Lean Manufacturing

A Lean Enterprise Transformation is Like a Marathon

By Jon Miller Published on April 13th, 2008

A lean enterprise transformation is like a marathon. Success depends on daily conditioning. It’s unlike a marathon in that it’s not a race with a goal at the end of 26 miles. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say being a lean organization is like being a marathon runner. Organizational fitness must be built up and tested daily for the long run to be possible.

Marathon Coach
is a builder of luxury coaches owned by movie stars, Saudi princes and others who are independently wealthy or adventurous. I have had the privilege of seeing them being built and also of riding in one. They are gorgeous examples of craftsmanship, modern technology and comfort. Marathon coaches are what every welded bus frame dreams of becoming when it grows up.
Chris Carson is a reader of this blog and is a practicing lean leader at Marathon Coach. He generously shared his ideas for 20 more ways to do kaizen using tennis balls. The building of a custom luxury coach involves plumbing, wiring, flooring, installation of cabinets, electrical work, mechanical assembly and more. Not only is each one customized for their elite end customers, but the resulting quality must be free of minor flaws. Chris has found more than a few ways to put tennis balls to use to this end:
1. Windshield wiper stud protectors.
2. Fastener/WOW rack protectors.
3. Awning risers (self preservation)
4. A container for roof wax.
5. Planer handle protector.
6. Coach stop (hung from the building ceiling).
7. Coach glass (protect all 4 corners).
8. Exterior paint scaffold (keeps scaffold from damaging anything).
9. Ends of the paint guns (protects the needles when not in use).
10. Ends of the glue guns.
11. Hang in a no-walk zone.
12. End of valance rods (keeps material from falling off, protect from any injury when run into)
13. Sheet metal brake handles.
14. Metal band saw stand.
15. Ends of the plumbing pipes in coaches, eliminates debris inside pipes
16. AV rack spins, protects the vinyl.
17. XLV bay doors (top corners).
18. Flip down TV mechanism corners.
19. Loose screws found in coaches, use as a screw holder.
20. Broom handle, if the broom falls, it won’t cause damage.
Tennis balls as a way to protect million-dollar coaches from damage from dings by a broom handle, that’s thinking outside of the box.
Just as an overly regimented exercise routine is sure to cause overburden on the body and result in a worsening of physical fitness, a sure way to stifle a continuous improvement effort is to formalize and standardize it to too great of a degree. Sometimes you need to take a day off from your marathon training and go play tennis. Sometimes you need to cancel the kaizen event, hand out tubes of tennis balls to everyone, and ask them to put them to good use.
Long may you all run.

  1. Karen Wilhelm

    April 14, 2008 - 11:32 am

    Hang from ceiling as positioning point, lining up with tape marks on window viewed from inside vehicle, for parking a car in a garage. Seems like it would work with a motor coach too. Even with the help, I still can’t park the car exactly where my husband wants it.

  2. Charles Lukey

    April 14, 2008 - 8:08 pm

    Put two in a sock, tie a knot in the end. Stand in a doorway, placing the device behind your back. Do a few deep knee bends, allowing the device to massage both sides of your back. With practice you may be able to ‘pop’ a few vertebrea.
    Blessed relief for the stressed out traveler.

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