Lean for employees, lean for the bottom line

Jenny Ahonen
Jenny Ahonen

From a company sponsored “Biggest Loser” contest to a reduction in equipment and component inventory, Stern is getting lean. Why you might ask do we want to go lean, besides the obvious challenge of getting our pants on in the morning? It is because we were wasting time and money with inefficient practices, issues we were seeming to ignore and a bloated inventory control system.

Lean Manufacturing has been adopted at Stern Companies and it has been rewarding not only for the company’s bottom line but also for the employees.  We’ve implemented the A3 Problem Solving method that was developed by the Toyota Way.  At first, learning the process was a little intimidating and yes, we had a few “UGH’s” with the adoption of the process but once employees got engaged they helped generate a positive working environment.  The A3 Process helps people engage in collaborative, in-depth problem-solving.  It drives problem-solvers to address the root causes of problems which surface in day-to-day work routines.  With getting to the root-cause of these problems we can prevent recurrences.  Reduction of problems makes for a better working environment.

Since deploying the A3 Process, we’ve seen substantial financial and operational improvements: Lower scrap rates, higher production rates, and just overall satisfaction with employees due to the lower stress factors that rise with issues. In striving to becoming and maintaining a Lean Manufacturing facility here at Stern, we’ve rooted out inefficient processes and are able to focus on producing high quality rotationally molded plastic parts and assemblies.

Additional recent examples of going lean include selling some equipment no longer required for production. Craigslist is serving us well in reducing capital and generating cash not to mention opening up valuable warehouse space and making our warehouse space more presentable to our customers (kind of like fitting into your pants better).

The story does not end here, however, as we have just taken over 80 pictures of our production shop and warehouse to see what kind of improvement we can show in 2015.

Everyone feels better and works more productively in a neat, clean, lean environment. We hope to share more with the ARM community soon!

Jenny Ahonen is the Marketing Coordinator at Stern Companies, Inc..  She previously served as a Project Coordinator at Stern for twelve years. Stern Companies, Inc. is a quality driven global sourcing and manufacturing specialist for all polymer components.

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One response to “Lean for employees, lean for the bottom line”

  1. Great post, Jenny! I agree with the Lean process facilitating a collaborative environment; this fuels a sense of shared ownership in tackling organizational improvement initiatives. Looking forward to more success stories from Stern’s Lean journey.

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