equipment manufacturing plant had primarily relied on books and internal training to deploy lean until about three years ago when manufacturing engineer manager Kristen Workman attended a Lean Enterprise Institute workshop.

That's when Workman learned that implementing 5S (sort, shine, set in order, standardize and sustain) was key to making lean work. Training centers, such as the Lean Enterprise Institute, Lean University and university extensions, can help provide a continuous improvement road map for manufacturers through workshops, seminars and educational materials.

"We're not trying to be Toyota," Workman says, "but we can take their ideas [taught at the training centers] and try to make them work for us in our own way."

Manufacturing engineer Kristen Workman (above) applies lean principles learned at a training workshop at Schneider Electric's Peru, Ind., operations.
In fact, lean training has become so popular that non-manufacturing-related organizations have taken advantage of such programs. As noted in the Wall Street Journal (March 5, 2007)
article, the U.S. military, construction companies and even the Los Angeles Police Department have attended Toyota Motor Corp.'s University of Toyota training center in Gardena, Calif.

For Schneider Electric's Peru operations, an IndustryWeek Best Plants winner in 2006, the lean 5S philosophy that was adopted after Workman attended the 2004 program helped the plant reduce waste, lower its medical incidence rate by 47% and increase productivity by 28%.

Even so, the training still continues. Engineers at the Peru operations attend different workshops depending on their experience. For instance, an engineer who is new to lean might attend a "Lean 101" course at a local university, while a more advanced engineer would likely be sent to the Lean Enterprise Institute, Workman says.

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