A Supervisor’s Strategy to Make Lean Stick

By Steve Kane Updated on May 27th, 2016


By Steve Kane

Michelle Trejo is a production supervisor for Specialty Silicone Fabricators, Inc. in Paso Robles, California.  She believes in Lean and she believes in her people.  Michelle has many leadership successes to her credit.  One particular Lean leadership accomplishment is the way she integrated lean learning with manufacturing skills training.

At SSF, production operators enter the organization at the trainee level.  As they acquire knowledge and skills, they promote from Trainee to Operator 1 and on up to Operator 4.  This progression takes years. 

The skills required for professional growth involve more than the skills necessary to manufacture product

Each operator level involves a specific set of skills.  SSF uses TWI to train people how to do specific jobs.  As the operator builds proficiency the respective required skill is demonstrated and signed off by a trainer and a supervisor.

Making lean required training only goes so far 

Lean tools were added to the list of required skills. New operators at the trainee level are first exposed to 5S.  As they promote through the operator levels they take on the seven wastes and other lean tools, ultimately being responsible for continuous improvement projects.

FINISHING OPERATOR 1Demonstrated ability in Lean is required to promote

Operators complete their training for the purpose of performing the task.  They learn Lean, then apply it.  Ability is demonstrated only if a worthwhile improvement has been made.  Operators reflect on their improvements and write a brief description of the problem they faced, how they selected and implemented a countermeasure, and the results of the improvement.

Michelle said “This has opened people’s eyes.  The lights came on.”  Operators look at the value stream instead of an individual step in a process.  They are thinking in terms of value added, non-value added, and waste. 

Identifying value and waste

Operators started placing red and green dots (stickers) on fixtures and shelves.  The green dots signify a value added step.  The red dots identify waste.  Wasteful activities get identified as problems to solve on a kaizen newspaper.  The kaizen newspaper is the method the team uses to follow through on improvements.

This simple adjustment to skills training and daily work has helped Lean become “Deeply ingrained into the culture” of SSF.

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