January 2014

The Error of Standardization v 2.0

By: Mike Taubitz, MLC Secretary

If you do not gain the trust of workers and listen to what is really happening in the current state, any attempt at standardization and continuous improvement will typically ignore existing variation and issues in the political and social system.  Remember that workers did not create the existing system – they merely try to do work within the system.

Leaders must respect their workers, gain input while teaching them how to think differently – and have appreciation for systems and variation.  With these foundation skills, senior management can begin leading the never-ending journey of real continuous improvement.

Standardization is the foundation of all continuous improvement.  If you have an organization where work is performed with variation, the work output will typically be fraught with errors, occasional (or frequent) poor quality and high cost.  

The cornerstone principle of this article is that standardization is a good thing.  Improve the standard and you are engaging in continuous improvement.  But, the point of this blog is that blindly following the principle presents an opportunity for significant errors.  This situation occurs when managers do not truly understand their current state and the variation that may exist between workers doing seemingly similar tasks.  A typical approach is:

•    Assess best practice within industry / own organization
•    Develop standard work
•    Train
•    Implement
•    Continue to battle with workers not following the standard

If you find yourself feeling like you are constantly pounding a round peg in a square hole and don’t know why, perhaps the words of Dr. W. Edwards Deming can shed some light. The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Deming’s The New Economics, second edition:

“The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his (her) life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people. 

Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he (she) will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to. The individual, once transformed, will: 

•    Set an example 
•    Be a good listener, but will not compromise 
•    Continually teach other people 
•    Help people to pull away from their current practice and beliefs and move into the new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past”

My experience suggests that Deming was right on all points.  Remember that workers did not create the existing system – they merely work within the system.

Lean in Action 

Cummins Bridgeway is one of 16 North American distributors of Cummins, Inc. Created in 2003 from the consolidation of two separate Cummins distributors: Cummins Michigan, and Cummins Interstate, Cummins Bridgeway is an engine parts and service support organization for Cummins, Inc. With 725 employees, Cummins Bridgeway operates 16 locations that are within the major cities of the Great Lakes region. In addition to its aftermarket parts and service support business, Cummins Bridgeway also operates a power unit upfit production facility that is located in New Hudson, Michigan. 

Cummins Bridgeway began its lean journey in 2011 with some assistance from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC).  Challenged with increasing our service capabilities for our customers in one our locations, Cummins Bridgeway looked at our Quickserve service support process through lean eyes. From the mapping of the current state value stream, and the involvement of team members from the local team, Cummins Bridgeway quickly learned that many of the obstacles prohibiting execution of our service support process were self-inflicted. That breakthrough moment from the local branch team became the start of new operational philosophy that has since been integrated into the remaining locations that also execute the Quickserve service support process. 

Lean continues to be the catalyst for changing the working landscape of Cummins Bridgeway. At Cummins Bridgeway, lean is currently being used to:  implement the 10 practices of the Cummins Operating System (COS); train operations team members and management on the principles of lean; and finally to assist operations to overcome obstacles that are preventing the organization from reaching its customer-focused objectives. Rather than rely on outside trained lean resources, Cummins Bridgeway has invested in a continuous improvement team that’s focused on training the workforce on lean principles and helping business unit leaders achieve their defined objectives of the organization. 

The lean work that has been implemented at Cummins Bridgeway has not gone unnoticed by its fellow Cummins distributors either. Many of the Cummins Bridgeway locations that have implemented lean principles have been benchmarked by fellow Cummins, Inc. distributors for their achievements in improving common KPI measurements that are common throughout the channel locations. 

Though only at the early stages of its lean journey, it is the opinion of this writer that Cummins Bridgeway has scratched the surface of “the possible” for improving many of the current state processes that exist for all Cummins distributors. With the focused efforts of its continuous improvement team and the commitment from Bridgeway’s senior management team, Cummins Bridgeway will continue to embrace the principles of lean, and will strive to deliver customer focused solutions which will sustain Cummins, and Cummins Bridgeway for many years. Visit their website here. 

Upcoming Events

GEMBA Walk with DragonMead Brewery - January 24, 2014 in Warren (Registration Full - Taking a list of names in case of cancellations) 

Integrated Task Assessment: A Tool to Improve Health Care Performance - February 28, 2014 

Toyota Kata Training featuring Richard Flemming - May 16, 2014

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Volunteer Spotlight
Howard Weston currently serves as Managing Director and Lean Implementation & Continuous Improvement Coach at KWA North.  Prior to joining Ken Wantuck Associates (KWA, Inc.),  he spent 15 years in industry holding leadership positions in manufacturing, materials, engineering, finance and project management while guiding LEAN transformation initiatives.  He has led lean implementation project teams as a coach, mentor, trainer and lifelong lean student with numerous fortune 500 companies including Parker Hannifin where, as a contract service provider and certified Lean Sensei, he facilitated implementation initiatives throughout North America, Mexico, Europe and Asia while conducting training and mentoring team members in their development as Lean Leaders and Certified Trainers.  He has also collaborated on the lean transformation journey with many privately held companies, including Cincinnati Mine Machinery, Midmark Medical Products and Hollaender Manufacturing where he served for seven years as a member of their Board of Directors. 

Howard completed his formal education in business administration with post-graduate studies in manufacturing and industrial engineering.  He began studying the Toyota Production System in the early 1980’s, and is honored to have been mentored by several TPS masters including Mr. Taiichi Ohno and Mr. Shigeo Shingo.  In addition to having been a speaker at several national professional association conferences, Howard has also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Dayton, Center for Competitive Change, the University of Kentucky Lean Manufacturing Program and the University of Windsor. 

Howard is a member of Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) where he currently serves on the Executive Board for Chapter One.  He is also a member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), American Society for Quality (ASQ), American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Association of Operations Management (APICS-CPIM) and serves on the Event and Project Committees for the Michigan Lean Consortium having received the Distinguished Service Award in 2012.  

The Leaning Edge
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, 3 pm, 7 pm, 11 pm and Saturdays at 7 am. 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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