Ron Kelner joined Deublin, a company that manufactures rotating unions and slip rings, as President and COO in 2002. As he learned the business, the company’s culture stood out in a positive way. In particular, he noticed how much trust there was between managers and frontline workers. But he also recognized a problem. Deublin’s admirable culture was due in large part to having a long-tenured workforce. And while the company benefited from that in many ways, such as having deep technical expertise, it was also dealing with one retirement after another.
The “good news” was that Ron had a solution – automation! As the company’s human expertise was disappearing, Deublin tried replacing that capability by investing heavily in machines. Unfortunately, the machines turned out to be not-so-reliable. With a tinge of PTSD, Ron recalls Monday morning discoveries of large batches of defect parts and/or broken down equipment.
The (non-parenthetical) good news was that Ron next discovered the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean Thinking. In this podcast, Ron describes how Deublin’s use of Lean Thinking has gone from being tools-focused, which he credits with laying a solid foundation of Lean Thinking at the company, to a business system with problem-solving and human development as its core.
In addition to listening to this podcast, you can download the transcript with LEI’s President Josh Howell. Ron and his colleagues will share more about how Lean Thinking guides the company at the Lean Summit 2020 in Carlsbad, CA on April 6th and 7th.