Melanie Veness: PCB CEO
I am convinced that industrializing our economy is the only way that we will be able to make a significant dent in our unemployment figures, and in order to do that, we’re going to have to make some pretty serious changes to the operating environment.We’ve got to address energy costs, security of supply issues and labour inflexibility and volatility no doubt, but it’s not just the environment outside the factory that needs to adapt, we are competing in the global arena and we need to make sure that our operations are being run according to world standards.
For this reason, I have become very interested in productivity improvement, in particular, I am passionate about Lean Manufacturing. Lean is a work place philosophy and production practice that focuses on preserving value whilst eliminating waste. It is based on the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is an integrated socio-technical system developed by Toyota comprising its management philosophy and practices. Our chamber has, in the past, invited internationally acclaimed Lean leaders to come and teach local industrialists to apply lean thinking as a strategy and the input on the whole has been very well received.
In 2011 we hosted our first KZN Lean Congress with French Sensei and Author Dr. Michael Ballé as the keynote speaker. Since then we’ve done some Gemba Walks and encouraged practical learning on the shop floor, but this year we decided that it was time to host another congress, and so local Lean consultants from Training Leadershp Consulting and I sat down to identify a suitable key note speaker. Our first choice was American, Art Byrne, and I must admit to having high fived several people when he agreed to come to South Africa. If you don’t know Art, allow me introduce him to you.
In the pantheon of Hall of Fame CEOs, there are lean legends. And then there’s Art Byrne. Byrne’s roll-up-your-sleeves, get-to-the-gemba approach to implementing lean has become a benchmark, if not the benchmark, for executive involvement in continuous-improvement initiatives. Byrne began his lean journey as general manager at the General Electric Company and although he has spearheaded lean conversions at more than 30 companies in 14 countries, his dramatic transformation of Wiremold Co. in the 1990s is what has brought him the most acclaim. Art is the CEO that Jim Womack (widely considered to be the father of Lean) wrote about in his book “Lean Thinking”.
When Byrne took the helm of Wiremold in 1991, earnings at the wiring and cable manufacturer had plummeted by more than 80% over the previous two years. The term “lean” had not been coined yet, and, as Byrne’s notes in his own book, “Lean Turnaround”, he was the only person at Wiremold with experience in the principles and methods of the Toyota Production System, and so he squared up to face the turnaround challenge. With a focus on productivity, process improvement and teamwork, Byrne built a lean culture from the plant floor up. He created a lean-methods manual, trained the first 150 people and led Wiremold’s first kaizen events. Over the next decade, as Wiremold employees became “true believers in Lean,” the company grew its enterprise value by 2467%, boosted its sales from $100 million to $400 million, improved productivity by 162% and made dramatic gains in a slew of metrics ranging from lead time to inventory turns. In 2000, Byrne sold the company to France’s Legrand SA.
Prior to Wiremold, Byrne served as a group executive at Danaher Corp, where he and fellow Manufacturing Hall of Famer, George Koenigsaecker, helped to create a lean culture that has since been codified in the widely admired Danaher Business System. Art Byrne is currently an Operating Partner with J.W. Childs Associates, a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations of middle-market growth companies, where he leads the implementation of lean management at Childs’ portfolio of companies.Byrne’s successful lean implementations at Danaher and Wiremold, and more recently with J.W. Childs Associates, are powerful case studies that underscore the importance of the adoption of Lean as a strategy. Byrne is certainly worth listening to and learning from, and it’s not every day that you get an opportunity to, so don’t miss the KZN Lean Congress, powered by Vodacom, on the 30th September and 1st October at Hilton College. Bookings can be done on line at http://www.pcb.org.za/event/kzn-lean-conference/