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Featured Lean Thinker: Chris Paulsen

The latest member of our Featured Lean Thinker group is Chris Paulsen. Chris and I have commented back and forth several times on various blog posts, and you’ll see his ideas frequently on blogs and forums throughout the Lean community. He’s got a sharp eye for picking up the nuances of an article and always adds some great insight.

He also has his own blog, and does Lean consulting work.

Of particular interest, take a look at his comments about his career progression. His experience is more common than you might think—being Lean without knowing it. It just reinforces my theory that Lean is founded in common sense.

What does Lean mean to you?

To me, Lean is a relentless pursuit of excellence.  As Lean Leaders, we must instill a culture of Zero Losses.  This does not mean that there is no waste in an organization.  Nor does it necessarily mean that this year’s goals call for no injuries or quality mishaps.  It does mean that no losses are acceptable.  Lean Leaders work with their teams in a spirit of Continuous Improvement to drive out waste and improve the process.  Lean is a way of thinking. Lean is a way of leading.  Lean is a way of not only making improvement but also a way to sustain the gains.  Lean is a journey.

What was your first experience with Lean, and how did you know you were hooked?

My first experience with Lean was when I was a supervisor at Frito-Lay.  We were not calling it Lean yet and it was really Dr. Deming’s Total Quality approach for those that remember TQM.  I was not directly involved but started to see the benefit to Pareto charts and started to glean some knowledge.  Within a couple years I was a Production Manager at Lipton.  We were serious about Continuous Improvement and TQM.  The supply chain was going JIT and we had teams addressing one loss issue after another.  Start up losses were being driven out by the start up team and SMED principles were used to cut change-over times in half several times.  I was hooked when I saw how we could work with the team to drive out losses and make it a better place to work.  It was classic Theory X v. Theory Y management to me and I’d rather work with the team than have to fight them to make improvements.

What is your Lean claim to fame?

I would have to point to some of the great teams of which I was fortunate enough to be a member.  I was the Operations Manager of the Skippy Peanut Butter plant.  That team made some tremendous improvements and loss reductions.  I led a Kaizen team that focused on improving the roaster yield.  The cross-functional team that even included corporate Quality and R&D was able to deliver six figure annual savings with no capital investment.  That was fun.

Where do you see Lean going in the future? What is on the horizon?

Lean is gaining momentum and seems to be more mainstream.  I think that we will continue to see more companies getting on board with Lean.  I also expect that a lot of companies will say they are going Lean only to treat it as a Lean Tool Box and not really get fully on board.  Companies will find what works for them.

Chris’s Autobiography

Chris Paulsen is a Lean Manufacturing Consultant specializing in the Food & Beverage industry.  His background includes 20 years in various manufacturing leadership roles with Unilever, Nestle and Frito-Lay as well as smaller manufacturing companies.  You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn or follow him at Lean Leadership, Twitter, Facebook, or the Consumer Goods Club. Please reach out on any of these platforms to share Lean experiences or to discuss how Chris can help you on your Lean journey.


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