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Featured Lean Thinker: Tim McMahon

In an effort to build the Lean community, I am introducing a new weekly posting in the Gotta Go Lean Blog. Every Thursday, I will profile a “Featured Lean Thinker”. These are the people who have a voice in the Lean community, and are shaping the way people think about and practice Lean. I ask each person the same series of questions so you can get to know them a little better.

This week’s Lean thinker is a fellow blogger, Tim McMahon. Although he writes in his spare time, he has some great articles and has even done a podcast with me about Lean leadership. Unlike many part-time bloggers, Tim is great about keeping to a schedule and posts regularly. Tim started blogging at about the same time as I did, so it’s been interesting to see how both of our sites have grown up together.

And now, Tim’s answers…

What does Lean mean to you?

Lean is all about respecting people by adding value while eliminating Muri (overburdening), Mura (unevenness), and Muda (non value added activity) in all business processes. It is a philosophy which embodies a culture of continuous improvement based on setting standards aimed at eliminating waste through participation of all employees.

Lean which is commonly referred as TPS (from it’s originators) is the “Thinking People System” for me. It is about learning to see waste and solve problems through the development of people. This is a frequently missed and even understated purpose in lean. Lean is truly about people because tools don’t solve problems, people solve problems.

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

My introduction to lean manufacturing is probably somewhat typical.  After coming from a research and development role to an operations role I discovered Lean.  In 1999 I started learning what Lean manufacturing was all about and I have been learning about it ever since.   In the beginning Lean was a way for me to meet operational objectives.  It started tactically with 5S for work place organization, value stream map for creating flow, and a pull system to manage inventory.  There were dramatic results early powered by a sense of accomplishment from empowered problem solving.  I was hungry to learn more.

Now I have found it is a profound way of thinking that encompasses all I do.  Lean is the best business performance system I have seen.  My passion is fueled by those wonderful “a-ha” moments.  Those times when after hours of study and thought the pieces fall into place. 

What is your Lean claim to fame?

I don’t know if I want to claim any specific fame within Lean but I would like to mention some activities I am involved in within the Lean community. I support AME, Association of Manufacturing Excellence, by promoting best practices sharing through social networking.  Social media tools include AMEConnect,  LinkedIn, Twitter, Slideshare, YouTube, Facebook, etc.  I work directly with Northeast Region Board on social media, local networking roundtables, and creating and running AME Workshops.  I actively participate in various local Lean networking groups to promote shared learning in New England.

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

There are many more opportunities for Lean to be successful.  Lean focuses on processes; has a measurable impact on time, capacity and customer satisfaction; and involves all employees.  This formula will help many organizations to be more successful.

I would have to say that the biggest opportunity for lean is in our service industries.  Lean has a proven track record in many manufacturing operations.  I think we all see things everyday in our lives as we interact with businesses that bug us.  These are things that cause poor service, higher costs, less value and more waiting.  It would nice to live in place where continuous improvement is common place.   Maybe that sounds utopian but this is happening in many service industries already. 

Tim’s Autobiography:

I am the Founder and Contributor of A Lean Journey Blog. This site is dedicated to sharing lessons and experiences along the Lean Journey in the Quest for True North. The blog also serves as the source for learning and reflection which are critical elements in Lean Thinking.

Since I believe you should practice what you preach, my day job is a Lean practitioner with more than 10 years of Lean manufacturing experience.  I currently lead continuous improvement efforts for OFS, a high tech manufacturer fiber optic cables and assemblies for several plants in the Northeast.  A major focus is teaching, learning and engaging the organization in Lean Thinking to establish our own process for business excellence.

You can learn more about me on LinkedIn – Tim McMahon, follow me on http://twitter.com/timaleanjourney, or be a fan on A Lean Journey Page.


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