12/15/1998 | 6 MINUTE READ

LEAN As A Way of Work

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Donnelly Corp. is a supplier company that is undergoing a change from being an efficient manufacturing company to a lean one. This isn't going to happen overnight. In fact, the man who is driving it forward knows that it will take years to happen. There aren't silver bullets, just a lot of lean thinking.


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Russ Scaffede is the kind of guy who is outwardly calm, but driven. Seemingly patient, but dissatisfied with many aspects of the status quo.


side view
interior mirror
Mirrors, window systems, interior trim, and lighting are among the products produced by Donnelly. Its customers range from Acura to Volkswagen (and virtually every nameplate in between). To help assure that it is in a competitive position, the global organization is undergoing a transition to the Donnelly Production System.

Russ Scaffede is the kind of guy who you'd want to help drive your manufacturing operations into the 21stcentury. And that's precisely what he does for Donnelly Corp. (Holland, MI), the automotive supplier that provides automotive mirrors, windows, interior trim, and lighting systems and components. Scaffede is the corp-oration's senior vice president of Global Manufacturing Operations.

And while sometimes the "global manufacturing operations" on a business card means that the person in question makes a state visit to the far-flung operations that a company may have, Scaffede, since this past September, is spending more of his time in places that aren't in Holland, Michigan, but a whole lot closer to Holland as in the Netherlands. Donnelly has operations (wholly owned or joint ventures) in 11 countries. Because the company's European operations aren't performing well (operational issues were cited by the company in relation to a fiscal 1999 first quarter loss of $2 million), Scaffede and three other Donnelly executives are focusing their efforts overseas. When the financial results were announced, Dwane Baumgardner, Donnelly chairman and CEO, remarked, "While we have been disappointed with European performance over the past year, we are confident that the new team will successfully bring about the changes that are needed because they have many years of proven experience in Donnelly and our specific markets."

At Toyota Georgetown

Scaffede may be familiar to many people in the auto industry. He spent some 20 years with General Motors in a variety of manufacturing positions. Then in 1988 he had the opportunity to join Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, KY, where he became the vice president of Powertrain at the facility. Indeed, he was the first team member in Powertrain. This experience with Toyota, especially with one man in particular, Mr. Fujio Cho, gave him a grounding in the Toyota Production System. Cho, after working for Toyota in Japan for 28 years, had started at the Georgetown manufacturing operation in 1986 as the executive vice president and chief operating officer; he became the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing USA in December, 1988, a position he held until 1994. Cho is largely credited with helping create the culture that is the fabric of the Toyota manufacturing operations in the U.S. And he had quite an effect on Scaffede, who recalls, "He taught clearly." Which is something that Scaffede tries to do.

One of the lessons Scaffede says he learned from Cho: "The Georgetown System is bigger than the individual." In other words, a lean organization is just that: an organization, a group, an array of people who are thinking and acting lean, not just a person or two who has the know-how and the understanding.

After five years with Toyota, Scaffede became a consultant. His area of expertise, not unexpectedly, was lean production. During this 2.5 years in the consulting business, he'd spent a lot of time working with Ford, especially its Cleveland Engine Plant. ("I'm thoroughly convinced," he comments, "That Ford is making the transition to lean." And it should be noted that the reference to the automakermaking the move is a good thing, as Scaffede is convinced that becoming lean is not something that happens overnight. Indeed, those who think there's a fast track to lean are grossly in error in Scaffede's estimation. Indeed, those who aren't in-terested in spendingyears at the ground work may find themselves back where they were before they started.)

Building a System Brick-by-Brick

Scaffede left the consulting industry, he says, "Because there were too many airplane flights." He was spending too much time on the road. So in October 1995 Scaffede joined Donnelly as its vice president of Manufacturing. He acknowledges that it is somewhat ironic that his global position is putting him out on the road far more than consulting requirements did, but he is committed to helping implement a program that gives a nod to its source in its very name: the Donnelly Production System (DPS). It's no accident that DPS is close to TPS—the Toyota Production System. But production systems are individual things that must be tailored to a particular organization. Many of the elements may be common, but how those elements are presented and implemented need to be aligned to a corporate culture. DPS is going to be driven throughout the entire corporation. Scaffede has done some of the fundamental development work in the U.S. He's now undertaking that same task overseas. But no matter where it is implemented, it will share commonality.

The fundamentals of the DPS, Equipment Reliability and Level Production, really are the bases of the system. That is, Scaffede illustrates the system through a graphic of a temple-like building, and those two elements make up the foundation. The two pillars holding up the roof are In-Station Process Control and Just-in-Time. The roof of the system consists of Quality, Cost, Productivity, Safety, and Morale. And housed inside the building are Work Teams.

More than images and/or rhetoric, the DPS has functions and operations that actualize the elements, such as the 5S routine so that things are sorted, straightened, sanitized, etc.; there is a pull system in place; total productive maintenance (TPM) is implemented, and so on.


Russ Scaffede
Russ Scaffede, Donnelly's senior vice president of Global Manufacturing Operatins, is working to bring lean thinking and lean practices to the company's worlwide manufacturing organization.

One of the things that Scaffede emphasizes is that the efforts to implement and to sustain a lean production approach—which is essentially what the DPS is—must be on-going. The support must start at the top of the organization and work its way all the way down through the ranks. He points out that lean thinking and doing must be kept at day after day.

The reason: Say something goes awry in an operation, which, given the existence of Murphy's Law, is completely within the realm of reason. What happens then? Chances are, the newly implemented behavior—or at least comparatively new behavior—gives way to past practices. Speaking of the people who react this way, Scaffede observes, "It's not because they're negative. It's because that's the way they've operated for 20 years." It isn't until the lean approach is the natural way of doing things that this behavior won't occur. Which takes time.

"Americans grab tools," Scaffede observes. "At Toyota, they concentrate on a philosophy."

A tool is something you pick up . . . and then put down. A philosophy is a way of life, an on-going thing. So Scaffede is working on developing the latter. To be sure, they're using tools—the visual factory, the checklists, the cross training, the housekeeping, and so on—but the real efforts seem to be changing what is already a culture that's better than that found at many other manufacturing companies—they've been operating with participative management at Donnelly for years—into a place where the DPS is natural, a way of work.


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