For the second time in the past year, Cambridge has had the honor of hosting Mr. Ritsuo Shingo on his tour of a few American companies who are on their Lean journey of continuous improvement. Not only did he spend time speaking to Cambridge employees and our Lean tour guests, Mr. Shingo was able to “Go and Watch” (his advice to be an engaged observer, rather than “Go and See”) several companies around the St. Louis area including World Wide Technology, Koller-Craft, Ameren and The Gund Company. Hailing from the first family of SMED (Single Minutes Exchange of Die; a literal translation), Mr.Shingo and his father, Shigeo Shingo, have literally written the book(s) on how to dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to change a die system in manufacturing. SMED is proven to lower production costs because of less down time and to increase the ability to meet customer demand. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog on how Cambridge has started to utilize this practice to reduce overall testing time on a product line! The video below contains highlights of Mr. Shingo’s presentation at Cambridge, including the importance of GEMBA, what it actually means to “Go and Watch” and the simple process to apply SMED.

 

If you are interested in joining us for a Lean tour, visit our website to learn more about what you can expect and the process for signing up!

Cambridge is on Day 2 of OSHA training, so safety practices and risks are top of mind. We’d like to believe that safety is always the top of everyone’s mind, but the reality is that there is definite room for improvement.

Ergonomics (er·go·nom·ics) according to OSHA:

Adapting tasks, work stations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work- related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). An often overlooked aspect of safety is the practice of stretching to enhance Ergonomics. This can involve the arrangement of equipment, which we address with continuous lean improvements, but also extends to the practice of how the work is done. Our shop workers are always bending over, lifting heavy equipment and pushing items into place. Our office workers generally experience the opposite- where they have minimal change of position. In both instances, our employees are at risk of injury and health problems.

Stretching at the Morning Meeting

To help us minimize this risk, we asked the help of the SSM Physical Therapy department to assess our risks and create a stretching program that we can implement at the beginning of every morning meeting. And we mean every morning. Though stretching may seem unnecessary as a way to start the work day, the practice has already shown not only to get our bodies adjusted to what they will be up for during the day, but also to break the ice for the day. There’s something about seeing the CFO  do the “lunge stretch” to remind us that we’re all in this together. People who come to visit Cambridge and experience the morning meeting often provide the feedback that they were surprised that everyone participated in the stretching exercises and that they wish their company could do something similar. We are including a quick video below of the program that we utilize (modeled by some limber Cambridge employees) so that you may realize that it’s not a huge undertaking, and that encouraging your employees to incorporate safe health habits within their workday is not only fun, but necessary for their safety. 

We hit a milestone recently where our company, mostly the folks in manufacturing, made our 5000th lean improvement video in just 3 short years. These simple 1-minute videos show individual improvements to our daily processes that each and every one of discover on our own. By themselves the videos show individual improvements. Combined together they represent dramatic improvements in reducing the time it takes to manufacture our products, in building employee morale and most importantly just growing people. As part of our lean journey we try to recognize waste…. over production, excess inventory, unnecessary motion….. just to name three of the 8 wastes we focus on. One of the wastes, and the one I'm most passionate about, is "Unused Employee Genius". It is this genius that drives the individual improvements that we see on a daily basis and trust me when I say this…..that particular genius is in each and every one of us. You just need an environment where that genius is nurtured and encouraged. When that happens, the results are dramatic.

Tommy's Lean Videos

 

That's why as the leader of the marketing department I enjoy nurturing, and watching, that genius in the marketing team come to life. My continued growth as a leader has helped me nurture this unused genius in everyone on the MKT team. A year ago, or so, we read the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. Before reading that book I thought I had to always have the answer to every question, task, project…you get the idea. But after reading the book I learned that as a leader it isn't my job to have all the answer but instead, listen to my team. Their expertise in their particular area, and oh by the way which is why they are part of the team, makes them more qualified to provide those answers than I am…. that's their unused employee genius. Who knows better about how to accomplish, or improve, a task or project than someone who does that particular task everyday…and that would be each and every one of the members on the MKT team. So now I try and challenge them to tap into that unused employee genius to solve those tasks at hand that are needed to accomplish our strategic goals. I'm no longer the answer man but the guy who removes obstacles so that they can implement their genius which is by far more fulfilling than to always try and have the answer. To learn more about our lean journey search for #leanleadership on facebook. To learn more about Cambridge Engineering visit us at www.cambridge-eng.com.

At Cambridge, we speak of having love for our fellow employees often. This isn’t the romantic love, though today is Valentine’s Day, but rather, the sort of love that is built upon mutual respect, admiration, and encouragement to learn and grow personally. Our playbook even includes the phrase “We express unconditional love and high expectations while behaving with care, courage, integrity and respect.” It might not be instinctive to recognize love in the workplace, but when you are aware of it, we’d bet that it is, in fact, surrounding you. We are going to share some examples of how love manifests itself into everyday life in our workplace, so that anyone reading this blog may start to recognize and appreciate simple acts around them, or simply start to institute the simple acts themselves.

  • Colleagues clappingto show appreciation for each lean video– the 2 second improvements and the ones that took much, much longer.
  • The men and women on the activities committee getting here 2-3 hours early on the days they cook breakfast to welcome new hires and celebrate birthdays.
  • The workers looking out for safety hazards in the shop, recognizing that sending people home safe to their families is more important than an on-time shipment.
  • Those who voice a Grateful Appreciation in the morning meeting– shoutouts to coworkers who helped with a task, gratitude for their spouse’s hard work/children’s health/parents’ help, appreciation for an incredible event they were able to experience.
  • The volunteers that take out the trash, wipe down counters and clean the toilets so that their colleagues can have a clean and comfortable place to work.
Love in the workplace can also present itself when a working relationship has reached its end. There are thousands of examples of employees and employers who have acted without love at this moment, throwing accusations or reducing the other party to a singular act. However, when you choose to act with love, you can figure out how the parting of ways can be mutually beneficial, and leave room for both parties to take what they’ve accomplished, recognize their growth and move forward. When it comes times for an employee to be released from Cambridge’s employment, we try to arm them with a portfolio of the improvement videos they’ve created, along with guidance and/or recommendations on where their strengths could take them. When an employee chooses to take a position outside of Cambridge, we conduct exit interviews to gain insight on how to continuously improve. Either way, with these actions, we strive to speak compassionately and give the person the respect and dignity they deserve. These are just a few examples of how love can manifest itself. It starts with each individual knowing that they are treated with care and respect and grows organically with those actions until loving acts surround the organization.

One might consider labeling the items you use in your everyday workspace part of the low-hanging fruit when starting in your lean journey.  As simple as it seems, it could also be one of the most important. It’s easy to underestimate the time spent looking for a tool, or referencing it against a process checklist to make sure it’s correct. But, imagine you have been assigned a task that should take about 20 minutes to complete. Your workspace has the equipment necessary, but there are also extra tools, scattered around the workstation. The task should be easy, but you haven’t performed this exact task in the past few months. A good portion of this 20 minutes could be spent just trying to figure out what you need, and what might be missing. A clearly labeled workspace and tool outline in your area would immediately cut down on preparation time and the possibility of rework needed due to the use of an incorrect tool. In the video below, Reggie Niesler shows how the labelling of the tool bin helps to “give everything a home” to keep the number of tools in the area at a minimum and provide clear outline of necessary tools needed for that process. https://youtu.be/hpHJmF7DaCQ There are also safety and cost aspects associated. With a clear tool outline, you won't have tools that could drop off easily or have sharp edges exposed, assuming they were put back into their tool outline with care. You can prevent unnecessary reordering of parts thought to have gone missing because you know exactly where each tool is. Lastly, imagine the headache you can avoid by having to track everything down. That alone is worth the few minutes with the labeling machine. This blog discusses the principles brought up in Lean Manufacturing and 2 Second Lean. Make sure to check back often to get tips and Cambridge's POV on lean implementation and its effects on our company and culture.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication. Authored by Lea Tonkin Part Four of a Four Part Series. Miss the beginning? Click Here to Read!     Leadership continues to hone its strategic planning process, and how strategic initiatives reflecting lean progress and goals are communicated throughout the organization. Having a three- to nine-month “thematic goal” or rallying cry, with defining objectives, has been a primary method for building alignment during the past five years. Beginning in 2017, a three-year strategic plan has been put in place to help drive longer-term decision making towards a common vision. “Our three-year plan has helped the teams focus and continue to increase engagement,” Marc Braun said. “For example, one of our initiatives for 2017 is that every employee will spend at least a half-day learning by benchmarking at another company. We continue to improve our process for rolling forward on strategy, so that goals are aligned in five key areas: organizational health, lean/continuous improvement, revenue growth, product development and paying it forward.” The company’s primary method for sharing strategic plans and goals with employees and asking for their feedback is the daily all-company meetings. Last year, executive committee members also asked employees also asked employees, in groups of 10-12 at a time, about their feedback on these plans, and made changes, like reducing the number of initiatives, based on feedback received.

Excellence strategy: What’s next

In the coming year, developing standard work will be a major area of focus, as Cambridge continues to drive for the next level of quality systems, according to Braun. “What’s good is that our people are asking for it,” he said. “It is employee-driven, enhancing our ability to innovate rather than stifling it. Also, using Scrum methodologies to increase the speed of product innovation through our engineering teams is a next evolution for us – using the same level of experimentation in this area, which will deliver rapid value to our clients.” (See Scrum’s Potential for Rapid, Lean Product Development) Cambridge is also ramping up its efforts to utilize its continuous improvement engine to build a world-class safety culture. “We have a culture that cares deeply, but intend to focus more of our continuous improvement time on building a zero-incident mindset across the company,” said Braun. “We want to be able to demonstrate that safety and innovation cultures can be built simultaneously. “I believe lean has enabled us to grow our people faster that we’ve been able to grow our company – and at a 16 percent compounded annual revenue growth rate, that is an accomplishment our teams feel extremely proud of,” Braun said. “The desire to grow is there. Before the cultural buildout, we wouldn’t have had the ability to sustain the growth. The simplicity of the system the teams have built is that it enables others to step in and lead. We’re continuing on a journey; we’re learning, having a blast, and building a powerful, sustainable growth engine.”

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication. Authored by Lea Tonkin Part Three of a Four Part Series. Miss Parts One and Two? Click Here to Read!  

Humility

The culture at Cambridge reflects a unique perspective on pursuing humility. From the president to the front line worker, people share a consistent theme of humility as something to strive for instead of something to endure. “Humility is part of the beauty of working here and part of what attracted me,” said Meg Brown, human resources director. “You are asked to make improvements and share them with videos. It’s empowering to be able to say, ‘I made a difference today.” “No task is too small,” added Brown. Leadership and others from throughout the company voluntarily share the task for cleaning bathrooms, for example – reflecting humility and ownership.

Cultural recruiting

Cultural recruiting – attracting potential employees who will support the Cambridge collaborative approach – is crucial to the company’s long-term success. “We attract people who enjoy being problem solvers, and being given the ability to make changes,” Brown said. “This gives us a huge competitive advantage in this tight labor marker.” Cambridge Engineering’s employee turnover rate is 12.7%, including seasonal workers. “This is ‘sticky’ in a good way,” Brown said. “People like the freedom to change things that bug them, and to be supported in their work environment.” Brown added that training and development investment will continue to evolve, as Cambridge leadership continues to strive for organizational health and alignment in all areas.

Morning Meetings – cultural glue

Finding frequent opportunities to celebrate employees and their improvement ideas, and to grow leaders, is key to building lean capabilities at Cambridge. All-company 15-minute meetings are held daily at 8:30 am. “The morning meeting provides an enormous opportunity for growth across the company,” said Bruce Kisslinger, Jr., director of manufacturing. Meetings are led by a different employee volunteer every day; more than 50 percent of the workforce step into this role. The meetings start with stretching and the leader sharing anything they would like to with everyone in the company. Then employees share gratitude for anything that brings job to employees. Anyone can grab the microphone and share; many do. Next, videos created the day before are viewed and everyone claps as employees courageously share their attempt to improve their processes. Finally, company announcements and company metrics for safety, quality, delivery and revenue are covered. Outsiders are encouraged to experience these high-energy meetings first-hand.

Learn through exposure (benchmarking)

Mike Taylor, who works in pre-paint, is a volunteer member of the Cambridge External Lean Exposure Team. “About ten of us are on the team,” Taylor said. “We are in charge of finding other companies doing lean, where we can learn from them. Our goal is 100 percent external opportunities (every Cambridge employee visiting at least one other facility) by May 2018; we’re now at about 70 percent. “We try to take one nugget from every place we visit – something we can use in our lean projects,” added Taylor. “For example, one of the main things we focus on is visual cues throughout the plant – labeled parts, visual cues for replacing parts so that you can go ahead and order parts while you keep working. We bring back ideas to our team, and if it’s low-cost and not affecting safety or quality, we can implement changes ourselves. We have the freedom to make our lives easier.” Part Four of this Series will be released on Wednesday, January 24th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication. Authored by Lea Tonkin Part Two of a Four Part Series. Miss Part One? Click Here to Read!  

Great People, Ideas, Processes and Products

“For us, lean is about people and people growth,” said Sitton. “It’s not something that is simply implemented. You can’t just drop it on people.” Key elements in creating lean understanding include lean classes for all new hires using “2 Second Lean” as a guide, and then taking them out to the shop floor and asking them to stand there and look for the eight types of waste. “Within ten minutes, they typically see 20 to 50 wastes,” Sitton said. The company also gives employee time on the clock to read “2 Second Lean” and to discuss the book in a team setting, encouraging employees to “go and see” waste and to develop remedies for eliminating waste in their work areas. “With ‘two-second lean,’ you have simplicity, breaking things down so everybody can make a great process and a great product,” said Sitton. This expectation reflects a significant transition from Cambridge’s initial lean efforts, when senior leadership and engineers usually initiated lean improvements. “That idea only works for owners of the company,” said Sitton. “We realized that we needed more people who buy into the culture, with a sense of ownership. Now we develop people with a sense of trust, who are able to see waste and fix what’s bugging them, and they now all respond as owners.”

Fast start for new employees

New employees are encouraged to jump right into lean improvements at Cambridge. Justin Meade, a general laborer who works on wiring panels,said he got started with innovative changes in the first week after he joined the company, about two and a half years ago. “When I first started an assembly job, it wasn’t very fun,” said Meade. “Then, after seeing some others’ videos, I started on improvements – first, a small project, putting tools that were scattered all over onto a shadow board.” Over a period of six months, Meade developed a cart furnished with parts, plus a trash can and tools needed to eliminate wasted movement and space during his daily tasks. He made videos of several improvement iterations, modifying and later eliminating the old cart. Along the way, he got help from a sheet metal team member, a welder and others in creating the new cart. Now, everything that’s needed, tools and parts, is in one area. “It used to take an hour and a half to do a particular job. Now the process takes 20 to 25 minutes a unit,” said Meade. “I just went ahead with it, after talking with my team lead, Scott Moore, who encouraged me to make the changes.” Meade said he continues to gain improvement ideas and inspiration from participation in morning employee meetings. “I like that everyone here updated about how the company is doing financially. We’re also encouraged to give input on company goals,” he said. “Lean and clean time” – about a half hour from 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. every day, is when every employee is encouraged to scout for improvement ideas. It also provides opportunities for “finding out what bugs us most and then fixing it,” said Meade. Part Three of this Series will be released on Thursday, January 18th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication. Authored by Lea Tonkin

Cambridge Engineering employees are growing even faster than the company

Inspiring stories about lean and enterprise-wide transformation can sometimes seem too good to be true. This is the feeling Marc Braun, president of Cambridge Engineering, Inc. in Chesterfield, Missouri has about the company’s cultural transformation during the past several years. “It is incredibly humbling to walk into the plant and see how our people are growing and how much joy lean has brought into their lives,” Braun said. “You wouldn’t believe it unless you experienced it for yourself.” The family-owned heating and ventilation system manufacturing company is known for high-quality products and a strong family culture. What’s happening now, through lean, is different. John Kramer, Jr., chairman and CEO, shared, “People know me as a being a big dreamer, but the impact our people at Cambridge are making in others’ lives exceeds my wildest dreams. I believe the journey we are on is one that will ultimately restore glory and dignity to manufacturing in America.” Introducing lean concepts in the plant more than ten years ago seemed a logical step to Kramer. Many experts said to start with 5S improvement projects, train the workforce on Japanese terms, and then add a host of metrics and plan white boards – adding to the mix of daily priorities. Although some progress was made during this time, it was top-down driven and merely tolerated rather than embraced by employees. “There were too many metrics, and there was too much focus on cost rather than on people,” Kramer noted. “Our busy season (fall through January) would hit, and I would tell my people to stop improvements and ship products. All of our lean principles would go out the window, as people didn’t have time to make improvements. Although I had a glimpse of the vision of a lean culture, many times it felt like we were going backward rather than forward.”

Staying focused: A Turning Point

After working with an executive coach and following the plan for organizational health described in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Advantage,” Kramer determined that his leadership was the biggest challenge and barrier to making the cultural changes he envisioned in the company. “I would whipsaw the organization in a million directions without giving them the chance to make progress,” he said. “Once I stopped and allowed the team to focus on the key areas for success, and develop a rhythm and pace, the cultural progress started to come alive.” During this period of growth, operational team members came back after a lean benchmarking trip to FastCap Paul Akers’ facility in Washington state. “They were excited about his book, ‘2 Second Lean,” Kramer said. “They had met with Paul and learned that you can take something complex and make it simple- a way for people to make improvements and prosper. We starting making simple improvements, opening up more dialog with our employees. The concept was embraced by our organizational leadership and also resonated with me and our executive team members, because it focused on people growth and engagement. Because it was so simple to understand and was people-focused, the team was able to quickly share with others inside the company, and we haven’t looked back since.” Akers strongly encourages readers to start their lean journey by learning to see waste, allowing people to “fix what bugs them,” and then to make short videos for sharing improvements with others. “I remember how excited our leaders became about the concepts taught in “2 Second Lean.” Their courage to try something new and experiment with videos was amazing,” said Braun, who was the executive vice president of sales and marketing at the time. “Our marketing department had utilized video sparingly. We had a collection of several videos reflecting the “Cambridge Story,” and little presence on YouTube. The company now has more than 4,300 videos created by employees, demonstrating their genius. It has been like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Here’s where employees shine, as they share one-minute videos they’ve made about recent improvements. Sometimes there are accounts of rapid changes to eliminate wasted steps or prevent over-reaching at a work station, for example; or there may be videos reflecting several improvements over an extended period of time. “Making videos of your improvements helps to reinforce that you are making a contribution, “ said Greg Sitton, plant manager. Every employee is encouraged to make one-minute videos. Although some associates readily take to the camera, others need help and teammates step in to capture the improvements. To see an associate video, click here. Stay tuned for the next installment to be published January 16th!  

Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The "practice" of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they'd like as the group stretches - some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others - like Steve, our Controller - take the opportunity to be creative. Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time!