by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

In September 2019, the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), will be hosting a summit for the national network of MEPs centers. The bi-annual summit provides an excellent platform for the 1200 plus professionals in the 51 MEP Centers (one in each state and Puerto Rico) to share successes, gain new knowledge, and learn of innovative programs and best practices that are helping small and mid-sized manufacturers around the country improve their competitiveness and sustain profitable growth.

Right now, I’m finishing up a submittal to NIST MEP for NWIRC to present at the summit. Over the past two years, NWIRC’s Lean Together™ has had a significant and meaningful impact on the operations, culture, and business health of the participating companies in the program. The collective outcomes are also strengthening and advancing the manufacturing industry in our region. We’re pleased with how the program has evolved and the early successes. We’re proud of the accomplishments and growth realized by our participating manufacturers. We’re excited about what’s next for the program and we want to share it all with our colleagues around the country.

For those who may not be familiar with our program, Lean Together™ is an ongoing working group for operational excellence. It’s a collaborative learning and implementation platform for companies that share a vision and goal of creating a true, lasting culture of continuous improvement. A culture where every employee implements small incremental improvements as part of their everyday job. Through the program, companies are gaining external assistance, visiting other companies and helping one another to implement Paul Akers’ 2 Second Lean™ – a straightforward, more simplistic and realistic approach for smaller manufacturers to embrace than the traditional lean manufacturing pathway.

I feel the stars are aligned with the upcoming summit and the release of our next offerings of Lean Together for companies looking to continue their success with 2 Second Lean or those interested in getting started. Before us is a perfect opportunity to headline our presentation at the summit and to enhance the Lean Together brand for the future. Here it is. We have 2 elements. The first is Lean Together, an opportunity for a company to unite internally to achieve operational and cultural excellence and externally with other regional manufacturers to accelerate exponentially growth and success for the entire group. The second element is 2 Second Lean, a sustainable movement gaining significant presence on the global stage. An approach that is dramatically enhancing organizational chemistry and, in some cases, reversing toxic workplace cultures.

Recently I subscribed to Netflix. Like many subscribers, I have tuned into and have enjoyed watching the popular series Breaking Bad. I immediately recalled from my high school and college chemistry courses the Periodic Table of Elements and that elements are combined to produce compounds. You know, sodium (Na) and chloride (Ci) when combined forms table salt. In the case of our NWIRC program, the compound resulting from our two program elements is Continuous Improvement (CI). CI is an industry recognized abbreviation for Continuous Improvement. CI also represents the element chlorine which can act as a disinfectant and deoxidation agent.

The evidence is in, and its obvious and overwhelming. Companies that have successfully combined the two elements of Lean Together and 2 Second Lean have a new and much healthier culture of CI that is enabling significant growth. How much growth? Perhaps exponential? Keith Tognetti, School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics, University of Wollongong, Australia once wrote about the number…. ‘e’ is the exponential – the magic number of growth.

From breaking bad to growing good (if not great), workplace cultures that are realizing exponential growth is the headliner. I’ll let you know how we make out with our application to present at the NIST/MEP summit and keep a look out for the new compound CIe (Lean Together™ + 2 Second Lean™).