Knowledge Center: Case Studies (48)

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Thrustmaster Comes Around
By: David Drickhamer | November 23, 2016
The following Lean Enterprise Institute case study reveals how Thrustmaster of Texas successfully adopted lean thinking and practices to make sustainable improvements in a short period of time, and how other manufacturers of highly engineered, low-volume products can follow their lead using the Lean Transformation Framework. More »
Manufacturing Balancing Act: Pull Versus ERP
By: Chet Marchwinski | September 23, 2016
In this follow-up story to our case study about Phase 2 Medical Manufacturing, Inc.  , the company faces an enviable dilemma: because the lean transformation has spurred strong sales growth, Phase 2 needs a new or expanded parts warehouse. Instead, it expands the pull system by connecting the plan-for-every-part database that underpins one-piece flow production with the enterprise resource planning system, typically associated with big batch production. More »
Lean + Circular Principals = a New True North for Manufacturer
By: Doug Bartholomew | June 15, 2016
SunPower's lean journey resembled most others until it defined a new mission, a new True North. The mission statement changed from the business-like “install 10 gigawatts of solar panels by 2016" to the inspirational “change the way our world is powered.  " To achieve it, SunPower melded lean principals with those of the “circular economy” to launch what it called a CLean Transformation. Instead of following the traditional linear economic model of take, make, dispose, it follows a circular model of reuse, remanufacture, and recycle. Learn the business and environmental payoffs of linking lean and clean. More »
View from the Hospital Floor: How to Build a Culture of Improvement One Unit at a Time
By: David Drickhamer | April 25, 2016
In this follow-up to our earlier case study "Transforming Healthcare: What Matters Most?", we examine how the Cleveland Clinic is accelerating a lean transformation with a methodology for building a "culture of improvement.  " Here's how it works according to the people making the changes.   More »
Book Clubs Help Agricultural Company Cultivate Lean Culture
By: Chet Marchwinski | February 5, 2016
Two continuous improvement leaders explain how they successfully use book clubs to spread and align understanding of lean management at a large company with multiple sites. They describe their club process and offer startup tips to CI professionals or other leaders who want to organize business book clubs. More »
Standardized Work Hangs Ten with San Diego’s Surfing Culture -- Meeting the Challenges of Leadership, Culture, and Resistance
By: Doug Bartholomew | July 10, 2015
Instead of wiping out with a Southern California surfing school, the lean management principle of standardized had a positive impact, helping it boost surfing time for students, the number of students per class, and revenue. More »
Toyota Partners with Nonprofit to Rebuild Homes and Lives
By: by Chet Marchwinski | July 10, 2015
When the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina receded, they uncovered tens of thousands of ruined homes in devastated areas like St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. But the subsiding waters also exposed a rebuilding process that needed rethinking. In this LEI case study, we take a close look at how lean management principles are improving disaster recovery around New Orleans and the U.  S. overall. More »
Transforming Healthcare: What Matters Most? How the Cleveland Clinic Is Cultivating a Problem-Solving Mindset and Building a Culture of Improvement
By: David Drickhamer | May 28, 2015
Imagine if you could create a culture of excellence and improvement in a large healthcare organization. That’s the challenge that pushed the Cleveland Clinic to reinvent its continuous improvement program and push for a true cultural transformation.   More »
Lean Management Case Studies
By: Marchwinski, Chet | May 16, 2014
Learn how a variety of businesses and organizations used lean management principles to solve real business problems. We’ve arranged the examples in 16 categories to help you find the ones right for your environment. Be sure to read LEI’s complementary Senior Executive Series on Lean Leadership to find out how many of the executives cited in these case studies changed how they managed and led. More »
Sustain Your Lean Business System with a “Golden Triangle”
By: Marchwinski, Chet | April 1, 2014
When medical device maker Phase 2 fought off an overseas challenge by meeting the global price, margins took a big hit. With help from customer Medtronic Advanced Energy, the company rebuilt margins by lifting its lean operating system to a higher level and keeping it there with a "golden triangle" of sustainability. More »
Cultivating a Lean Problem-Solving Culture at O.C. Tanner
By: Bartholomew, Doug | January 22, 2014
O.  C. Tanner is in the appreciation business. It develops employee reward and recognition programs and manufactures a wide variety of emblems, rings, trophies, and other custom products that complement the programs. And if you are in the appreciation business, you have to live it in your own workplace. For O.  C. Tanner that meant a lean transformation had to show the company appreciated and wanted people’s problem-solving ideas. Here’s a report on that effort, including what worked and what didn’t. More »
Lean Design and Construction Project an Extension of Lean Commitment at Akron Children's Hospital
By: Vinas, Tonya | May 21, 2013
When the Ambulatory Surgery & Critical Care Tower opens in 2015, it will represent a three-year lean design and construction collaboration among builders, architects, trade contractors, healthcare provides, patients, and patient families. The design of both the facility and future operations is being shaped directly by patients and those who care for them. Input from nurses, doctors, therapists, technicians, and patient parents heavily influenced design decisions—from incorporating emergency room hallways that protect the privacy of abused children to the number of electrical outlets in each neonatal intensive care room.   More »
Lean management case study series: Lean in Distribution: Go to Where the Action Is!
By: Drickhamer, David | November 29, 2012
In this lean management success story, we visit Plumbers Supply Company to learn how it is making significant progress toward a lean business conversion two years after its first kaizen workshop. Starting with daily management walkabouts and standard work, the 84-year-old, family-owned distributor has laid the groundwork for steady gains for years to come. More »
Lean Thinking Helps City of Chula Vista with Budget Crunch
By: Bartholomew, Doug | February 22, 2012
After laying off 350 employees and still facing a continuing budget shortfall, the City of Chula Vista, CA, faced a seemingly impossible dilemma: how to maintain basic services without resorting to further cuts in the workforce. More »
Lean management case study series: Pediatric Hospital in Tough Market Pegs Growth to Lean Process Improvement
By: Vinas, Tonya | June 2, 2011
Lean improvement projects at Akron Children’s Hospital have saved millions of dollars, increased utilization of expensive assets, and reduced wait times for patients and their families. While these gains are important, the learning and commitment that each project builds internally are crucial elements of the hospital’s drive to make continuous improvement not just a program but the overarching strategic imperative for the entire organization.   Read an interview with hospital board member Bill Hopkins from LEI's lean leadership series. See all the executive interviews in the series. More »
Herman Miller’s Experiment in Excellence
By: Drickhamer, David | September 4, 2009
With initial support from the Toyota Supplier Support Center, Herman Miller cultivates experimental thinkers who make process improvements every day. Their work has yielded dramatic floorspace and inventory reductions, and improved operational flexibility, which is helping the company manage the global economic downturn. More »
Lean Thinking in Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Takes Wing at FedEx Express
By: Bartholomew, Doug | May 17, 2009
The FedEx Express lean initiative at its repair and maintenance facility at Los Angeles International Airport just began in December 2007 but has produced some big savings. For example a major check that used to take 32,715 man-hours was cut to 21,535 hours in six months. That translated into a $2 million savings, which dovetailed nicely with the company’s emphasis on finding ways to reduce costs during the recession. Find out more about this facility’s lean transformation and how managers are involving mechanics and other employees.   More »
Landscape Forms Cultivates Lean to Fuel Growth Goals
By: Tonya Vinas | February 11, 2009
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
With single-item orders 80% of the time, adopting single-piece flow and cellular production made sense to management at Landscape Forms, a low-volume, high-mix producer of outdoor furniture in Kalamazoo, MI. Find out how the company continued to spread the lean conversion by taking on the harder challenges of reinventing the production schedule through leveling, implementing lean financial management, and creating culture that embraced change and More »
Making Lean Leaders -- Ariens Internship Program Develops Lean Management and Leadership Skills in Everyone
By: Taninecz, George; | December 16, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
Besides making snow-blowers, mowers, and string trimmers, Ariens Co.  , of Brillion, WI, makes lean leaders. An internal lean internship program steeps factory and front-office associates in the principles of lean and leadership by connecting the concepts to actual work. Ariens attributes its ability to acquire companies, enter new markets, and remain competitive in tough times to the program, which has helped it grow without dramatic increases in staff. More »
Lean Thinking in Government: The State of Iowa
By: David Drickhamer | November 19, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
For several years the Iowa Veterans Home has used lean concepts to improve processes spanning the departments that deliver care to over 700 U.  S. military veterans and their spouses. This lean case study looks at a recent kaizen event at the Veterans Home and more broadly at the five-year old lean effort in Iowa government. More »
Lean Landscapers
By: George Taninecz | October 14, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
HighGrove Partners, an Atlanta landscaping company, needed some time to figure out how to apply lean management principles. After all, each of its 300 work sites is different and changes with the seasons, soil conditions, and weather. But, aided by a lawn mower manufacturer that was pursuing a lean conversion, HighGrove management stuck with its transformation, uncovered repeatable processes among the variability, established standardized work, removed waste, and improved processes and business More »
Fighting Cancer with Linear Accelerators and Accelerated Processes
By: Chet Marchwinski | September 9, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Forms and Templates; Value-Stream Maps
A series of cross-functional lean improvement teams in the Radiation Oncology Department at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) applied lean principles to processes to dramatically increase the percentage of patients with bone or brain metastases receiving consultation, simulation, and first treatment on the same day. (Life Magazine cover from 1958 on radiation oncology.  ) More »
Putting Lean Principles in the Warehouse
By: Douglas Bartholomew | August 19, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
While lean principles and practices have been widely adopted in manufacturing over the last couple of decades, their use in the warehouse and distribution center environment has been somewhat slower to catch on. For that reason, executives at Menlo Worldwide Logistics saw an opportunity to leapfrog the competition by embracing lean in its outsourced warehousing and receiving operations. More »
For Athletic Shoe Company, the Soul of Lean Management Is Problem Solving
By: Chet Marchwinski | June 24, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
When it began a lean transformation in 2003, New Balance, the only athletic shoe manufacturer that still makes some products in the U.  S.  , focused on using lean tools to improve product flow through its five New England plants to retailers and final customers. Next, with help from the Toyota Supplier Support Center, management began organizing the change effort around problem solving and process improvement to create a culture that would engage the workforce while moving the company to higher level. More »
Knife Company Hones Competitiveness by Bucking the Status Quo
By: Tonya Vinas | June 5, 2008
Family-owned Buck Knives needed to reduce costs by at least 30% to keep its U.  S. operations open. In turning to lean, the company gained more than just improved efficiency. Leaders are making better decisions, and flexibility has given Buck a unique advantage even though it had more reasons than most companies to shun lean concepts. Despite the challenges, the company now does nearly everything differently from allocations of costs for shop-floor supplies to working with its key retail customer More »
Using Lean Thinking to Reinvent City Government
By: David Drickhamer | April 1, 2008
Case Studies; Images
In many cities, stagnant tax revenues from a slowing economy coupled with rising healthcare and energy costs are causing budget shortfalls. To cope with the budget squeeze, Grand Rapids, MI, has turned to lean principles. City employees have learned firsthand how consolidating operations, eliminating wasted time and effort, and streamlining processes can help them improve productivity while providing the quality of service that city residents want, in less time and with less effort and More »
A Journey to Value Streams: Reorganizing Into Five Groups Drives Lean Improvements and Customer Responsiveness
By: Tonya Vinas | February 28, 2008
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams
While many plants have used value-stream thinking and practices such as current- and future-state mapping, Parker Hannifin Corporation's New Haven, IN, plant has created a value-stream culture centered on autonomy, entrepreneurialism, and lean principles. The change started after months of lengthy discussions among functional leaders, who ultimately determined the best way to remain competitive was to relinquish much of their control to value-stream teams. Along the way, the plant had to overcom More »
“Pulling” Lean Through a Hospital
By: George Taninecz | December 1, 2007
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Value-Stream Maps
It's not unusual for North American hospitals to try lean for processes where patient flow most impacts costs or revenue. These efforts, if successful, often result in improved but isolated lean islands surrounded by healthcare status quo. Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor, Ontario, also started in a common problem area (the emergency room), but with thoughtful rollout and eye-opening results has been able to expand improvements throughout the hospital, creating a "pull" from other departments that desire lean. More »
Dentist Drills Down to the Root Causes of Office Waste
By: Chet Marchwinski | May 7, 2007
Case Studies; Charts, Graphs and Diagrams; Images
Applying lean concepts to dentistry isn't as difficult as, well, pulling teeth. Dr. Sami Bahri, driven by a gut feeling that the traditional method of managing a dental office could be improved dramatically, educated himself and his staff in the concepts, validated the approach in pilot projects, then transformed his office. His journey just might transform the way you look at a dentist's office. (The Seven Wastes entry in the short Glossary at the end of the story has examples from Bahri's staff.  ) More »
Lean Inroads Into Alabama Academia
By: GeorgeTaninecz | March 30, 2007
Despite business’s declared need for graduates experienced with lean concepts, most colleges and universities offer only a lean module or course here and there. But at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, faculty of the Industrial Systems and Engineering and Engineering Management department understand that their graduates should have knowledge of and experience with these concepts when they enter the marketplace, and they’re making sure that happens. (A Lean Enterprise Institute Case Study.  ) More »
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