Transforming in Manufacturing

A Lean Transformation
  • Role: Value Stream Leader/ Controls Engineer
  • Mission: Increase Profits
  • Period: 4/2009 - 2011
Previous work
alternative title

Fryerning Hall Barn


Take a failing, newly bought
company by investors
and make it profitable.

Life Impacting

This use case describes the story of my fundamental lean business thinking. Being pretty fresh out of Marine Corps, a lean, efficient way of thinking about life still remained true and many of these Lean Manufacturing concepts made a lot of sense to me. I would like to discuss some of the most impactful, specific lessons learned that lead to the solutions implemented and resulted in a profitable transformation. This transformation took place over about 18 months and centralized around continuous improvement. The company that guided me through this transformation is a top private manufacturing capital investment firm that flips companies $100 million in revenue and above. They set my long term life goal; buy companies, transform them for the better, then sell them for a large profit, ethically.

Transformation Preparations

American Industrial Partners were not playing around when they said Mark Andy was transforming to a Lean Enterprise. They all flew on their private jet and landed at a little private airport close to the plant, appointed a transformation team and we went to "AIP boot camp". This involved Lean Certifications, Lean Sigma, their own flavor of management and flying to other facilities they owned to review their transformations. It was nice to have the ability to speak with other folks that used the same systems and gave us motivation. AIP did many unique things I dont think would have been learned anywhere else and is what sets them apart as a leader in the industry. Once we were armed with the tools we planned a kick off Kiazen and the 9 of us went to transform the company in every aspect.

Value Stream Mapping combined with,
Identifying the 7 Common Types of Waste

The way we were taught these concepts was unique in we were taught a lesson or group of lessons and immediately would go implement or perform the exercise on our plant floor. The first 2 lessons learned and implemented was Identifying the 7 common type of waste in a business and Value Stream Mapping. We then walked down to the plant floor built a VSM and identify waste throughout the entire business. Our team recorded areas of waste and the following concepts will teach us how to eliminate or reduce the waste. The purpose of this exercise is so each team member can see how value flows through a business and identifies areas to reduce lead time of value achieved. Now anytime I am in a business I am looking for the 7 common types of waste and piecing together value streams. In transformations, this is one of the first exercises I strongly encourage to do as it doesnt take a long time and serves the team lots of value throughout the duration.


Originally Japanese terms and maybe the most commonly heard of term, we translated 5s and performed them in this order: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize ans Sustain. We went right down stairs and 5sed an area. If the worker used the tool once an hour it was in arms reach, if they used it once a day it was in the work area, if used once a week, located outside their work area, once a month in the business unit section and once a year, in inventory checkout somewhere out the section. We standardized the tool sets in each workstation so each worker had the same tools, John no longer has the special tool Larry and Steve needs to borrow. We marked and or cut out places where tools go in the tools boxes, marked areas with colored tape for where parts are staged, where dunage is placed, where finished assemblies are placed isles, work cells and many other things. Each color represented; everything has a place and everything is in its place. This also played a role in Visual Management in which will be discussed later. Overtime 5s was implemented to each work station and greatly increased efficiencies. Relating this to software, every programmers laptop would have the same tools, same set up, same image. This would reduce when one programmer needs to assist another and solve several other problems inside a dev team.


Even though Standardization is included in 5s this is relating to the business as a whole and implemented over time. In my opinion this is one of the most important principles in any business. How can a company get actionable metrics when nothing is standard? That does not mean do not change, it means everyone does something the same way. If there is a better way lets do it. Even further I standardized everything, the bill of materials standardized, if wrong fill out the kiazen sheet we will change it, standardized assembly prints, no one had a little special print hidden away that only Ziggy had. I standardized the program and moved tuning parameters to the HMI, now I dont have to personally program every machine and can focus my engineering on custom machinery. Every process was standardized inside assembly area. Outside the assembly area we standardized vendors, accounting process, machines that were available to be sold. Standardizing the sales was very important as it allowed us to stabilize other areas, not every sale was necessarily a good sale. Looking at enterprises I am looking to standardize everything possible and measure changes.

Visual Management

Although every concept mentioned is working to eliminate the 7 common types of waste, this concept uniquely reduced waste across many areas of the business. Visual Management is exactly what it reads, managing peoples actions by visualization. A simple case is when we marked the areas of unfinished good, assembled goods, finished goods etc, the empty space would tell another employee to take action, rather that was go get the next bill of material, order another cabinet, index the line and many other operations would automatically happen with out a single word spoken. An advanced concept was each cell across all AIP portfolio companies had visual, charted metrics above it simply colored red, green, yellow for each days performance. This would allow for more guided daily discussions to actual problems that effected our decided KPIs. SQDIP will be discussed later. The most interesting thing about Visual Management is the investors, owners, consultants could fly into any of their portfolio facilities, do a Gemba walk and pin point any problems in the business and take action immediately. All charts were done in paper and marker.

Metrics SQDIP

Inorder of importance, each day I would monitor, collect, calculate, and plot the following metrics; Safety, Quality, Delivery, Inventory and Productivity. Each of these metrics still hold true when looking at any businesses work force. In software I equate Safety to Security, but is the number one metric because an injury or a software security breech can instantly and forever ruin the business. The next most important metric is Quality. When the unit delivers the product to the user how many defects are there? Internal and external, that's purpose behind each department having their on set of charts. It visually shows upstream and downstream dependency performance. Next is Delivery, is the unit delivering the product on time to the user. Inventory, does the business unit have the inventory needed to produce the product? In software I relate this to Talent or People not to say people are just inventory but truth is does the unit have enough talent to deliver a quality product on time? Last order of importance but still importance is Productivity, is the workforce productive? Each metric has a green, yellow, red thresh hold which is driven by customer demand. Rotoflex needed to ship 3 machines a week we were shipping about 1 maybe 2 a month. Although many concepts already discussed helped with these metrics, others concepts used to achieve customer demand were reduce wip, kanaban inventory system, pokayoke processes, get rid of tribal knowledge.

Bus Proof

This page really could go on all day but probably my last topic as I hope the message has been relayed. Bus proofing is a harsh term but a real reality and can be difficult to achieve at times. This means if any one person gets hit by a bus it should not hurt the business. This includes things like getting rid of tribal knowledge, keeping very good documentation and cross training team members. At the start of the transformation I was the only person probably in the region that knew how to program a Siemens MasterDrive and the only person in the company that could commission a rewinder after initial assembly. Sounds like job security but really this required many hours after the labor force went home, would require me to sit in there all night and commission the machines. A lot of times alone, which violates number one metric, Safety. If my arm got caught or a role flew off and smashed me know would be able to help and I could die. Machines would stop shipping upon death until Siemens found an engineer that new Masterdrives, flew them in and learned how a rewinder worked and then commission the machine. Masterdrives were end of life and Mark Andy was about the last customer left still ordering them. To fix this initially as mentioned, I standardized the PLC program for all 5 rewinder models, wrote a solid program for the Masterdrives, documented it all step by step. I made it possible for anyone to load the code to the areas of the machine with a thumb drive. Made drive tuning parameters available on the HMI. Added all available models and options to be configurable from the HMI. One program now. The next step was to completely overhaul and upgrade the rewinder control system so more engineers were available in the workforce. Eventually, I moved on from Rotoflex Assembly Value Stream Leader role/ Engineer and transformed the Global, Rotoflex service department that serviced 86 countries and served and served as the Rotoflex Service Manager.


  • The principles learned through this transformation will for ever influence the way I look at business and approach any project. These are just a few of the main concepts that stood out as gamechangers for the transformation. The end results our business unit went from 30 day cycle time to 9 shipping 3 machines a week