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Operations: Lean Envy

Aug. 4, 2014
Used wisely, lean envy can motivate and stimulate, says Joy Global CEO Ted Doheny.

Joy Global Inc.'s story of growth likely will ring familiar bells among other manufacturers.

Over the years, the global manufacturer of surface and underground mining equipment has acquired companies and facilities and product lines -- as well as all the varying operating processes that accompanied them. What developed over time was a lack of common standards across the business.

What did exist, however, was an opportunity for improvement, says Edward (Ted) Doheny, Joy Global president and CEO. And thus began the company's operational excellence journey.

Doheny shared highlights of that journey, including development of the Joy Global Business System (JBS), at the 2014 IndustryWeek Best Plants conference, where he delivered one of five keynote addresses.

"When we started on the [operational excellence] journey, we sent our manufacturing team and our engineers to go look at other companies and benchmark. Every time they came back, they said, 'Their business is different; it's not the same as ours,'" Doheny said.

Joy Global's response was to create "model factories," with a focus on efficiency. Model factories did not by definition translate to new facilities, he explained. Indeed, one of the transformed buildings was more than 100 years old.

"And this is key. It wasn't about robots; it wasn't about automation. It was about, 'Can we simplify -- eliminate the waste and simplify the process,'" Doheny explained. Moreover, "We wanted to focus on things that would move the needle."

The model factories also generated what Doheny described as "plant envy." It's largely what it sounds like: Employees from other facilities would visit the model locations and want their facilities transformed as well.

Used poorly, plant envy can drive the wrong behaviors, he acknowledges. "You have to be careful to use it in a positive way."

For example, Doheny says plant envy aided employee engagement with the company's operational excellence and lean training.

"What we created was a 'Why not me? Why not my area?'" the CEO explained. In response, the company was able to ask, "Are you ready for the transformation? Are you willing to go through the training? There is a culture change that is required."

"Plant envy is very important if you use it in the right way -- to motivate and stimulate -- not to create that internal fight," Doheny said.

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