Log in
Log in


Our Blog

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   Next >  Last >> 
  • July 05, 2024 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dave Rizzardo, MWCC Associate Director 

    Joyce La Padula, (MWCC Managing Director), Carl Livesay (General Manager of Mercury Plastics), and I attended the inaugural IW Operations Leadership Summit in Indianapolis, IN, June 26-28. As a Summit sponsor, we had an exhibit table, and Carl and I presented on “Sustaining Your Lean Gains”.

    The Summit featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions on "Continuous Improvement" and "Technology Adoption," and end-of-day networking. We focused mainly on Continuous Improvement but also attended combined sessions on technology. Key topics included Lean/Continuous Improvement, Technology, and addressing the challenges of filling the employee pipeline. Here are a few highlights from the Summit.

    Brett Wood - North America President & CEO, Toyota Material Handling North America

    The opening keynote speaker was Brett Wood, North America President & CEO, Toyota Material Handling North America. They make forklifts, not cars. What struck me is that this is a top executive of a $6 billion company, but his presentation largely focused on the basic building blocks of Lean. Their dedication to developing people was captured in the phrases, “Making things is about making people” and “Engage-Educate-Empower.” He talked about involving people in improvement and encouraging small ideas (kaizen), the 8 wastes, their standard daily meetings, and 5S principles. He mentioned the old Tom Peters acronym, MBWA (Management by Wandering Around), and Genchi Genbutsu which is more commonly used in the Lean community.

    He even showed the short 5-Why video on the deterioration of the Jefferson Memorial which is often shown as part of a Lean introductory session on root cause analysis. Keep in mind, this is a top executive within the parent company, Toyota Industries Corporation, and currently the only non-Japanese executive in his role, and he’s focusing on the nuts-and-bolts of problem solving and the fundamentals of Lean. He also shared a short video on an improvement in the factory by a gentleman named Al who worked on the production floor. It involved a jig that Al made. This short video captured perfectly the essence and power of employee engagement. Mr. Wood covered more topics too extensive to elaborate on here, but I felt that his keynote clearly showcased his respect for people, focusing on core Lean principles and values, and excelling in the basics. A message any company who wants to develop a Lean culture should heed.

    IndustryWeek Best Plants Winners

    Following Brett Wood was a panel of current and past IndustryWeek Best Plants winners. As would be expected, they all focused on leadership development and workforce engagement as key components of their culture. I appreciated the response from Tom Lego, Toyota Material Handling, regarding an audience question on how to handle employee ideas that are not really feasible or practical. He emphasized having a discussion to uncover the reason for the idea. Maybe this can be turned into an idea that is feasible. I believe this is so important, to not only get to the root of the issue, but to show respect, and it becomes a coaching/development opportunity.

    Another interesting comment from Mr. Lego was that they don’t document all of the small ideas so much any more since the team leaders are leading their teams in improvement activities in their work areas. I am not sure that I agree with “not documenting,” but likely there is another capture mechanism not mentioned to enable sharing and monitoring of improvements. However, the mention of the role of front-line leaders leading their teams in improvement is what I appreciated.

    Mayville Engineering Company (MEC)

    One of the later breakout sessions in the Continuous Improvement track was by David Higgs from Mayville Engineering Company (MEC) who reviewed their 2-year Lean progress. David described their processing environment as high mix/low volume. Besides their improvement activities, top leadership commitment was noted again, a common Lean theme throughout the Summit. David also mentioned their vision of having the front-line leaders leading the kaizen activity, and the importance of early involvement of front-line leadership to gain ownership. However, admittedly, they are not at their vision yet, but their progress within two years was impressive, and I like their vision.


    As mentioned, the first day of the Summit included a couple technology sessions which we attended which were put on by celonis and amentum. Both sessions focused on the integration of information. One of the amentum key discussion items was predictive maintenance approaches rather than relying on preventive maintenance activities. Though not a new topic, the sensing and information technology of today increases the feasibility for more organizations. Both technology sessions highlighted to me the need to investigate and learn more about the capabilities of the latest information technology and how this may help organizations meet their goals.

    Professor Phil Powell, Indiana University

    The final day of the Summit started with the news that the scheduled keynote speaker was replaced with Professor Phil Powell from Indiana University. He is the Executive Director, Indiana Business Research Center and Clinical Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy. Immediately, some of us prepared for a dry, theoretical, academic discussion sure to put us in nap mode even though the day had just begun. However, we were pleasantly shocked by Dr. Powell’s energetic and real world talk on increasing productivity. He had a pulse on the business community as deep as any of the participating companies. His insights could only have been formed by a deep engagement with the business community.

    The four categories that he focused on were Better Technology, Better Infrastructure, Better Talent, and Better Management. Regarding Better Talent, Indiana’s apprenticeship approach was highlighted not only by Dr. Powell, but by other speakers as well. Regarding Better Management, he stated something to the effect that this is the most cost-effective approach that you can do to increase productivity. His one slide noted, “Modernize “old school” approaches to managing workers. You can accommodate a younger generation and still hold them accountable.” He raises the question, “Have you made your shop the most exciting and fulfilling place to work in your industry?” Good question! Think about the ramifications of this, both short and long term.


    Following Dr. Powell’s surprisingly impactful keynote, we heard from a couple folks from the Subaru Indiana facility and their impressive Lean journey. They reviewed several topics that were right in line with the major Summit themes of continuous improvement and embracing technology. However, there were a couple specific comments that struck me. One was “Focus on what is going right, not only what is wrong.” I can’t remember what their exact context was surrounding this statement, but I feel that it is a good reminder for a few reasons, not only to highlight and recognize “right” behaviors, but also to get to the root causes of the right behavior and apply this knowledge to improve the deficient areas.

    The other comment from one of the Subaru presenters was something that their CEO had stated. He said that there are two jobs here, those who build cars, and those who support the folks who build cars. Determine which you are and get good at it. This quite simply puts a manufacturing organization in perspective…those who add value, and those who support those who add value. They ended their presentation by showing a short video that is shown to all Subaru employees. It was a story of how the safety features of the Subaru saved a gentleman’s life when he was involved in a terrible accident in a snowstorm. The presenters didn’t elaborate too much on this video, but to me, it strikes right at the topic of “purpose.”


    The two final breakout sessions in the Continuous Improvement track focused on Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing, and Timken’s Lean Transformation Journey. Both were as impactful as what I already highlighted. There were plenty more takeaways from the Summit, but this message is already excessively long, so I will end my thoughts on the Summit here. I strongly recommend that you consider attending the 2025 IndustryWeek Summit. IndustryWeek will surely embrace continuous improvement, learn from this year’s inaugural Summit and make it even better next year.

  • June 14, 2024 2:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Carl Livesay, General Manager, Mercury Plastics

    At Mercury Plastics, members of our leadership team noticed several books in my office. When certain circumstances arose, I would recommend reading a specific book. Well-written books provide different perspectives on any given topic, along with foundational support for good decision-making.

    So, we started a book club. Anyone interested could participate. People could join or stop at any time, but the books were read in a semi-strategic sequence, so if you started later, you read each book starting with book number 1.

    For each book, we allocated a specific amount of time to read it, usually 4 – 6 weeks. Then we met as a group for lunch and a brief review of the book chapter by chapter. The day before the luncheon, chapter assignments were handed out, giving each person an opportunity to prepare to lead a discussion on their assigned chapters.

    This is one of my favorite approaches to improving communication and building teamwork among the leadership team for several reasons:

    1. Building Camaraderie: This was an unintended but welcome outcome.
    2. Diverse Interpretations: People learn that each chapter can be interpreted in multiple ways and different details resonate with each person.
    3. Improved Communication: The communication between team members improves dramatically.

    Books are chosen for their relevance to our lifestyle of Lean. Everyone is encouraged to suggest a book, provided they have already read it. It is worth noting that we provide the books in the language of the readers’ choosing. We also encourage people to purchase the audio version to listen to on the way to and from work.

    Our reading list is always growing:

    1. That’s Not What I Meant – Deborah Tannen
      ISBN: 978-0-06-206299-4
      This short book discusses how conversation style impacts communication. Tannen describes how to choose words that communicate effectively and how to listen to learn instead of listening to reply. I have personally read this book almost two dozen times.
    2. Zap! The Lightening of Empowerment – William Byham Ph.D.
      ISBN: 978-0-449-00282-7
      This story-style book talks about how to build confidence in others and how to help them build confidence in you. The author underscores the value of letting go so others can experience the sweet taste of success.
    3. Who Moved My Cheese – Dr. Spencer Johnson
      ISBN: 978-0-09-181697-1
      When our team at Mercury first read this book, they understood why we keep challenging them. The remarks from team members were hilarious when they realized we were doing everything for a reason.
    4. What Every Body Is Saying – Joe Navarro
      ISBN: 978-0-06-143829-5
      This book describes in easy-to-understand terms how to interpret non-verbal communication and how to communicate the same way. While words are important when communicating, body language is equally important. This book remains a team favorite. It is a game changer for people in a leadership role—very entertaining and educational.
    5. The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R. Covey
      ISBN: 978-0-7432-9730-1
      As every good leader knows, trust is essential to sustained success. The author explains the essence of trust, why it is difficult to earn, and easy to lose. The book is a little salesy but well worth the read.
    6. Lean – Let’s Get It Right – David Rizzardo
      ISBN: 978-0-367-33507-6
      This is a boots-on-the-ground guide for Lean. Full disclosure, the author is a friend and colleague. When we read this book, we invited Dave to join us for lunch. He kindly participated in a thorough discussion and generously autographed everyone’s book. We had been working towards a lifestyle of Lean, and Dave’s book resonated with everyone. He is direct and to the point with advice, guidance, and warnings. Great book. Great consultant.
    7. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
      ISBN: 978-1-9821-3727-4
      We are currently reading this classic and while it is taking longer than many others, the value is deep-rooted. If you read this book for what it is intended, self-help, the lessons learned are disruptive and exciting. Simply stated, the recommendations of the author work.
    8. Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
      ISBN: 978-1591848011
      The author articulates the logic behind the U.S. Marine Corps training regimen and why the officers eat last. He explains what it means to serve others, the circle of safety, and the importance of trust in an organization. I am reading this book currently and it is exceptional. Very relevant to the lifestyle of Lean. This will be the next book for our group.

    To be successful, establishing trust between the leadership and the rest of the team is imperative. Communication at all levels must be equally successful. Much of the content in these books helped our team learn how to communicate effectively and positively, how to demonstrate trust in their team, and, equally important, how to recognize when others trusted them as their leaders.

    When trust is established, and communication is strong, amazing things begin to happen. As team members realize they are encouraged to act in the best interest of the company and they are neither chastised nor punished for failure, their self-confidence begins to grow. After the first few successes, self-confidence and self-esteem begin to flourish. When this occurs, a circle of safety is established. We call that a first-responder attitude. Much like firefighters and police officers head into trouble not knowing what is in store for them, people operating in a circle of safety lean in towards the challenge. This is amazing to watch and exciting to be a part of.

  • January 12, 2024 4:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It's critical to train and engage the people who most workers report to and communicate with. ~Dave Rizzardo

    One of the greatest challenges when developing a lean culture is how to get everyone engaged in the continuous improvement strategy. As with any arduous endeavor, it’s beneficial to look for a few points of leverage that provide a disproportionate amount of impact.

    Often, a great place to start is with front-line leaders, making it a priority to teach, coach and mentor them to align their behavior with lean principles and goals.  Continue reading...

  • January 12, 2024 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kudos to our very own Associate Director, Dave Rizzardo, for claiming two spots on IndustryWeek's "Dazzling Dozen: 12 of the Best in Lean and Continuous Improvement in 2023"!  No surprise that is has to do with people, either.  Taking #5, his Respect for People Webinar, and #12, his Respect for People article.  Congratulations, Dave.  Thanks for leading by example!!

  • December 04, 2023 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Too often, the answer to early success is having everyone work harder and longer.  Carl Livesay

    As businesses transition to the next phase of maturity, their talent requirements change direction. To paraphrase Helen Keller, a bend in the road is only the end if you fail to make the turn.

    During a manufacturer’s start-up phase, it is common for leaders to surround themselves with people in their image: Trusted and talented people with superior technical abilities and a strong work ethic.  Continue reading here.

  • October 25, 2023 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ...Takes Patience, Coaching and Mentoring.  It's important to realize that there are underlying factors contributing to a person’s readiness to learn and take on new tasks. Carl Livesay

    In this tight labor market, workforce development is required of every company. But how do you develop your team? Patience, coaching and mentoring are especially important. Let’s look at all three in action.  

    Click the link for the full article:

  • October 21, 2023 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ERP selection is a challenging task and the consequences of poor selection or failed implementation can disrupt a business for years. Success depends on teamwork. The following is the first part of a three-part series on the dos and don'ts of Enterprise Resource Planning systems—what can go right for manufacturers and what can go wrong. Read the full article authored by Carl Livesay here

  • October 03, 2023 5:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Respect for People—The Fundamental Lean Manufacturing Principle for Improving Operations” is a webinar featuring our Associate Director, Dave Rizzardo!  Dave believes that without alignment with the “Respect for People” Principle, a Lean Culture of Continuous Improvement Is Impossible!

    This event was originally broadcast on August 17, 2023 and is now available for on demand viewing. To access the archived presentation, please click on the following link:

    When presented with the webpage, simply enter your email address and click ‘Log in Now’ to view. If you have questions about this event, please email

  • October 03, 2023 3:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The IndustryWeek Talent Board question for September was: Several employment reports suggest that the labor market has cooled a bit in recent months, rebounding from the massive numbers of people voluntarily quitting jobs last year. What's your take on the quality and availability of talent on the market today?

    To read part one of September's responses, click here.

    Build Teams with Fair Market Wages and Plan for the Long Term—Carl Livesay, General Managery, Mercury Plastics, Inc.

    In South Baltimore, we have noticed a steady decline in the desire for full-time employment. This is exacerbated by the abundance of government subsidies and the failure to support those who are deserving while unintentionally promoting fraud. It is particularly sad to learn that some people refuse 40 hours of work so they can remain below the threshold for one or more government funded subsidies. There are strong financial incentives for people to stay at home and not work. 

    The resulting lack of interest earning an honest living appears to be more prevalent in single adult males under the age of 35. In contrast, single women and single parents supporting a household have emerged as an even stronger workforce resource than before. Recently a surge in business presented an opportunity for a considerable amount of overtime. We were again surprised by the number of people who said they were simply not interested in overtime rates.

    With many of the recent special government giveaway programs now ended, artificially high prices will likely start to normalize. Impulse purchases will slow down. Housing prices and interest rates will return to normal. We are hopeful that people will again be incentive to earn a livable wage at fair market value.

    For many companies, sales are down more than 20% compared to last year. Those that are over-leveraged are struggling to make loan payments and to stay in compliance with bank terms. Cash flow is poor and payments to suppliers are chronically late. Artificially high labor prices are resulting in permanent layoffs.

    In contrast, companies like ours, who resisted the temptation to pay unrealistic wages are on solid ground with their workforce. They continue to build teams earning livable fair market wages with excellent benefits. These companies are planning for the team members’ future long term, so they are naturally selective when hiring and training new people. 

    We are leaning towards the future as we begin building the next generation of senior technical talent and mid-level leaders. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to find career minded people interested in the future. Fortunately, our investment in lean manufacturing has yielded tremendous benefits operationally and financially. Lean has enabled our company and our workforce to be both scalable and sustainable. We are well positioned to scale the business as needed, and we are ready to capitalize on temporary and permanent surges in business at a moment’s notice.

    It bears mention that the quality of the available labor pool is increasingly disappointing. It appears this poor-quality worker resource is consistent with a lack of responsibility from the worker both professionally and personally. A large number are not investing in themselves and their careers with time or money. Absent of interest by the worker becoming better professionally, they risk replacement by someone who is. There is an emphasis and almost obsession with instant gratification and selfishness. People are easy to find, however good team members are elusive.

    We have been very fortunate to attract and retain a solid team. People that care and people that appreciate that we care about them. When the market and the economy look like a zig zag stitch from a singer sewing machine, it is prudent to focus on the team members that work as a team. In this scenario corporate culture matters most. Do team members feel appreciated? Is there trust? Is the company communicating opening keeping the team informed? Does the team believe you?

    If you build your team on a solid foundation of trust, this is where you realize your return on the investment. The same holds true for your partners (customers and suppliers). If everyone works together, communicating openly and honestly, then the results will be more positive. Manufacturing is a team sport.

  • September 20, 2023 1:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chutes International, a leading manufacturer of internal and external plastic and steel chutes and compactors, opened its doors this past week to fellow members of the MWCC for an exclusive plant tour. The event showcased not only the remarkable progress they've made on their Lean journey but also their innovative approach to applying Agile principles in their operations.

    Since 2019, Chutes has been on a transformative journey towards operational excellence, and their commitment to continuous improvement was evident throughout the plant tour. Visitors were able to witness firsthand the numerous enhancements made to the shop floor and manufacturing processes. The company's dedication to efficiency and waste reduction was clearly visible in the streamlined workflow and organized workstations.

    One of the most compelling aspects of Chutes' Lean journey was the application of Lean principles within their sales organization. They demonstrated how a Lean mentality, typically associated with production, can be extended to improve processes and decision-making in other departments. This cross-functional approach emphasized collaboration and waste reduction across the board.

    The plant tour also shed light on the company's innovative use of Scrum and Agile techniques. They introduced their "product improvement team" concept, which brings together leaders from the shop floor, engineering, and research & development. This interdisciplinary team works collaboratively to identify opportunities for improvement, rapidly prototype solutions, and implement changes to enhance product quality and customer satisfaction.  By leveraging Agile methodologies, they have embraced a dynamic and customer-centric approach to product development. This enables them to respond swiftly to changing market demands and continuously refine their offerings, ensuring they stay at the forefront of the industry.

    Their commitment to efficiency, collaboration, and customer-centricity serves as an inspiring example for all those on a similar path towards excellence in manufacturing and product development.

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   Next >  Last >> 

Support the Consortia

We invite you to support our organization at many different levels.

Join Now   Sponsor the MWCC

Join Our Mailing List   Subscribe

© Maryland World Class Consortia, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Website by GNPWDR

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software