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Applied Research: Fisher to conduct longitudinal
study of company’s lean management program

Kaiser Aluminum, a leading producer of fabricated aluminum products, was determined to elevate the execution of the company’s operational strategy throughout its business units and implement widespread lean management through the entire organization. To help with the process, the company turned to Fisher.

Now, two years into a customized lean management program developed at Fisher, company executives say Kaiser Aluminum is transforming itself into a lean enterprise.

Fisher’s Executive Education program, working in collaboration with its lean management training partner, Productivity, Inc., developed a certification program designed especially for Kaiser Aluminum’s managers. Company executives are hailing the Fisher partnership as a success.

However, Fisher’s Peter Ward, the Richard M. Ross Chair in Management and director for the Center for Operational Excellence, was not content with just accepting the praise of another satisfied customer in the Executive Education program.

Fisher is now working with Kaiser Aluminum to conduct a longitudinal study to clearly determine if implementation of a continuous improvement and lean management program has been effective at the company. “We have developed a structured plan for collecting data and this will be a post audit of the program,” Ward said. “We will be measuring the program’s effectiveness by looking at organizational and leadership factors that directly correlate to the project’s success.”

Ward, chair of Fisher’s Management Sciences Department, has observed and studied Kaiser Aluminum’s operations and business process over the past two years.

Kaiser Aluminum is also a corporate member of Fisher’s Center for Operational Excellence, a partnership of business leaders committed to achieving operational excellence through education and research.

“From a Fisher perspective, a great thing that comes out of this relationship is that we can take real world practice back into the classroom,” Ward said.

“We have learned a lot from our interactions with Kaiser Aluminum managers,” said Ward, who was awarded the Operations Management Scholar for 2007 by the Academy of Management. “It is very helpful for providing context to me and other faculty members. We have been able to tailor all of our educational programs because of this relationship.”

Fisher’s Executive Education program, working in collaboration with partner, Productivity, Inc., developed a certification program designed especially for Kaiser Aluminum’s managers.

Held in one-week sessions once a month, the curriculum in the four-month leadership training program addresses the specific operational challenges facing managers at Kaiser Aluminum facilities. Managers learn methodologies to tackle those issues, and during the program develop solutions that are implemented in their business units.