How do you spell success? An AME Workshop


I’ve previously shared some of my story from my time at Ford and how I learned about Lean manufacturing through the development of the Cleveland Production System and eventually serving as a Ford Production System coach for the Powertrain division.

Here are some additional details that have led to an opportunity to facilitate a half-day workshop at the upcoming AME Conference in Chicago on October 19th.

The Background:

In 1997, following Cleveland Engine Plant 2’s successful challenge for what was then called the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing Excellence, I was given the opportunity to move over to Cleveland Engine Plant 1 to help them implement the Ford Production System and transition to a team-based organization structure.  

There were a few challenges associated with this.  

First, the overall environment at the plant was not real conducive to change.  They had recently shut down one engine line (4.9L), while the remaining engine line (5.0L) had just lost 50% of its production volume.  

The transition to a team-based structure was set to take place in a plant where the employees working there had decided that they didn’t want to transfer to CEP 2 when it opened several years earlier with a team-based approach.   CEP 1 Employees were comfortable with their seniority-based structure where high seniority employees could “bid” on easier jobs, while employees with lesser seniority were stuck in difficult jobs.  The only ones who were excited about the job rotation that came with the new contract negotiated with the UAW were the lower seniority employees who would see some relief from their 8 hour days doing the same, difficult job.

Did I mention that the plant was also scheduled to close in three years?  This had already been decided at the Corporate level and communicated to the local workforce.

So, together with my UAW counterpart, John Nahornyj, we set out to create a training plan that would eventually accomplish the goal of implementing wall-to-wall teams and achieving what was then called “Checkpoint A” of the Ford Production System.

One of the many things we did was to develop a 3-hour simulation for implementing “lean” principles and tools.  The simulation utilized the board game Scrabble to demonstrate the value of teamwork, workplace organization and the way to track a new set of production-based metrics to direct continuous improvement efforts.   The simulation, along with a host of other ideas we implemented resulted in the plant turning around its performance and eventually earning a new engine line that kept the plant open.

Several years ago, in response to a post on the Lean.org manufacturing forum about simple 5S simulations, I responded with my story about utilizing Scrabble.  The response to my post was overwhelming – over 31,000 views to date with several hundred requests for details about the simulation.  It wasn’t quite the same response that Bob Petruska’s Pizza Game received, but it was a notable post in LEI lore.   Not being prepared for the response, I struggled to keep up with the correspondence and eventually posted the PowerPoint presentation detailing how to conduct the exercise.

This stopped the requests for the most part, however, I was never really sure if people “got it” and implemented it. 

I do know that the exercise works in different countries.  I had a student from one of my lean classes take the exercise to China to teach the concepts at one of their suppliers.  I also had someone send me a Spanish translation of the exercise.  It has been a fun diversion for the past 10 years or so.

The Workshop

Earlier this year, I heard that my friend, Richard Evans was looking for half-day workshops for the up-coming AME Conference in Chicago on October 19th.  On a whim, I submitted the required forms for consideration and received confirmation that my workshop was approved and is on the agenda. 

So for those of you who may have seen the exercise on Lean.org, or for those of you  interested in seeing a fun, engaging and informative workshop on the value of work groups, the magic of workplace organization and the value of using metrics to drive the right Continuous Improvement behaviors, then join me in Chicago.  I’m looking forward to seeing you.

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