How-to Make ‘Lean Manufacturing’ Just as Exciting as the Current News in Sports

Greg Glebe

How-to Make ‘Lean Manufacturing’ Just as Exciting as the Current News in Sports

How can you tie Sports and Manufacturing together? Both worlds are extremely competitive and though it may not be as exciting, the manufacturing and business world has some new tips and tricks that are definitely worth looking into. One such trick is called Lean manufacturing. Lean manufacturing has taken the business world by storm and is improving the quality of life all around the globe. 

Recently our company, Pedestal Source,a Xylem Design Company, has been going through the first round of changes that are necessary to develop a ‘lean manufacturing’ company as well as a ‘lean’ culture and community. We’ve  had great success implementing these methods and ways of thinking and living. Our success in implementing lean principles has been astonishing and the increasing depth of engagement on the part of the team can only increase that over time.

What is Lean?

What is lean you ask? Simply defined Lean is LEARNING to see waste it is everywhere. and then eliminating it through the process of CONTINIOUS improvement. That’s really it! Lean manufacturing or lean living is when one takes the time to really observe the everyday processes that invariably involve waste and then make changes and adjustments in order to accomplish those same tasks and processes without the waste. The big take away, from just about any person or book who has tried to explain the lean process is that ‘lean’ means getting rid of waste Through the process of making small improvements EVERY DAY. Big improvements get headlines, but small, CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENTS are what really make the difference in the long haul.

Finding the Waste

Waste comes in many forms There are actually 8 wastes; Overproduction, Overprocessing, Motion, WAITING, transportation, Inventory, rework of defects, and the biggest waste of all: UNUSED EMPLOYEE GENIUS. While these may sound like manufacturing language thay all actually translate into what we do with ANY PROCESS, be it at home or work.

Waste is everywhere you look and in everything you do; in order to stop it you need to be active about finding and then fixing it. Paul A. Akers, Lean genius and author of the book 2 Second Lean, suggests keeping a journal nearby and recording any time you see - a process or task that may involve waste. Keep this journal for about a week and he says that you will notice new tasks that involve waste every day, proving that waste is one of the biggest parts of our lives and a big part of just about every company.


Much of the craziness in our lives is of our own making; but we have the power to change that.  Once we actually start seeing and changing the wasteful and frustrating ways we do and think about things.

Another part of the lean journey, according to Akers, is the process of finding and “FIXING what bugs you. Find the things that drive you crazy like dirty dishes, unorganized desktops, or unclean bathrooms. Lean is a process that involves continuous improvement which means you can take those things that bug you and constantly organize, work on, improve, and re-organize until you actually ELIMINATE the waste.

Getting Started

At Pedestal Source we followed Akers advice by starting in the bathroom. We went into the company bathroom (shared by 20plus people!) and  figured out exactly what we could  do to organize, clean, and standardize the bathroom to make it more safe, clean, intuitive, organized, and all around lean. It seems silly, but a few key LEAN CULTURE BUILDING principles include cultivating creativity, respect for others, and humility. By teaming up to build an exceptionally well thought out and immaculate place, we actually hit on all those elements. We all clean the bathroom, including the CEO. This helps keep us all grounded, certainly offers opportunity for humility and reinforces the concept of leaving things better than we found them. After a lot of work and changes, the bathroom looks better than ever  and every employee works hard to keep it that way. This touchstone is there to keep us on track as we build outwards into the rest of the factory.

Getting Everyone Involved

Many companies have a culture where people are never sincerely asked for their creative input and if they make a mistake, they are terrified of getting a reprimand. This is toxic.

The Pedestal Source culture is just the opposite.  

We not only ask people to contribute, but actually require everyone to make a small improvement to the shop every day. The improvements, as Paul Akers puts it, you only have to eliminate 2 Seconds of waste. That’s it! He did a brilliant thing by actually lowering the bar on this one so that ANYONE could contribute real changes, every day. No one is excluded, everyone is recognized and encouraged. Also, we make mistakes - like it or not. But when we do, we all share them and collectively come up with systems to eliminate or minimize a repeat of the same mistake.  We do this at our Lean Lunch, our daily meeting.

In the end, it’s all about our individual growth. We do this through actually empowering the team, minimizing waste, and treating our customers and each other with real respect.

Employee involvement is a big part of going lean. The lean process involves looking over, researching, and being involved in the everyday tasks so that you can come up with new ways to improve and eliminate waste. No one person can accomplish these tasks for a whole company, it is impossible. Instead, use the combined genius of everyone in the company in order to come up with new and innovative ways to get rid of waste.

About the Author

Greg Glebe is the founder and CEO of Pedestal Source, and Xylem Design Inc, he enjoys writing about ‘lean manufacturing,’ start-up tips, and pedestal displays.