Manufacturers’ Summit shares lean solution

Conquest Manufacturing's Vaughn Stephenson and Mike Friesen of Elmer's Manufacturing spoke about peer to peer learning. (LAUREN MACGILL/Morden Times)

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Implementing lean and reducing waste in business was a big takeaway from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) Manitoba annual Southern Manitoba Manufacturers’ Summit.
The event took place on October 25 at the Access Event Centre in Morden, and about 100 local business owners, manufacturers and workers attended the summit, which aims to provide manufacturers with advice, workshops and networking opportunities to improve their business.
Vice present of manufacturing for Loewen Windows in Steinbach and member of the CME board Todd LeRoy has attended the event a few times, and said it’s great to hear from speakers and get other perspectives.
“None of us is as smart as all of us,” he said. “When we can get out and visit other companies and see things that are different from what we have in our companies, we use the phrase ‘steal with pride.’ That is steal great ideas and bring them back to our company.”
LeRoy said he often uses the term ‘fix what bugs you’ to keep improving his organization.
“Look back at what you do, what are some of things that bug you and how you can you fix them and make them better so every day you enjoy coming back to work,” he said.
Keynote speaker Bob Kerr is the founding director and retired vice president operations of High Performance Solutions. He presented about Why Lean is Not the Answer, and has been helping businesses across Canada for 15 years.
Lean is a system of identifying and minimizing ‘waste’ in production while maintaining efficiency.
“Whether it be on the manufacturing floor or in the office, we’ve done lean in hospitals and insurance companies,” Kerr said. “Wherever there’s a process, you can implement lean. It really is just trying to identify those wasteful things that you do every single day that don’t add value from a customer’s perspective.”
Kerr’s presentation stipulated that while lean is a part of the equation, it’s not the definite answer.
“What we’ve found over the period of time is only five to seven per cent of the companies are actually doing it the way it should be done,” Kerr said. “We’ve found out that it really comes down to engaging the people, and if we don’t start with the engagement of the people then we’re really not going to be successful when it comes to lean.”
Kerr said many companies do implement lean, but to be done properly it needs to include everyone from senior management to employees.
“We talk about how we learn, we learn by making mistakes,” he said. “Usually when you’re thinking about it from an employee point of view, if I make a mistake I’m going to be disciplined. So we’re all a bit afraid to make mistakes. From a senior management point of view, [it’s] understanding that employees are going to make the difference.”
The benefits of properly implementing lean can be great for businesses. “The reduction of inventory is a big one, improving the throughput time, improving quality,” Kerr said. “What it comes down to is improving the whole organization and the bottom line is you’re going to save money.”
Kerr said it’s good to see events like the summit providing information to local manufacturers. “If the people sitting in that room just take one thing away that they can implement then it’s been worth the day,” he said.
LeRoy said Kerr’s message was right on the mark. “Lean starts with developing a culture of trust amongst your team and staff,” he said. “It was good to hear him sharing what he shared and listening to other manufacturers and what they’re doing.”
The summit included workshops about violence and harassment awareness and had speakers on the topics of cyber attack prevention and leveraging peer to peer learning.
Attendees also went on a facility tour of Decor Cabinets as part of the day.