Taylor GuitarsThe term “lean” was used in the 80s to describe Toyota’s business manufacturing model – in 30 years, lean has branched out from the Toyota floor to become pervasive in businesses that want to improve quality when decreasing costs – or maximizing customer value while minimizing waste.

Two companies – Taylor Guitars and TaylorMade Golf – in San Diego have embraced lean and are currently in the process of implementing lean within their businesses.

On their lean journey both companies explain why they embraced lean, decided to host a Lean Value Stream Mapping tour, and provide advice to others who are thinking about going lean.

“Kaizen, lean, and continuous improvement are terrific ways to engage the workforce, which was our prime objective. We were using the A3 Kaizen method and they were floor-based. People started to see the benefits – the light bulb started to go off with all the possibilities,” says Director of Operations Kevin Limbach from TaylorMade Golf.

For Taylor Guitars the path to lean was similar according to Vice President of Production Chris Wellons, “We originally took an organic approach to lean, but decided that a shift to a more structured approach was what we needed and wanted to do. At first, several of us read and learned about lean, we started to engage other employees and implement lean practices. Eventually a broader group became involved, interested, and committed.”

Both companies became so committed to lean that they decided to host a Lean Value Stream Mapping (see column on page 5) tour. Taylor-Made Golf’s first tour happened in fall 2008 (they have now hosted two tours). “I think it was good for us. It’s always good to get outside perspectives – people from the outside and the San Diego business community. The obvious things that you’re not seeing anymore get asked and challenged, but it also made the people of TaylorMade Golf participate and feel good, and have the opportunity to show off the company and share ideas. We’re very proud of what we do here and to get a chance to show that to other people goes a long way,” says Limbach.

Being transparent is nothing new to Taylor Guitars – the company opens its doors to the public daily for factory tours. Wellons explains “As an industry leader in innovation, manufacturing and quality, we open our doors to our competitors or any guitar builder. We have nothing to hide and want to help the entire industry move forward as a whole.” For Taylor Guitars, the motivation to host was that they can develop a better understanding having lean occur on site.

They also like the idea of having more employees and departments see lean in action to pique interests and motivate them to be involved. “We hope that hosting this spring will help us gain a more thorough and complete understanding of everything lean. Our goal is to implement lean companywide, having more employees, from various departments engaged and participating will help ensure our success and sustainability,” adds Wellons.

Wellons felt the company needed lean to allow them to remain a viable and profitable company, but not for a process to come at the expense or decrease the quality of products. “We heard a lot of positive comments about the SDSU program from colleagues and consultants alike. We followed up by attending a lean information session at SDSU and felt it was a good fit. We plan and expect our employees to be able to help implement lean and conduct various events and processes throughout our company.”

While Taylor Guitars is starting its process of implementing lean company wide, TaylorMade Golf continues to improve through its lean journey.

Limbach has advice to those who are thinking about applying lean practices in their company, “To be a successful company, it’s important to evolve to a lean effort. In the beginning it’s about getting the people involved, getting wins in marketing, then promoting the wins to build them and build energy. Getting people in the company to embrace what you’re doing; however, building slowly is key. “ And, more recommendations from both companies – have a foundation in place; know the facilitators and their experience with lean; have a history to support it; and, throw out those misconceptions about lean being only for manufacturing. Lean affects all businesses and processes – it’s a way of thinking and performing.