Video: Brad Cairns is lean and mean and ready to kick some serious butt at WMS Conference
October 25, 2019 | 9:18 am CDT

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - Brad Cairns, co-owner of Quantum Lean, knows first-hand the powerful impact implementing lean manufacturing principles can have on a woodworking business.

Cairns, who will present back-to-back “Kick Ass Lean” seminars Oct. 31 at the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo, is also owner of Best Damn Doors in St. Thomas, Ontario. Fifteen years ago, he contracted Lean guru Jim Lewis of the Center for Lean Learning to help put his struggling business on a steadier foundation.

“Back then we were building cabinets and doing commercial millwork. It was every cabinetmaker’s nightmare,” Cairns recalled. “We never had any money. We could never pay bills on time. We were struggling to get people. It was just utter chaos.”

Cairns said the three biggest issues hurting his shop were “no standard operating procedures, no Kanban inventory management system and over production.” He added that these problems are common throughout the industry.

By implementing Lean methods and one-piece workflow to address these and other operational challenges, Cairns said his business quickly realized amazing efficiencies and profits.

“Once we eliminated waste and stopped over-producing we experienced the most unbelievable thing I’d ever seen in my life,” he said. “We went from building five cabinets a day to 55 cabinets a day in less than a month.”

Mullet Doors' shop floor implementing Lean. See second visit video at the bottom.

Cairns’ passion for Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement led him to purchase the Center for Lean Learning when Lewis decided to retire a couple of years ago. Last year, he and his new business partner Lynn Thomson, rebranded the center as Quantum Lean. In addition, Cairns' succeeded Lewis to write on Lean manufacturing topics for FDMC magazine.

“The whole mission of Quantum Lean is to make Lean easier, better, faster and cheaper so that more companies can transition into a Lean model,” Cairns said. “We can come to your factory and do boots-on-the-ground training, but we can also help companies much more affordably with online training.”

Gearing up for WMS
Cairns will give WMS attendees a taste of the Quantum Lean experience in his two presentations.

Kick Ass Lean 1, he said, will serve as an introduction to Lean. “The key takeaway is I want everyone in the room to see waste in their factories, he said. “I’ll go over the eight deadly wastes so that when they go back to their shops, they never see anything the same.”

“In Kick Ass Lean 2, I’ll go into some of the tools and techniques of Lean. Now that you see waste in your plants and it makes you crazy, let’s look at ways to get rid of it. I’ll talk about Kanban systems and SOP (standard operating procedures).”

Cairns said that while Kick Ass Lean 2 will build on his first presentation, a person could still benefit by only attending the second seminar. But he added an important caveat. 

“As long as they know the eight deadly wastes, they can skip part one,” Cairns said. “But here’s the funny part. We’ve done these talks all over North America and whenever I ask, ‘Who’s doing Lean at their factory?’ half of the hands in the room go up. Then when I ask, who knows the eight deadly wastes, almost every hand goes down. It is impossible to go Lean if you don’t know the eight deadly wastes and where to look for them.”

“Everybody thinks that their company’s problems are specific, but they’re not,” Cairns added. “After doing Lean consulting for five years, every single factory that I have gone to has had the exact same problems. They are just packaged a little bit differently but the training is almost identical for every company. 

“Everywhere I go, I find waste and overproduction. But once someone gets rid of those problems in their plant, it’s like clouds clear and, the sun comes out. Now they can see what they are doing and start working on their company’s individual problems. But so long as they are over producing like crazy, they just can’t see it.”

Cairn’s Kick Ass Lean 1 and Kick Ass Lean 2 presentations will take place at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively on Thursday, Oct. 31 at the International Centre.

Check out the videos above and below to see before and after scenes of Mullet Doors’ Lean journey. Learn more about Quantum Lean at

View the full WMS Conference program and register.

About CCI Media
CCI Canada is owned by CCI Media, a business-to-business media company focused exclusively on industrial wood products manufacturing markets in North America. CCI Media’s flagship publication, FDMC magazine, circulates monthly in print and digital formats. CCI Media also publishes the bi-monthly Closets & Organized Storage magazine. Woodworking Network is the umbrella brand for the combined portfolio of wood manufacturing print, digital, and web products and industry events operated by CCI Media. CCI Canada also produces the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Oct. 31-Nov.2, at the International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario and Salon Industriel du Bois Ouvré (SIBO), which will be held April 23-25, 2020, in Drummondville, Quebec.

In addition to WMS 2019 and SIBO 2020, CCI Media produces Wood Pro Expo Texas and the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo, both of which will be co-located March 11-13,  2020, at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, Texas. The company also produces Wood Pro Expo Lancaster 2019, to be held October 17-18, at Warehouse at the Nook, Manheim, Pa., and the Executive Briefing Conference, November 8-10, 2020, at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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

Profile picture for user richchristianson
About the author
Rich Christianson | President/Owner/C-Level

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his nearly 35-year career, Rich has toured more than 250 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. He has also directed and promoted dozens of woodworking trade shows, conferences and seminars including the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Canada’s largest woodworking show.