August 2014

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People: The Heart of Lean

By: Jessica Jannaman

In light of the annual conference coming up in August, I thought it would be good to discuss its theme; "People: The Heart of Lean." What do we mean when we say that people are the heart of lean? Well, I presume you will have to look at the fundamental transition to a lean culture.
When a group or an organization decides that they want to embrace lean, it is through a driving force –people. Lean is not something you walk into a store and pick off of the shelf and decide "I am going to use lean now." Although many organizations think this, in order for the core concepts to work, people have to be the foundation –the "heart" if you will. Just as a human body depends the heart to run, a lean culture must depend upon its people to work as well. Lean must not be one individual but a group driven effort and without buy-in from the people who drive the organization, the tools and culture associated with lean will just not work.
If you have not already done so, I encourage all of you to consider attending the annual conference this year as we discuss topics, participate in workshops and focus on the heart of lean and its foundation –people. It's going to be great!

Lean in Action 

Emergent BioSolutions is a multi-national pharmaceutical company that offers specialized products (vaccines and therapeutics) to healthcare providers and governments to address medical needs and emerging health threats.  The Lansing, Michigan site (EBOL) is responsible for the manufacture of the only FDA-licensed vaccine (BioThrax®) available for pre-exposure protection from anthrax infection and is in operation 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.  EBOL is just over one year into our lean transformation journey as part of our internal ‘On Point’ framework for improving our culture and the way that we conduct every aspect of our business.  Our Lean journey began with the initial 5S implementation in our Facilities department, led by our 5S guru Mark Bartlett, executive management training with Michigan State University’s Demmer Center for Business Transformation and the establishment of the overall BioThrax® Value Steam in May of 2013.  It was immediately apparent to us then that the current culture / mindset towards continuous improvement and the abundance of waste in our process(es) were areas that we needed to address proactively to maintain our competitive advantage, achieve our long-term key performance goals and improve employee engagement.  Throughout the initial stages of our journey as well as through our current efforts to date, we’ve had the benefit of having Jim Manley and the MSU’s Demmer Center along with us for education, guidance and persistent support.  Without a deep bench of internal EBOL expertise, we’ve been fortunate to have the strong relationship with Jim and the Demmer Center staff and the wealth of knowledge that they bring to lead and supplement our growing knowledge base in Lean principles and practice.  Additionally, EBOL employees are actively involved in the MLC attending training and events bringing back knowledge and operationally viable ideas that we can put to work here at the site.  Be sure to check out two of our stars, Jessica Bermejo and Jerry Browne presenting at the annual conference this year!

Through the efforts of our passionate group continuous improvement practitioners (staff as well as management support), we’ve have been able to develop a maturing site-wide 5S program encompassing the manufacturing areas and Quality Control laboratories, provide training / exposure of 166 Lansing-based employees (42%) to Lean concepts and practical application tools with a subset of those completing flow / experience-based training. Additionally we’ve completed numerous kaizen events that have eliminated waste and hassle from our core manufacturing process as well as key business processes such as new employee orientation, expense reimbursement and safety incident reporting.  Some of the opportunities that we’ve been able to realize include a 6.25% increase in overall manufacturing throughput, a 42% in lead time through the downstream portion of our BioThrax Value Stream and a 25% reduction in cycle time for intermediate lot disposition.  Most importantly, all of these improvement efforts were driven by cross-functional teams comprised of those individuals that work closely with the systems and processes impacted.

There have been a number of lessons learned through successes and failures that will help to shape the path forward for Lean at the site.  For EBOL, the lean journey has been challenging at times with balancing the day to day requirements of running the business.  Our commercial production process is legacy and highly manual with batch and testing requirements that require demonstration of safety, purity and efficacy according to strict license and regulatory requirements that are time-consuming to change.  Combine that with the residual cynicism from past programs abandoned / resistance to change (“the way that we’ve done it is working just fine, right?”) and the path to reaching a critical mass of knowledgeable and enthusiastic supports will undoubtedly be a long-term, aspirational endeavor.  As more and more employees have developed eyes for waste the volume of improvement ideas have been difficult to appropriately resource, prioritize and plan the work creating some doubt in our ability to sustain motivation and progress.  

The most rewarding thing for me personally has been the fact that continuous improvement is starting to shift from being management to employee-driven.  With two of our organization’s core values being respect and empowerment, the lean framework has been a perfect vehicle for us to demonstrate our commitment to both of these aspects of culture by fully understanding our processes from those employees that perform the work on a day to day basis.  The “light bulb” moments and the sense of pride from the employees impacting real change in the organization comes from our investment in Lean that we know will return for years to come through the development of our staff and through a better way of doing all aspects of business at the site.  

If described in terms of learning, application, teaching and mastery, the state of our journey would fall squarely in the learning phase with the beginnings of application and teaching starting to manifest into tactical and tangible improvements as we move into the second year.  As we create positive experiences for our employees through Lean we are beginning to change their beliefs and actions around improving their processes and their daily work experiences.

The Leaning Edge
Be interviewed on the show at the annual conference! If you cannot attend, be sure to listen in August for recaps and interviews from speakers and attendees! The Leaning Edge Radio Show, led by MLC Co-Founder Debra Levantrosser, airs every Friday and Saturday on the Michigan Business Network. 

Tune in on Fridays at 11 am, 5 pm, 11 pm and Saturdays/Sundays at 5 am, 8 am, 1 pm, 6 pm, 11 pm. You can also listen to and download past episodes on the website. If you are interested in being a guest on the show email Debra at

Please note that hits on the radio show determine whether or not it stays on the air. Thank you for your support. Please listen and email the station with your positive feedback if you love the show!


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Upcoming Events

Annual Conference - August 7-8, 2014 in Traverse City

Lean 103 - September 24, 2014 in West Olive

3rd Annual Healthcare Symposium - October 10, 2014 in Muskegon

Benchmarking at Amway - November 21, 2014 in Ada

End of Year Event - December 5, 2014 in Troy

If you have an idea for an event or would like to host an event, please email our Event Commitee co-leads at & Thank you!

Click to Register Now
Michigan Lean Consortium 2014 Annual Conference!
---People: The Heart of Lean--
August 7-8, 2014
Traverse City, Michigan

If you attended the Michigan Lean Consortium Annual Conference in the past, you know this is a great opportunity to network with colleagues, share experiences with other lean leaders and learn new approaches to drive the Lean journey at your organization. Click here to see photos from past year conferences.

We are heading to the Brys Estate for a winery networking event on Wednesday, August 6 at 6 pm. There will be an additional small fee to attend. Stay tuned for more information. You can visit their website for more information on the location:

If you have not attended in previous years, we hope to see you at the 2014 conference. It promises to be even better than ever! Plan now to join us at The Hagerty Center in Traverse City and watch our website and newsletters for updates. REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Stay tuned for information on our PRE-CONFERENCE Kata Workshop on August 6 in Traverse City lead by leaders in the Kata philosophy! Plan now to attend!

Volunteer Spotlight

Phat Tran
State Administrative Manager
DTMB Client Service Center
Phat Tran manages the Client Service Center for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget as the State Administrative Manager.  He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at the Michigan Technological University and a Master of Product Development / Engineering Management at the University of Detroit – Mercy.  Prior to joining the State of Michigan – DTMB, he held several leadership positions in the automotive industry for over ten years.
Phat received his Black Belt certification from Ford Motor Company where he leveraged Lean Principles and Practices by maximizing customer values through reducing waste.  As a change leader, he taught multiple Green Belt classes, coached and mentored several Green Belts through certification and led multiple projects resulted in over $10 million in savings.
Phat joined the State of Michigan in 2009, promoted to the Administrative Applications Manager position in the Infrastructure organization in the same year.  In 2010, he was appointed to the State Administrative Manager position within the Client Service Center – DTMB Enterprise Help Desk.  Phat integrates Lean and Six Sigma Principles, Practices, and Tools into day-to-day customer service operations.  By leveraging business process re-engineering, organizational change management principles and leadership behaviors, he was able to develop leaders within the team and gain upper management support to become a high performance team.  This is resulting in a culture shift to an organization that’s partnering with the customers to anticipating and predicting customers need, thus providing Customer Service Excellence.
Phat received the Community Partner Award in 2012 and is a board member of the Help Desk Institute (HDI Motown) where he currently serves as the VP of Continuous Improvement.  He joined MLC as a volunteer through the State of Michigan Office of Good Government in 2013.  He has the opportunity to serve on the MLC planning committee for the 2014 MLC Annual Conference.  He lives in Ypsilanti with his wife, Deenise, and three children, Lyn (10), Eve (9), Vin (7) and a Golden Retriever Goldie.  Phat enjoys spending time with his family, biking and traveling.

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