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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Meet-up: Lean Leadership's Christian Paulsen

Today, we’ll meet-up with Christian Paulsen, who blogs at Lean Leadership. Christian has contributed several guest posts here. He started blogging shortly after me so we have grown through the process together. It has been nice to have someone to trade insights with and learn with.

The goal of Meet-up is provide you an opportunity to meet some other influential voices in the Lean community. I will ask these authors a series of questions:

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Christian Paulsen and I have been working in food manufacturing since getting out of the Navy in 1989. I have held several manufacturing leadership roles with Unilever, Frito-Lay, and Nestle and a couple smaller manufacturers. I am currently using this experience to help food companies optimize their manufacturing processes using Lean - TPM as an outside consultant.

How and when did you learn Lean?
My first experience with Lean was when I was a supervisor at Frito-Lay. We were not calling it Lean yet and it was really Dr. Deming’s Total Quality approach for those that remember TQM. I was not directly involved but started to see the benefit to Pareto charts and started to glean some knowledge. Within a couple years I was a Production Manager at Lipton (Unilever). We were serious about Continuous Improvement and TQM. The supply chain was going JIT and we had teams addressing one loss issue after another. Start up losses were being driven out by the start up team and SMED principles were used to cut change-over times in half several times. I was hooked when I saw how we could work with the team to drive out losses and make it a better place to work. It was classic Theory X vs. Theory Y management to me and I’d rather work with the team than have to fight them to make improvements. I have attended several seminars and courses like Total Quality, Root Cause Analysis & DMAIC, TPM, and Lean Six Sigma. These have helped strengthen my knowledge of Lean theory and to support the hands on experience along the way.

How and why did you start blogging or writing about Lean?
I started blogging while in transition from my traditional manufacturing roles into consulting. It was a good time to establish a stronger presence on the social media scene and served as a great way to refine my thinking on a variety of topics. Tim McMahon (author of this blog) was a lot of help to me while getting started. He was kind enough to field my questions even though we didn't know each other at the time. Jamie Flinchbaugh was helpful while starting as well. Guest blogging for other Lean thinkers has been a great way to challenge my level of thinking on a topic. Several bloggers have been kind enough to have me guest blog. Tim at A Lean Journey, Beyond Lean (Matt Wrye), Gemba Tales (Mark Hamel), Gotta Go Lean (Jeff Hajek) and My Flexible Pencil (David Kasprzak). The Lean community is helpful and open with information. My blog is Lean Leadership. The name of the blog reveals the focus of that blog. I am also one of a dozen contributing bloggers at Consumer Good Club but I am the only one with a Lean focus there.

What does Lean mean to you?
Lean is all about a pursuit of excellence. While many of us focus on reducing cost by eliminating waste, it should be about being great at what we do. Pursuing excellence will maximize profits while eliminating waste and reducing cost. There is a big difference between just cutting costs and making sustainable improvements. Lean thinkers attack waste and optimize value added activities rather than slashing budgets and letting others deal with the consequences. Lean principles give the structure to make it sustainable rather than the flavor-of-the-month.

What is the biggest myth or misconception of Lean?
You hear a lot of discussion in Lean circles about Lean being a way of thinking and not a set of tools. There is certainly a lot of misconception about that. I think that there is also a lot of misconception about the difference Continuous Improvement camps. I hear some people talk about Lean, Six Sigma, TPM, and even TQM as if they are mutually exclusive. There are books and courses about Lean-Six Sigma, Lean-TPM, and such that seem to imply that the different camps can somehow co-exist (There are some great manufacturing minds and Lean thinkers behind this material, so these comments are not intended to be critical of them). I'd suggest that there is more similarity between the methods and less differences than many people think. I grew up on Deming & TQM principles then got deep into TPM. I started to hear more and more about Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. I decided to start reading up on Lean and was very surprised to see that it was a lot of what we had been doing under the TQM umbrella. Then I decided I better read up on Six Sigma. Again, I was surprised to find more similarities than differences. Don't think though that I didn't learn anything in this process. I'm still learning with each new venture. To me, there is a lot of overlap and similarities. They are far from being mutually exclusive.

What is your current Lean passion, project, or initiative?
I have been doing a lot of TPM work, mostly Autonomous Maintenance with a couple well known food companies which has been a lot of fun. It's great to see a teams come together and improve Safety & Quality while reducing downtime by 50%.

I am also working on a Kaizen initiative with another food manufacturer. This one is focused on eliminating the waste is a manual process. It's also fun to see the light bulbs go off as we teach the operators about the lean concepts.

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  1. Tim, great series. I have enjoyed it.

    Christian, it has been great getting to know you over the last couple of years. I hope you have continued succes as a blogger and a consultant. Boiler up!

    1. Thanks Matt. I think people will enjoy this series.