How about that WMS 2019 wood show in Toronto, Canada. This is a home game for me. Every time I go I wish they did it every year. Is there any other place in Canada where we get thousands of us crazy woodworkers under one roof. We get to reconnect with customers, suppliers and old friends. Just walking in the building fills me with emotion. Learning, connection and opportunity all await, and we only have three days to soak it all in.

During this three days I had the pleasure of putting on two seminars all related to different facets of lean manufacturing. It is always my goal to give my audience some useful information they can really take back and put to work.

The first seminar, “Kick-Ass Lean I,” was an introduction to lean that covered the four purposes of lean thinking and the eight deadly wastes. The second seminar was “Kick-Ass Lean II,” building on the previous seminar, we went into the first three steps to launch your lean adventure, followed by a few tools to skyrocket your productivity.

Since FDMC has more than 60,000 subscribers and there were only 30 or so people in each seminar, that leaves at least 59,970 people that could use a re-cap!

Let’s dive in.


Four purposes of lean thinking as quoted by Taiichi Ohno:


EASIER, is a total focus on how to make everyone’s job easier. Leadership should have a portion of their day dedicated to helping people, or in most cases just letting people implement ideas that would make their job easier. BETTER comes once you make everyone’s job a little easier. Since a timesavings is inevitable, this will help with improving quality throughout the organization. People will be out of the rush mentality and getting things right the first time. When you're implementing daily improvements, making life easier for your people and allowing them to focus on quality, I can promise the result of that is increased throughput, otherwise known as FASTER. When you're producing a higher quality product, easier and faster than you thought possible the last piece of the puzzle is to reduce cost. Make things CHEAPER. If you so choose to pass this savings on to your customers, this will put a smile on their face, and a frown on your competitors.

Eight Deadly Wastes

Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-production, Over-processing, Defects, unused employee genius.  Since there is a plethora of information on these in the public domain, I will just outline the definition of each.

Transportation- Anything moving around in your factory. Yes, anything. If it's moving, that movement is waste. Even if it's an automated conveyor, the physical distance is still considered transportation waste.

Inventory - Anything that you have or use in your plant whether you buy it or make it. The four typical categories are: raw goods, work in process, finished goods and obsolete inventory.

Motion- this is people moving. Where as transportation is parts, motion is people. Any unnecessary movement we have to make. 

Waiting- Anytime you are waiting for something that is waste. It could be waiting on customers to make decisions, shop floor waiting for drawings or your customer waiting for your delivery truck.

Over-production- Production of anything in excess of the next station’s capability to consume it is waste.

Over-processing- doing more work than the customer is willing to pay for.

Defects- We all know what this looks like, and how expensive it can be. A defect is anything that is less than what your customer will pay for. In a nut shell, bad parts.

Unused employee genius- This happens when managers and owners neglect to ask their people for ideas.  They have millions of ideas, usually, all you have to do is ask.


We started out this one with the three things that really jump start any lean adventure.

  1. Morning warm up. This really limbers people up and prepares them mentally and physically for work.
  2. Improvement time. All too often we want our people to make improvements to the factory or the process, but we never give them time. A dedicated time to make improvements is a great way to get your people engaged in the daily routine of making their jobs easier.
  3. Morning meeting. Set aside however much time you feel comfortable with, and get your whole team together to exchange ideas, give gratitude and problem solve. The morning meeting is the start of creating a great culture.
Every shop should have a robust Kanban system to automate ordering of supplies and materials to save time, energy, and questions.

We then dove into three awesome tools that in my humble opinion are a must have.

1. A robust Kanban system to simplify inventory management and purchasing.  Making, managing and updating the cards can be a full time job. I know what a pain it is, because I used to use excel to make them.  Quantum Lean now has a Kanban card generator on the web site that makes, tracks and stores revisions. Kanban made easy!

2. Standard Work documents. I will quote Henry Ford: “Standardization is the basis of all improvement.” Having Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) posted at the work stations help operators to stay on task and provide subtle reminders of their training. Quality will go up, rework will go down, training will be twice as fast. And why don’t most companies have these? Because they are also difficult to create, manage and update. Since Quantum Lean loves to make things easy, we have also added an SOP generator on the web site. You can create amazing standard work sheets and they are a cinch to update, color code or change the layout.

3. Keeping score! Ever notice how every sport on earth keeps score? Ever notice how pumped up fans can get when their team is winning? Then why do we go to work and have no idea if we are winning or losing. Why wouldn’t we want to evoke that passion among our team that sports fans have? Mostly because it’s difficult, but not impossible! Find a way to count your productivity, don’t get lost in the details, close counts. And start to rally your team around winning as part of their day. Or if the numbers suck, don’t hide it, let them see it and get them involved in the solution.

And now we are at the most critical part.  Just like at the end of a seminar, you have the information, your brain has been generating great ideas the whole time you have been reading. But now what? You have two options: 1) Say I will get to it soon as I have a minute or 2) Take action. Trust me, I know how hard it can be to “make time” when you feel like you have none.

Keep in mind you can’t learn how to drive a car at a seminar, you have to actually go do it. It takes a certain amount of good old fashion discipline. Make daily commitments to start the ball rolling. Commit to creating one standard per day, or one kanban card, before you know it, the benefits will start adding up. Last but not least, before you put this magazine down, promise yourself to figure out how to keep score, trust me on this one!

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out, we have worked with countless cabinet & furniture makers and could point you in the right direction if you are struggling to find score metrics. 

To close this out I will show one of my favorite quotes from this iconic leader. Quite often it reminds me when the going gets tough, I’m probably on the right track. 



Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.