Lean Production System

Lean Production System


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We have decided to outsource the editing and management of your CKN newsletter. I will continue to write the intro to the newsletter and provide the Agile Manufacturing for lean manufacturing success lead article. The balance of the newsletter will be written and managed by Charlie Page, a professional business free lance writer and newsletter editor/ manager.

Mr. Page is a true professional who will bring many relevant management and leadership skills and knowledge to you via his interesting and value adding articles. Any subjects you would like covered in future CKN newsletters should be sent to: Charlie@CharliePage.com

We hope you had an enjoyable holiday season. With the holidays now behind us, it's time to focus company resources on preparing for the business recovery. With this in mind my January article is about, "The Scrambling Cycle: Growth - Survival - Recovery" ... there is truly no rest for the weary.

The "Scrambling Cycle" article is followed by a sampling of Charlie's writing/editing skills: "Staying Current without Losing Your Mind", "True Customer Service", "Setting Goals with Employees" and "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memos."

You are welcome to print and share this newsletter with your business associates. We have indexed and archived this and all previous newsletters for your reference. To go to the index CLICK HERE.

This newsletter has reached your desk because I think we share a common objective---to help manufacturing teams avoid "burnout" while achieving their full performance potential. If this is not the case, simply CLICK HERE  and enter "unsubscribe" as the subject of your email and you will be removed from our mailing list.


Bill Gaw

Lean Production System

---- January 2001 ---

1. The Scrambling Cycle: Growth - Survival - Recovery
2. Staying Current without Losing Your Mind
3. True Customer Service
4. Setting Goals with Employees
5. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memos

Lean Production System

1. The Scrambling Cycle: Growth - Survival - Recovery

In the late 1900s, "scrambling" was all about how to satisfy expediential order taking and meeting customers' demands for speedier and more agile service. It was a demanding work environment but one that had its rewards. "Scrambling" took on a whole new dimension in the year 2001.

In the year 2001, "scrambling" was all about business survival for most manufacturers. Shipment delays, product returns and order cancellation were the "norm" of the day. Many companies had to go into their "survival mode-of-operation" focusing on cost reduction and down sizing. Key employees were lost, continuous improvement initiatives were shelved and systems' integrity suffered. It also was a demanding work environment but one that had little rewards.

To most of the remaining players, it seems like the road back to the "good-old-days" has been lost forever. Oh you of little faith! This isn't the first time we have experience a recession and it won't be the last. In fact, if you're in the dumps, feeling sorry for yourselves and complaining about your situation, you may miss the upside when it comes … and it will come!

Now is the time to get prepared for the business recovery. Don't wait until your customers start their ordering process before you get your human resources, systems and delivery chain processes back to normal. If you delay, you will give your competitors an opportunity to capture market share.

So, heads up! In the year 2002, "scrambling" will be all about redeveloping human resources, rebuilding systems integrity and regaining control of processes. What should you be doing now in preparation for the business recovery? Here are three initiatives that will help your company minimize "scrambling" in 2002:

  • First, initiate an extra effort to increase your customer connectivity. Get closer to your customers than you have ever been in the past. Let them know that you are taking the necessary step to assure that whenever they return to their normal ordering pattern, you will be ready to provide them the same excellent products and services that they have experienced in the past.
  • Second, refocus your efforts on fine tuning your quality management system. If your company is ISO9000 certified, make sure that your system and processes can still satisfy customer and/or registrar audits. 

If your quality system is not ISO certified, don't be disheartened. Most customers want their suppliers to be ISO9000 compliant and do not insist on certification. A cost effect approach to achieving ISO9000 compliance is to use our ISO9000:2000 e-Tutorial. The e-Tutorial is packed with tips and potential pitfalls: flow charts, figures and checklists; quality manual and procedures templates; and other supplemental information that will be vital to everyone's understanding of how to achieve ISO9000 compliance. For additional information CLICK HERE

  • And finally, get back into the learning mode. There is no better way to change your day-to-day work environment for the better than to initiate training initiatives. Send some of your key people to seminars, initiate an in-house training program and take advantage of cost effective e-learning.

As a cost effective training option, revitalize your continuous improvement efforts. If you need help, check out our "Quick Hitting Kaizen Pilot Project." This "action learning" program is guaranteed to have a positive morale building impact and an immediate investment payback. For more information CLICK HERE

Whatever you do, don't let the business recovery catch you by surprise. Remember, no matter if the business cycle is up or down, there is no status quo … if you're not increasing your competitive edge … you're losing it. Now is the time to get your company prepared for the business recovery ... "just do it!"

Lean Production System

2. Staying Current without Losing Your Mind

We all deal with information overload. The sources of information, much of it necessary to our jobs, seem endless. Magazines, journals, memos, email, web sites and more, combined with endless meetings, provide us with more data than any person can handle.

To cope, we must possess skills that allow us to process huge amounts of data yet stay current on the information we need to perform at a winning level. Consider these three methods to bring your information flow under control.

  • Learn to scan before reading. When you encounter information of interest, read the first paragraph or two, scan the body for key words, and read the conclusion. Then decide if you want to keep the article for future "in depth" reading.
  • Manage email. Today's manager can receive fifty or more emails each day. It's often difficult to determine which are important and which are junk. To save time sorting, simply filter that email you KNOW is important into separate folders. Then once a day look at the rest. Use your email programs filtering capabilities to accomplish this.
  • Set aside "in depth" reading time. Identify times in your week when you can spend one or two hours alone. Make these your reading and research times. Use this time to read in depth the articles, memos and more that you set aside in step one.

Information overload is a very real concern for today's business person. Learning to "preview" information before deciding to spend your valuable time on it will save you many hours over the course of each week. You will then be free to spend those hours on the things that matter most.

3. True Customer Service

When asked, almost all companies feel that they are giving good customer service. Yet these same companies log customer complaints and even lose business. While no company can please all of the people all of the time, how can we reconcile this seeming disparity?

It can only be resolved by going to the source. We must ask customers to rate our performance.

Rarely will you see a customer more delighted that when you ask them how YOU are doing. Many of us are afraid to ask, thinking the customer may unload on us and waste our time. While they may unload, this is no waste of time.

Here are three simple, yet effective, ways to make your customer feel important and receive the feedback you need.

  • Take an occasional survey. Mail, or email, an "official" survey to each customer. Ask for their feedback in the areas you are evaluating, leaving room for comments. When you tally results, pay special attention to these comments. This is where your customer can tell you both what they think and how they feel. This type of feedback is vital.
  • Create regular methods of gathering feedback using everyday forms. Add a "How are we doing?" box to your order form. Include a short feedback form in the products you ship. Put feedback forms on "will call" counters as well.
  • Let customers know their voice is being heard. Use your online company newsletter to announce the results of your survey and your plans to make changes based on that feedback.

Customers often feel their opinions (good or bad) are not being heard. Ask your customers to evaluate YOUR performance and you not only learn about your strengths and weaknesses, but make your customer feel like they have a voice. When this happens, even marginal customers become loyal customers for life.

Lean Production System

4. Setting Goals with Employees

Managers want to have happy, motivated employees. Employees who are reaching meaningful goals will be happy and motivated. They will also be more productive. Let's look at five ways to set goals with employees and help them take ownership of their job duties.

  • Make goals SMART. Smart means specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. If the goals you set with employees don't meet these criteria, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
  • Help your employee be involved in the goal setting process. Be open to their feedback during the meeting. They may hesitate to "open up" in front of you, so prepare yourself for some quiet moments during this meeting.
  • Set reasonable time frames in which to follow-up. Let the employee know that you will be following up. Set the first follow-up meeting at the end of the goal planning meeting.
  • YOU follow up. Send your employee an email to let them know that you enjoyed the meeting and look forward to working together with them in this way. Modeling good behavior is the best way to teach employees what you want them to know.
  • Make adjustments as necessary. Be flexible. Employees fail to reach goals for a number of reasons. It may well be that they need to become comfortable with the PROCESS of goal setting before the real magic begins.

Setting goals with employees helps them feel involved. It also demonstrates that you see them as a person, not just an asset to be allocated. Goals help employees commit to quality and take ownership of their situation. Goal setting and tracking also works powerfully in your favor should the need to terminate employment arise.

Employees are just like us. The only way they learn is to try and fail until they begin to succeed. Help your employees succeed today.

Lean Production System

5. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memos

Are you modeling the type of behavior for your employees that will bring profits and reduce problems in your business? As managers, our behavior speaks volumes more that what we say, how well we write our memos or even the policies of our company.

From time to time, it's good business to give yourself a leadership checkup. When you do, begin with these four ideas.

  • Where is YOUR work ethic? Do you produce real work or shuffle tasks to others? Co-workers catch on quickly if you aren't carrying your own weight. If you are modeling poor behavior, you may suddenly find a drop in employee
  • Give your best effort when you are in the office if you expect them to give their best when you are not. Keep the quality of your work high. Oh how things change the moment you leave! Leading by example means you can leave the office with a peace of mind not attainable in any other fashion.
  • Be honest. It seems to be a lost art. If you "stretch the truth", or deceive customers or others, don't be shocked WHEN your employees deceive or cheat you. Tell the truth even when its tough, and over time they will follow your example.
  • Show your employees, customers, vendors and everyone else respect. This will raise the level of respect that employees will give you and that will raise the quality of their performance.

Leading by example will help you develop diligent, hard-working employees. As a manager, you set an example for employees whether you like it or not. When you MODEL the correct behavior in your own life, you will find that less
correction will be necessary, you will experience fewer headaches and may even experience a real boost in your bottom line.

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