When I decided to change careers at the beginning of 2010 I had a vision of my future life. I had always worked for others during my 40 plus years of full time work and I was determined to change that by starting my own consulting business. My motives were many but first and foremost I wanted to stay engaged and active by helping others improve their business operations. I have been living my dream.
In August I received an email informing me that the participants in my July Shanghai, China Lean Safety workshop had formed an informal lean safety group and had shared their company’s evacuation plans with each other when a typhoon threatened the East coast of China. A small step indeed but it supported my goal of making a safety difference while in China.
Then in mid-September Sandy, my wife, and I headed to Australia. I had been invited to keynote at a manufacturing conference in Melbourne. Following the conference, arrangements had been made for me to facilitate a 2-day Lean Safety workshop/kaizen event in a chemical plant. The conference was sponsored by the SIRF Roundtable, a consortium of around 60 companies, and Leverage Lean, a local consulting firm. Attendance was around 100 with representatives and presenters from a variety of companies like Toyota, Kraft, Wilson Transformer and diverse industries including dairy products, mining and sheep processing. Just as in the U.S. most businesses in Australia are on the lean journey and it was a great two days of meeting and talking with many new people which allowed me to become very adept at saying, "How ya goin?".
Following the conference I facilitated the 2-day workshop/kaizen event at Nufarm, a global chemical company. 30 attendees from a variety of industries participated in the workshop held on the first day. A combination of presentation material and small team exercises provided them with the Lean Safety knowledge they would need the next day. On day two they were split into four kaizen teams and were sent to four different work centers to observe a work process with the intent of reducing soft tissue injury risks. Real learning occurred based on the survey results. Almost every attendee noted they now understood how you could anchor lean in a business culture by focusing on improving safety with lean tools.
We had a wonderful time traveling around Australia for two weeks following my week of work. The people who entertained us during the conference week and those we met during our travels were friendly and always helpful. The Aussie's pace of life seems a little slower than in the U.S. and their economy still seems strong. Their historical problem of being so distant from their export markets has lessened with the rapidly growing Chinese economy. Someone I talked with noted that ships carrying iron ore valued at 40 million dollars leave Western Australia for China weekly. I may have the opportunity to return to Australia next year to conduct additional Lean Safety events and I am already looking forward to seeing my new mates.
During a week at home, while recovering from serious jet lag, Sandy and I, along with three other couples, served homemade pizza to around 70 people at a homeless shelter. The individuals at the shelter were so appreciative of the meal they gave us a standing-O as we were departing. We also reduced the cycle time to feed 70 people to nine minutes. In January we will be back and I believe we can get the cycle time to 5 minutes or less. Then over the weekend I went back on the road. I traveled to Athens, Georgia to visit Power Partners. They are a manufacturer of power transformers and have a lean culture developed by a leadership team committed to growing their people.
Two of the staff from Power Partners had attended my Lean Safety workshop at the AME conference in 2010 and I was invited down to expose more of their employees to the concept of getting lean by focusing on safety. My time at Power Partner included an assessment of their safety culture. This was accomplished by observing some of their safety processes like a safety meeting and an incident investigation meeting. On day two I conducted a Lean Safety workshop. The day ended with a tour of three work centers where the kaizen teams would spend the following day. On day three all three teams observed individuals performing their work steps while trying to identify safety improvements that would in turn reduce the cycle time of the operation. At the end of the day each team completed a report out to the management team on the results of their efforts. It is always so rewarding watching kaizen teams amaze their managers with what they can accomplish when given the gift of time.
After returning home for a few days I headed to the largest lean conference in the world. This year the AME international conference was held in Dallas, Texas. My week started by facilitating a full day Lean Safety workshop on Monday and the balance of the week was filled with a variety of volunteer activities. I had a wonderful week during which I had the chance to catch up with many friends and acquaintances. It is almost like a reunion of lean thinkers. Consider attending AME's annual lean conference in 2012 when it will be held in Chicago if you have never experienced a lean conference of this size and depth.
Now home for two weeks, the longest stretch since June, I have a chance to catch up on some home responsibilities. I only have one more scheduled trip this year. That will be a two day event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Then it will be time to relax and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Since my dreams have already come true someone please tell Santa no gifts this year for Mr. Lean Safety! I am having the time of my life.