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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lean and the Rhode Island Experience

This past week I had an amazing trip to Rhode Island.  It started with visit to VIBCO, who manufactures high-quality, low maintenance industrial vibrators, construction vibrators and other vibratory equipment.  VIBCO practices lean manufacturing and is committed to True North which they characterize as quality, throughput, innovation and same day, next day service.

During my visit to VIBCO I met some really great people including Karl Wadensten, president; Linda Kleineberg, marketing manger; and Paul Cary, Lean Sensei.  VIBCO truly understands the people aspect of Lean manufacturing.  While walking the plant, their friendly and outgoing team was more than happy to tell me about all the ways they are improving their job.  There was an enormous sense of pride in the work they do to service the customer.  Yes, they relate all activities in terms of value to the customer.

Karl and the team had been successful in breaking down the walls of the traditional organization physically and literally.  There isn't a typical management hierarchy to stifle improvement.  The culture is open and so are the work spaces.  It creates an environment of collaboration and team work.

Mark Graban just wrote about a recent trip to VIBCO where he learned what makes you want to do better.  I would recommend any lean practitioner taking the time to visit or learn more about VIBCO.  They are probably the best example of employee engagement I have seen.

Later in the day Karl, the VIBCO Team, and I went to the Rhode Island State House to broadcast The Lean Nation Radio Show live from inside the rotunda with a Tax Day Tea Party in the background.  As the guest on the show we discussed Lean leadership, government waste, and the call for engaging those within the system to work on improvement.  If you missed the radio show you can listen or download here to listen to the Lean revolution, complete with a visit by RI State Governor Carcieri.

One last story really speaks volumes to the VIBCO teams' lean culture.  During the preparation for the radio show there was trouble with Karl's microphone.  It kept dropping down because of a lose clip.  With only a few minutes to air the VIBCO team stopped what they were doing and jumped in to help Karl fix the microphone.  They tried some impromptu solutions in a trial and error fashion.  Working together they were able to tighten the microphone with only seconds to spare.  After the fix the team went back to what they were previously doing.  It was natural and in the moment but nonetheless a great example of Lean, where working together to solve problems is common place.

I had a great visit to Rhode Island where I experienced lean the VIBCO Way.  I am looking forward to my next visit to learn more about workforce engagement. 

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