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Keynote Speakers:

Eric Buehrens

Eric Buehrens
CEO, Lean Enterprise Institute

Eric Buehrens has enjoyed a varied career as executive, consultant, and senior advisor in healthcare and higher education, government and private industry, and as an instructor in Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has been an executive in academic medicine for 20 years, serving as executive dean for administration at Harvard Medical School, deputy provost for administration at Harvard University, executive vice president, COO, and interim CEO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and as EVP and COO of Reliant Medical Group, a multi-specialty physician group practice.

He first encountered lean teaching more than a decade ago and championed the continuous improvement work at Beth Israel and Reliant. He has led, taught, and coached other leaders, and has led strategic planning processes for several large institutions as an executive and consultant. He is deeply committed to continuous improvement, to building learning organizations, and provides consultation and executive coaching to leadership teams in these areas.

Eric is a graduate of Harvard College, and worked as a shipfitter and union organizer before beginning his professional career in state government, playing a key role in the cleanup of Boston Harbor. He was a developer of privately built, financed, and operated environmental infrastructure projects in the U.S. and abroad. He advises a number of healthcare startup companies, and serves on the board of directors of the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems, a nonprofit organization devoted to understanding the dynamics of authority and the role of leadership in group processes. He has been a member of the Lean Enterprise Institute board since 2016.

John Y. Shook

John Y. Shook
Senior Advisor and Executive Chairman, Lean Enterprise Institute

John Shook learned about lean management while working for Toyota for nearly 11 years in Japan and the U.S., helping it transfer production, engineering, and management systems from Japan to NUMMI and subsequently to other operations around the world. While at Toyota's headquarters, he became the company's first American kacho (manager) in Japan. In the U.S., Shook joined Toyota’s North American engineering, research and development center in Ann Arbor, MI, as general manager of administration and planning. His last position with Toyota was as senior American manager with the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, KY, assisting North American companies implement the Toyota Production System. As co-author of Learning to See John helped introduce the world to value-stream mapping. John also co-authored Kaizen Express, a bi-lingual manual of the essential concepts and tools of the Toyota Production System. In Managing to Learn, he describes the A3 management process at the heart of lean management and leadership.

Shook is an industrial anthropologist with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, and is a graduate of the Japan-America Institute of Management Science. He is the former director of the University of Michigan, Japan Technological Management Program, and faculty of the university’s Department of Industrial and Operations Engineering.

He is the author of "Toyota’s Secret: The A3 Report"; Sloan Management Review, July 2010 and "How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI"; Sloan Management Review, January 2010, which won Sloan’s Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for outstanding article in the field of organizational development.

Shook is a sought-after conference keynoter who has been interviewed on lean management by National Public Radio, Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, and numerous trade publications.

James P. Womack

James P. Womack
Founder and Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute

Management expert James P. Womack, Ph.D., is the founder and senior advisor to the Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc., a nonprofit training, publishing, conference, and management research company chartered in August 1997 to advance a set of ideas known as lean production and lean thinking, based initially on Toyota’s business system and now being extended to an entire lean management system.

The intellectual basis for the Cambridge, MA-based Institute is described in a series of books and articles co-authored by Womack and Daniel Jones over the past 20 years. The most widely known books are: The Machine That Changed the World (Macmillan/Rawson Associates, 1990), Lean Thinking (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Lean Solutions (Simon & Schuster, 2005), and Seeing The Whole Value Stream (Lean Enterprise Institute, 2011). Articles include: "From Lean Production to the Lean Enterprise" (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 1994), "Beyond Toyota: How to Root Out Waste and Pursue Perfection" (Harvard Business Review, September-October, 1996), “Lean Consumption” (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2005).

Womack received a B.A. in political science from the University of Chicago in 1970, a master's degree in transportation systems from Harvard in 1975, and a Ph.D. in political science from MIT in 1982 (for a dissertation on comparative industrial policy in the U.S., Germany, and Japan). During the period 1975-1991, he was a full-time research scientist at MIT directing a series of comparative studies of world manufacturing practices. As research director of MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program, Womack led the research team that coined the term “lean production” to describe Toyota’s business system.

Womack served as the Institute's chairman and CEO from 1997 until 2010 when he was succeeded by John Shook.

Jim Womack can be contacted at:

Lean Enterprise Institute
215 First Street, Suite 300
Cambridge, MA, 02142
e-mail: jwomack@lean.org
Tel: 617-871-2900
Fax: 617-871-2999

Plenary and Breakout Speakers

Mahesh Amalean

Mahesh Amalean
Chairman, MAS Holdings

Mahesh Amalean is co-founder and chairman of MAS Holdings, a Sri Lanka-based concept-to-delivery apparel services company with $1.7 billion in revenue, 90,000 associates in North America, Europe, Middle East, Far East, and South Asia, and a 30-year tradition of working with top global fashion brands. Mahesh is a charismatic leader who believes that change is inevitable, and facing change and creating opportunities requires courage.

His philosophy of “doing good while you are doing well” is inherent in MAS’s identity of offering more than high quality products and services. It is deeply rooted in MAS’s practice of nurturing teams, uplifting communities, and working to create a sustainable future for the next generation. In 2013, Mahesh was one of five global business leaders who received the United Nations inaugural Women's Empowerment Principles, Leadership Award for the company’s Women Go Beyond program.

In recognition of his national service, in 2005 the president of Sri Lanka gave him the title Deshamanya or Pride of the Nation, the second highest national civil honor. In 2010, he received the CNBC-International Indian Film Academy Global Leadership Award. In 2011, the Open University of Sri Lanka awarded him an honorary doctorate for his national work. He is ranked among the Top 20 Progressive Asian Leaders by the World Business Magazine.

Mahesh holds a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University Madras, India, and completed his executive education at Columbia University, New York.

Mike Beech

Mike Beech
President of Strategy & Focus Markets, The Brinks Company

Mike Beech is Executive Vice President of Brinks, and President of Brazil, Mexico and Global Security. With his global experience, Mike helped develop and launch Brinks new Centers of Excellence, which work closely with Brinks businesses around the world to expand continuous process improvement and adoption of Lean.

Mike previously served as Brinks regional President of Europe, Middle East and Africa and as President of the Asia-Pacific region.

Prior to joining Brinks in 2009, Mike completed 25 years of service in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Colonel. During his service, he commanded a Brigade Combat Team at Fort Hood, Texas, and Baghdad, Iraq, leading more than 5,000 U.S. troops in counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, stability and support operations. He also was Chief of Strategic Plans, War on Terrorism Directorate, for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mike graduated from Norwich University in Vermont. He received a Master of Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College and a Master of Military Arts and Science at the School of Advanced Military Studies.

Lori Abrams Berry

Lori Abrams Berry
Former Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Community Health Center

Lori Abrams Berry served as the CEO of the Lynn Community Health Center for over 20 years. Under her leadership, the health center experienced significant growth and is now the largest health care provider in the city of Lynn, serving over 40,000 patients, more than 40% of the city’s residents.

Lori initiated many new programs and services during her tenure as CEO, from a new 55,300 square foot facility to innovative models of care and treatment for patients with mental health and opioid addiction.

As the CEO of the Lynn Community Health Center, Lori was a founding member of an innovative initiative in 2016 to develop an Accountable Care Organization, the only community health center led ACO in Massachusetts.

Lori’s interest in Lean thinking stems from her ongoing commitment to develop problem solvers at all levels of the organization. This support from the top ignited the movement for the entire organization to align around their promise to provide exceptional care, every day.

Matt Cornwell

Matt Cornwell
Lean Customer Value Associate Vice President, American Family Insurance

Matt Cornwell leads a team of lean coaches who support the company’s cultural transformation efforts through the implementation of the American Family Lean System.

His team’s purpose is to help the organization: empower employees closest to the customer, experiment, increase agility, and become more customer driven. In his twelve years at American Family, Cornwell has held leadership roles in process improvement, strategy, corporate planning, and executive administration functions.

Cornwell started his career as an industrial engineer and earned a six sigma black belt before joining American Family.

Andy Houk

Andy Houk
Vice President Product Development, TechnipFMC Schilling Robotics

Andy Houk is vice president of product development at TechnipFMC Schilling Robotics.

Houk joined Schilling Robotics in 2004 as a field service engineer, a role that helped him understand customer needs for working in the deep ocean with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). He transferred that knowledge into the component and subsystem designs of Schilling’s ROV products. Later, he was lead engineer for a number of ROV platform developments that grew the company’s ROV market share from 0 to 40%.

In 2013, Houk was promoted to vice president of product development with responsibility for managing the engineering resources, facilitating new product development as an enterprise effort, and growing the next generation of leaders.

Kiame Mahaniah, MD

Kiame Mahaniah, MD
Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Community Health Center

Inspired by a childhood divided between a war-affected third world country – the Congo – and a high performing first world one (Switzerland), as well as parents intimately involved in rural development NGOs, Dr. Mahaniah brings a burning passion for social justice and the fight against health disparities to his work as CEO at the Lynn Community Health Center in Lynn Massachusetts.

He attended medical school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia as a National Health Service Corps scholar, and graduated from the Family Medicine Residency program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He has been working in federally qualified community health centers ever since.  

His clinical interests lie in teaching and integrating opioid addiction treatment into primary care. He was the 2012-2013 Massachusetts Academy of Family Medicine Physician of the Year and holds an appointment at the Tufts University School of Medicine.

Ernie Richardson

Ernie Richardson
Co-Owner, LEI Faculty, Teaching Lean Inc.

Ernie has 25 years of Manufacturing and Human Resources management experience which allows him to see the cultural dynamics from both functional areas of a company. He gained this experience at Toyota Motor Manufacturing where he grew from Team Leader, to Group Leader, to Assistant Manager on the manufacturing side. After which he moved to HR, assuming, at different times, responsibility for skill development programs, safety and medical management.

As Acting Medical Director for Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Ernie was responsible for nine on-site medical clinics across Toyota North America (convenience care, full-primary care, and occupational care). He was also responsible for disability management (as described above) North American wide. Ernie worked at IBM for 8 years before joining Toyota. Currently, Ernie shares his extensive experience with members of the lean community as a co-owner of Teaching Lean and a Faculty member of the Lean Enterprise Institute. He is coauthor with Tracey Richardson of The Toyota Engagement Equation.

Tracey Richardson

Tracey Richardson
Co-Owner, LEI Faculty, Teaching Lean Incorporated

Tracey has over 29 year’s combined experience in different roles within Toyota and learned lean practices as a group leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky from 1988-1998. She was one of the first team members hired, with the fortunate opportunity to learn directly from Japanese trainers. As a group leader and quality circle advisor, she learned first-hand about lean tools and culture development.

For the last 19 years, as president of Teaching Lean, Inc. Tracey has worked with Toyota North American plants, and other companies on their lean journeys, helping them develop the capabilities of employees, including team members and company leaders. Using problem-solving and aligning daily activities with company business plans, she helps them create lean cultures that are the foundations for long-term sustainability.

Tracey is an active coach and contributor to LEI’s The Lean Post. She teaches several problem-solving and A3 workshops as an LEI faculty member. She is coauthor of the new book The Toyota Engagement Equation.

Tyler Schilling

Tyler Schilling
President, TechnipFMC Schilling Robotics

Tyler Schilling is president of TechnipFMC Schilling Robotics. In 1985 he co-founded Schilling Robotics with Wes Gerriets with the vision of providing productive tools for remotely working in the deep ocean. As president, he sets the company’s vision guiding product innovation and development.

The introduction of Schilling manipulators changed the capabilities of remotely operated vehicles and  are currently used in 95% of subsea work. TechnipFMC Schilling Robotics now delivers work-class ROVs to more customers than all other manufacturers combined.

Schilling is an innovator, advocate, and sought-after speaker for the expansion of remote technology on the sea floor. Under his leadership, the company’s passion for excellence, and focus on customer success, Schilling Robotics established a worldwide market supplying systems to virtually every operator of subsea ROVs.

Michele Wingate

Michele Wingate
Director of Corporate Communications, American Family Insurance

Michele Wingate is the director of corporate communications for American Family Insurance. Since joining the company in 2007, she has served in several Communications and Marketing roles. She started the company’s Facebook presence in 2009 and later served as social media manager for two years, speaking nationally about social media strategy for business. Before joining American Family, she was director of Communications and Membership for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, working for Executive Director Inc. (EDI), a Milwaukee-based association management firm.  She’s also worked in health care communications and marketing at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; and as a reporter and editor. She has an M.A. in mass communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeeand a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Learning Session Speakers

Tim Benshoof
Vice President Finance and Strategy, Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds

Jim Benson

Jim Benson
CEO, Modus Cooperandi

A pioneer in applying Lean and Kanban to knowledge work, Jim is the creator of Personal Kanban and co-author of Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life, winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award. His other books include Why Plans Fail, Why Limit WIP, and Beyond Agile. He is the CEO of Modus Cooperandi, and co-founder of Modus Institute. For the past two decades Jim has worked at uncovering ways for individuals and groups to communicate, collaborate, and find clarity in unpredictable and amorphous environments.


Brad Brown

Brad Brown
Captain of the Planning Division and Lean Champion, City of Grand Rapids, MI, Fire Department

Brad Brown is a career firefighter with over two decades of experience, currently serving as the captain of the Planning Division and lean champion for the City of Grand Rapids, MI, Fire Department where he has embraced the use of data- driven decision making.

Having a lifelong passion for learning, Brown has recently completed a four-year executive fire officer program at the national fire academy and  embarked on his doctor of education degree in organizational leadership and development from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.

He has presented numerous times over the past several years for the Michigan Lean Consortium, The American Society for Quality, and the Center for Public Safety Excellence. When not learning or working, Brad spends time on the family farm with his wife, two young children, and way too many animals.

Summer Cook

Summer Cook
Continuous Improvement Team, LifeWay Christian Resources

Summer Cook has been on Lifeway’s continuous improvement team since 2016 and in the supply chain industry since 2012. The CI team is responsible for developing and conducting all trainings for the Distribution Center’s managers and employees; overseeing improvement projects lean events, and making sure employees are engaged and have time for some fun.

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham
Principle, LEI Faculty, Jean Cunningham Consulting

Jean Cunningham is widely recognized for her pioneering work in Lean Accounting, IT, HR and other non-production functions such as lean business management and the lean office. Jean previously served as CFO at Lantech Inc., whose transformation was featured in Lean Thinking, and Marshfield Door Systems. She also served as the voluntary CFO for the Association of Manufacturing Excellence.

Jean is principle of Jean Cunningham Consulting, which provides lean business management services including workshops, kaizen events, and strategic coaching. She is in demand as a speaker at lean conferences and teaches Lean Accounting for The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, Master of Business Operational Excellence program. She has a bachelor’s in accounting from Indiana University and a master’s from Northeastern University’s Executive Program. Jean is co-author of Real Numbers: management accounting in a lean organization and Easier, Simpler, Faster: systems strategy for Lean IT, which won 2004 and 2008 Shingo Research Prizes, respectively.

Ben Hartman

Ben Hartman
Author, Lean Farmer, Clay Bottom Farm

Ben Hartman is the author of The Lean Farm, a 2016 winner of the Shingo Institute’s Publication Award.  He and his wife, Rachel Hershberger, own and operate Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, IN, where they use lean management principles to grow specialty produce for restaurants and consumers on less than one acre of land.

Clay Bottom Farm is recognized as a pioneer in how to apply the lean production system to farming. The farm has twice won Edible Michiana's Reader's Choice Award. Hartman, a contributor regularly to Growing for Market magazine, was appointed to the 2017 Grist 50, a list of emerging green leaders in the United States.

Hartman grew up in LaGrange County, IN, on a corn and soybean farm. After graduating from Goshen College with degrees in English and Philosophy, he lived and grew vegetables on several farms before starting Clay Bottom in 2006. The farm incorporates lean practices into every step of farming, including start-up, harvesting, selling crops, and training employees.

Nicole Hudson

Nicole Hudson
Manager Continuous Improvement, LifeWay Christian Resources

Nicole Hudson is a continuous improvement (CI) manager and member of Lifeway’s CI team since 2003. She was previously an operations supervisor and later a CI supervisor.

Hudson has worked in the supply chain industry since 2000. Among the certifications she holds are: Quality Improvement Associate, ASQ; Certified Lean Agent, SixSigma.us; Supply Chain Professional, Georgia Institute of Technology; Applications of Behavioral Leadership and Train-the-Trainer in Performance Management Basics, Aubrey Daniels International; and a Green Belt from LeanCor. The CI team is responsible for developing and conducting all trainings for the Distribution Center’s managers and employees; overseeing improvement projects lean events, and making sure employees are engaged and have time for some fun.

She is a self-described “Disney fanatic.”

Cheryl Jekiel

Cheryl Jekiel
Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Tri-Arrows Aluminum, Inc.

Cheryl M. Jekiel oversees the Lean Leadership Resource Center, which provides access to a range of materials for lean enterprises, including special components for lean cultures, general lean leadership development and Human Resources leaders.

With over 25 years of manufacturing experience, most recently Ms Jekiel has held Vice President of Human Resources positions for Tri-Arrows Aluminum Inc., FONA International, Inc. and Flying Food Group, LLC. Ms. Jekiel served for five years as the Chief Operating Officer after a number of other leadership roles at a Specialty Bakery in the Chicagoland area.  Ms. Jekiel has developed an expertise in Lean manufacturing with a particular focus on Lean cultures. Ms. Jekiel has made countless significant improvements in reducing operating costs and leveraging a Lean culture to obtain stronger and sustainable results.

Ms. Jekiel brings a tremendous passion for continuous improvement in her commitment to building Lean HR as a recognized field of work and is the author of “Lean Human Resources: Redesigning HR Processes for a Lean Culture”.

Alex Jones

Alex Jones
Principal Engineer, Intel

Alex Jones is a Principal Engineer and Lean Transformation Leader at Intel.  He is responsible for driving organizational and process transformation that increases quality, decreases cost, and accelerates time to market across all of Intel's product development value streams.  Alex joined Intel in 1997 as an Industrial Engineer and has held a variety of positions in manufacturing, technology development, strategic planning, and lean leadership.  He holds a bachelor's degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan where he studied under John Shook.  He also holds an MBA from the University of Oregon.


Mike Orzen

Mike Orzen
LEI Faculty; President,, Mike Orzen & Associates

With a consulting and coaching career spanning more than 20 years, Mike has gathered a unique blend of lean, IT, healthcare, and operations experience that he uses to coach organizations pursuing enterprise excellence. His personable approach and people-first philosophy has inspired leaders and empowered workforces to successfully apply conscious awareness, lean management, and enterprise excellence practices in many complex work environments.

He is the co-author of Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation winner of a Shingo Research Award, and The Lean IT Field Guide. He holds degrees from Stanford University, the University of Oregon, and is certified in management accounting, production and inventory control, project management, Agile, and Lean IT. Mike teaches with LEI, the Shingo Institute, and The Ohio State University Fisher School of Business. He helps companies on lean journeys through Mike Orzen & Associates. Connect with him at mike@mikeorzen.com.

Amanda Plumlee

Amanda Plumlee
Continuous Improvement Associate, LifeWay Christian Resources

Amanda Plumlee started working on Lifeway’s continuous improvement team in 2013 and has worked in the supply chain industry since 2007.

She holds certifications in Lean Supply Chain Professional from the Georgia Institute of Technology and in Applications of Behavioral Leadership and Train-the-Trainer in Performance Management Basics from Aubrey Daniels International. The CI team is responsible for developing and conducting all trainings for the Distribution Center’s managers and employees; overseeing improvement projects lean events, and making sure employees are engaged and have time for some fun.

Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson
CEO, Gundersen Health System

Dr. JEFF THOMPSON is CEO Emeritus at Gundersen Health System, pediatrician, and author of Lead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community. 

Jeff’s success in leadership, teaching, and speaking is far-reaching. Most recently, he was CEO of Gundersen Health System for fourteen years responsible for improving quality, lowering cost and rapidly advancing technology. He served a staff of seven thousand, hundreds of thousands of patients, and yearly tried to carefully spent a billion dollars of the community’s money. In a city of 55,000 Gundersen would receive 25,000 applications for positions.

During Dr. Thompson’s tenure, Gundersen Health System and his diverse leadership group has been repeatedly recognized nationally for excellence in better care, lower cost, great work place and connecting with the community. It has earned Healthgrades highest honors: America’s 50 Best Award for 2012 through 2016 and Dr. Thompson was recognized with the White House Champions of Change award in 2013. He spoke in the Blue Zone on behalf of the US State Department during the climate talks, and has spoken at Stanford University, the Harvard School of Economics, the Aspen Institute Spotlight Strategy Group, Santa Fe Institute, Sao Paulo Brazil, Helsinki University, Oxford England and many others. More information and postings are on jeffthompsonmd.com.

Amalia Vidal Vázquez

Amalia Vidal Vázquez

Amalia Vidal Vázquez is a professional in the tourism and hotel industry at Dreamplace Hotels and Resorts.

Vázquez, who attributes her passion for catering to her father, began her hotel career working in an industrial-scale laundry at age 14. She also has worked as a housekeeper, waiter, and kitchen staff member. She combined these work experiences with academic studies to compare theoretical knowledge to the real world.

In order to be part of her client’s holiday, Vázquez learned different languages. Now, with 15 years in hotel management, she continues to learn a lot from staff as well as from clients. In the company’s lean journey, she was thrilled to discover how lean management values contributions and participation from customers and staff.

Richard Vellante

Richard Vellante
Executive Chef, Legal Sea Foods

Rich joined Legal Sea Foods as a chef in our restaurants and became Executive Chef in 1998. He now oversees all culinary operations, developing new recipes and menus as well as managing and training the culinary staff in all our kitchens.

A graduate of Hamilton College, he studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City before spending two years in Italy, cooking his way through several provinces using traditional, farm-fresh ingredients and seafood. He is also the former chef-owner of a three-star restaurant in Massachusetts.

Rich earned a Chef 2000 award, was voted “Menu Strategist of the Year” by Restaurant Business and was included among the nation’s Top 50 R&D Chefs by Nation’s Restaurant News. He has designed numerous dinners for the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs; he was the first civilian chef in US history to cook for the nation’s Senators (2002 and 2004) and he has repeated as guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House and Culinary Foundation in New York City.

He also recently attended the executive education program at Harvard Business School.


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