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VIA keynote speaker touts ‘lean’ and mean

Consultant learned ‘lean’ lesson when deciding to put money into the family business or eat

Posted: April 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Don Copeland speaks at the Valley Industry Association luncheon on Tuesday.  Don Copeland speaks at the Valley Industry Association luncheon on Tuesday. 
Don Copeland speaks at the Valley Industry Association luncheon on Tuesday. 

The keynote speaker at the Valley Industry Association’s luncheon on Tuesday said he was first introduced to the concept of lean manufacturing when his family had to make a decision between buying steel for their family operated business or putting food on the dinner table.

“We ate out of our garden the next week,” said Don Copeland, manufacturing consultant.

Describing the lean process of approaching the workflow in a plant or office, Copeland said it is the “relentless elimination of waste.”

Employing the process on the jobsite helps a company identify which workplace activities add value to the product or service they are providing, Copeland said. Every other task falls into the category of “unnecessary” – with some activities being needed, and some that can be eliminated altogether, he said.

The biggest advantage to practicing lean manufacturing, or process improvements, in the workplace, Copeland said, is that employees become, and remain, engaged in the day to day operations of the business.

The process helps business owners zero in on activities that add value to their bottom line, and prioritize all tasks around what adds value, he said.

And by eliminating tasks that are not needed, employers free up resources by saving time and eliminating redundancy.

Key to the success of using the lean manufacturing tool, however, is that the leadership team needs to fully buy into the method and remove workplace obstacles so that employees can achieve results.

Practicing lean manufacturing, however, is not necessarily a one-time overhaul, Copeland said. The tool can be used throughout the growth and history of a company.

“Lean is a journey, there’s really no end,” he said. “It’s continuous improvement. No matter how lean you get you can always make it better.”




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