Oct. 10 webinar shows lean answer to ‘What’s the ROI?’

It’s a term I use, sometimes frivolously, in my marketing and communications strategy. It’s a pillar of business-speak. It’s at the heart of the question that could kill the next proposal you put before your boss:

“What’s the ROI?”

Courtesy VMGCinematic

In lean transformations, many of you know this question is tougher to answer. Real, sustainable change doesn’t happen in a day and it pays off in ways both visible on the bottom line and extremely difficult to quantify, such as culture.

So how do you answer the question when your impassioned case for a lean implementation is punctuated with it? Author and frequent Lean Enterprise Institute contributor Michael Ballé says the completely wrong way to do so is to say or even imply that it’s the wrong kind of question. In fact, answers exist – but you have to know where to dig for them and how to look.

Get tips on all of this on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. EST via a free hour-long webinar run by Ballé. He’ll cover everything from couching lean initiatives in business terms to building teamwork on different levels of management.

LEI says interest in this one is high and we’re looking forward to discussing this topic in the future. So block off an hour on Wednesday. It is free, after all – not too shabby from an ROI perspective.

Click here to learn more and to register.

COE members in the headlines – Sept. 28, 2012

To save you the trouble of skimming the headlines, here are some developments featuring our member companies:

  • Member ABB Inc. has installed its first charger for electric vehicles in the U.S. The new Terra 51 DC fast charger reduces the time needed to get an electric vehicle fully stocked with power to as little as 15 minutes from a whopping eight hours.
  • Capital One secured anOK from zoning officials in its Virginia hometown for a massive expansion of its corporate headquarters. The effort is more than just a make-way for cubicles – it’s described as a live-work blend that’s aimed at transforming the entire town of Tysons Corner.

    Goodyear is developing self-inflating tire technology for the heavy duty truck market.
  • Former Greif Inc. CEO and Executive Chairman Michael Gasser has been appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to the board of Ohio State University. Gasser, with Delaware-based Greif for more than 30 years, joins a group of major business and community leaders that make up the OSU board.
  • Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has debuted new  self-inflating tire technology that could aid in fuel savings and greenhouse-gas reductions. This innovation came from the company’s headquarters and could be headed toward a fleet trial next year.
  • Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has dedicated a new “green” campus in the San Antonio area. The site houses about 1,500 employees and has room to grow by 500.

A seat at the table

The Center for Operational Excellence has been a steadfast sponsor of the Fisher College of Business’ Buckeye Operations Management Society, one of many organizations at the college that we see building great problem-solving leaders of the future. Not that we don’t benefit – student members of BOMS, advised by Dr. Andrea Prud’homme, a COE associate director, are a regular and helpful presence at our events.

career fair Buckeye Operations Management Society Whirlpool
A Whirlpool recruiter chats with BOMS students at the organization’s 2012 career mixer.

We were happy this past week to lend a hand in sponsoring BOMS’ annual career mixer, which gave members of the organization an exclusive few hours with employers at 10 different companies: Whirlpool, Chrysler, Dow Chemical, JPMorgan Chase, Target, Limited Brands, Amazon, Giant Eagle, Cardinal Health and Owens Corning. The last three on that list are COE members and in the last fiscal year recruited a combined 36 supply chain-track students for internships or full-time employment. Check out a slide show of the event here.

This career mixer was a break from the bustling, wall-to-wall frenzy of larger, formal career fairs, giving BOMS students a chance to chat informally about the companies they’re interested in and sell themselves without time ticking away. Prud’homme, also director of Fisher’s Honors Cohort, told me this year’s mixer was a “great success.”

“Our students were thrilled to make the connections with employers that they did and companies enjoyed interacting with students in a more informal setting.”

Get your head out of your inbox

I’m not a betting man, but I’d be willing to lay down a few bucks that as you’re reading this you have your e-mail open and a to-do list stashed on your desk or in your head measuring a mile long and never shorter. Full disclosure: This is me on both counts, and I’ll throw in a foot-tall pile of papers on my desk for added effect.

Like many people in the world of process improvement, I do just fine talking lean principles, but come over to my desk and you’d wonder if I’d ever laid eyes on a kanban (it’s probably buried in this stack to my left). It’s this disconnect that the Center for Operational Excellence hoped to help our members fix with a Friday visit from Dan Markovitz (pictured above), chief of TimeBack Management and the author of the award-winning A Factory of One. What Markovitz does isn’t really presenting or speaking – it’s coaching, pushing the audience to look at how they manage themselves personally and instilling a desire to be as lean in the office as on the shop floor.

Considering the biggest complaint was that two hours wasn’t enough time for the forum, it’s safe to say Markovitz garnered rave reviews. If you missed it, here are some key takeaways:

‘You are your calendar’ – Markovitz accurately points out that most users of sophisticated software such as Microsoft Outlook use it only for e-mail (more on that next) and for meeting scheduling. , Take a cue from the Tom Peters video linked above and show a tasks’s importance by scheduling time for it. Using the simple tools of visual management, you can transform your calendar from a meeting alarm clock to a road map for your day.

Don’t live in your e-mail – “We all spend too much time with our heads in our inboxes,” Markovitz says. Save phone calls or in-person chats for serious, timely matters – save the e-mail for anything you can check just a few times a day.

Create value, not just deliverables – If there was one “A ha!” moment in Friday’s presentation, it was Markovitz’ insistence that “we trap ourselves into thinking about deliverables and not value.” How much of your work is driven by the former, and how much do those deliverables ultimately enhance the customer experience? Reverse your thinking, put value up top and the rest will follow.

These points all lead back to Markovitz’ challenge, that “if you’re creating a lean culture, you’ve gotta live it.”


The Ten Commandments of lean management

The folks over at the Lean Enterprise Institute have pointed out a new article circulating in lean academia from Management and Production Engineering Review that breaks down the basics of applying lean philosophy in a tried and true form: Ten Commandments-style.

Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston (or Moses, your choice), improving flow like a true lean leader (source: DallasVoice.com)

The stone tablets here are a PDF you can download, but the piece is a detailed breakdown of each “commandment” that links it to its originating Japanese terminology (often a problem in communication) and drives home its importance. The team of authors, led by researchers at the Wroclaw University of Technology’s Institute of Production Engineering and Automation in Poland, do a nice job of summing up leadership duties and how the rest of the team comes into play.

No parental dishonor, coveting or “thou shalt nots” here, but take a look at the first five:

1. Have a clear vision and improvement goals for the whole organization.

2. Be an engaged boss initiating changes.

3. Improve processes and the results will come as a consequence.

4. Create an Obeya-like management center.

5. Determine indicators and bonuses that show one direction to the managers.

Thou shalt read 6-10. Feel like bearing false witness and suggesting better commandments? Leave them in the comments.

Finding flow in daily life

If you haven’t followed my advice and moseyed on over to Slate.com to read the online newsmag’s operations series,  bookmark me and make haste. Writer Seth Stevenson over the past couple weeks has turned out a great batch of pieces on operations success stories that, while a bit elementary for your average ops vet, are a reminder that simplicity breeds success. His latest piece – the result of a call-out to readers – is the best yet, sharing process improvement success stories in our daily lives.

Based on the theme of the piece, the grocery store appears to be a major problem – sorry: opportunity – for many of us. Like many processes, the chances for variation between that initial opening of the automatic doors and the final bag during check-out are myriad. As a writer with little to no exposure to the ops world before joining the Center for Operational Excellence, I’ve found myself making changes in that process. Coupons are organized in the order of where I’ll see the product on my route, and the shopping list itself gets the same treatment. 

Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping can provide plenty of stress but provides plenty of opportunities to go lean

Some grocery shopping frustrations remain: The deli counter still takes forever, a sign I should follow one Slate reader’s advice to drop off the order and pick it up at the end of the trip.

Opportunities like these in daily life are everywhere, and I’d like to hear yours. Where have you gone lean outside of the office in an effort to find a few more precious minutes to spend while off the clock?

COE member Aggreko tackles fuel-spill problem

You’ve probably seen one or 50 of those Morgan Freeman-narrated Olympics promos already, but you might not know that one of our Center for Operational Excellence members will have a front-row seat to the action.

generator aggreko
Aggreko's generator fleet at any given site can be massive.

UK-based temporary power supplier Aggreko Plc’s generators will be a behind-the-scenes player for this year’s Olympics, marking the biggest moment in the sun yet for the company. Ever a process-minded organization, Aggreko recently has turned to the Fisher College of Business and COE for training and project work. I wrote about a fascinating and important project one group of Aggreko improvement leads undertook over the past year in this quarter’s COE newsletter.

Read the full article here, but here’s a snapshot: Aggreko in recent years has experienced massive growth and secured deals all around the world in all kinds of climates. With that variability came the occasional fuel spill in its generator fleets, a problem team members were determined could be resolved through process, not a mechanical fix.

They were right, and their journey illustrates the remarkable change that can be brought about by a thorough, reasoned approach to problem-solving instead of the knee-jerk quick fix.

That’s a story that merits some Morgan Freeman narration.

Online series takes a look at operations

Leisure reading and work are typically two things I like to keep separate, but our operations readers might want to mix the two and check out an interesting new series at online news mag Slate.

A new series on the website, crafted by author Seth Stevenson, is taking a look at key tenets of operations over the next few weeks. You can get started by reading his first article here, one entitled “What You Hate Most About Waiting In Line.” This is solid, sprucely written material, though anyone with a years-long background in operations management might find it a bit basic. He’s already waxed poetic on Eli Goldratt’s The Goal and viewed operations through the prism of Southwest Airlines’ successful string of profits.

None of this might be new, or news, to you. What’s at play here, though, is a spotlight being shined on operations at a well-read website that spends much of its time on current events and pop culture. If even a few enterprising, undecided college students feel a light bulb going off reading this, that’s a few steps forward for a field that needs all the bright minds it can get.

Culture counts – inside and out

Depending on your level of skepticism about the intangible in work and in life, the notion of culture being as important – or more important – than process and strategy might ring true or completely hollow. Culture itself became an important aspect of the past two events the Center for Operational Excellence has hosted, and the arguments for its impact on building a team and dealing with the outside world are enough to convert a non-believer.

In late May, we hosted Quicken Loans President and Chief Marketing Officer Jay Farner at our quarterly professional development seminar. In a compelling look at how Quickens’ culture has driven its success, Farner said the nation’s No. 1 online mortgage lender doesn’t really talk mortgages much in its hours-long employee organization. 

Jay Farner
Quicken Loans President Jay Farner

 “We’re a technology company, we’re a marketing company and we just so happen to do mortgages,” Farner said.

 Instead, it’s all about the kind of company the employee is joining and what maxims – they call them “isms” – they need to live by. It’s this focus on “isms” such as “Every client, every time, no excuses, no exceptions” that have helped Quicken win honors for being one of the best places to work and for having one of the best corporate IT infrastructures around.

“When people join an organization, if they don’t understand what they just joined, they can’t become a part of the family or understand its philosophies,” Farner said. “How can they be expected to excel?”

 What better way to foster a sense of ownership – a do-or-die ingredient to driving process improvement – than getting everyone on the same page culturally?

A different angle on culture took center stage at COE’s June 1 forum “Business in Brazil: An Insider’s View.” A group of about 60 COE members and guests joined to hear from a trio of experts on the challenges in doing business in and with the South American country, one that’s on fire economically these days but not the easiest to navigate. Sean Corson, an international sales exec for Ohio’s Cast Nylons Ltd., gave a look at import export challenges, while David Wilson, of counsel at Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter, helped the crowd scale legal hurdles. 

Closing out last Friday was Atila Noronha, a Brazil native who’s now an executive at McDonald’s Corp. Noronha gave a lively look at the key cultural differences between the U.S. and Brazil and how they might come into play while striking a deal. 

Atila Noronha
McDonald’s Corp. executive Atila Noronha

Think the “American way” is the best route? Tell that to a Brazilian and see where your transaction goes, Noronha said.

When it comes to driving change for a group based on “my way,” that same caution might be useful.

Congratulations to COE-funded scholarship winners

Aside from putting on events and connecting our members, part of the Center for Operational Excellence’s mission is to support the great work our faculty and students are doing here in the Fisher College of Business. A big way we do that each year is in giving out scholarships, and we’re proud to recognize a group of students we selected.

COE this year awarded five students $500 each through the Logistics Scholarship Fund. The first-year MBAs to receive the honor are: Jennifer Bartlette, Arshita Raju, Joe Robinson, Jeremy Mink and Bradley Stuetzer.

Awarded the $2,500 William L. Berry scholarship was Piyush Sinha. This honor, endowed by the emeritus professor, is designated each year to a student expected to have an impact in the operations world. With his strong experience in the field and a reputation as a high achiever, Sinha was a natural choice for the honor this year.

Our winners this year, along with past honorees, posed (left) with COE leadership and associate logistics professor Mike Knemeyer to celebrate the honor. Check out more photos on our Flickr page.

As the icing on the cake, some of our honored students are putting in work as interns at some COE member companies. Bartlette is headed this summer to Delaware industrial packager Greif Inc., while Stuetzer is headed to Greif’s Argentina office. Other members set to welcome our students: Rolls-Royce Energy, where Sinha will be interning; and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where Robinson is heading. Congratulations as well to Raju, set for an internship at the Ohio auditor’s office, and Mink, who is heading to Petsmart.

Congratulations to all of these students, and best of luck as you continue your journey at Fisher.