Continuous Improvement Includes Personal Development

To maintain a culture of Continuous Improvement requires a culture of personal development!  After all, isn’t it important to continue to improve ourselves as well as our process?

For many years at Aero Gear we have been driving a culture of Continuous Improvement. We have been focused on understanding our value streams/processes and then flowing the product by eliminating any waste and obstacles in the Flow. This effort also emphasized the need for cross-training so we can better utilize our highly skilled people to adapt with the variability of the workflow. We have operated effectively this way for quite some time. This type of training and workforce development is common in companies committed to a Lean journey.

As our teams have become more engaged in the processes, they have wanted to better understand the company as a whole. Questions like: What aircraft do the gearboxes we produce go into? How is productivity measured and how does it affect profitability? What are the principals of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)? What function do the gears we manufacture perform?

These questions prompted us to initiate informal meetings at the company called “Lunch & Learn”. We have periodically arranged ad hoc lunch meetings where we discuss these topics. Typically, a person with specific expertise makes a 30 minute presentation on the topic and then the group discusses how this pertains to our particular company and situation. This always generates new areas for discussion.

In one of our Lunch & Learn sessions our CFO gave a presentation called “Finance 101 – the basic concepts”. He gave a practical overview of finance in a manufacturing environment, covering topics including:

  • An introduction to basic financial statements
  • The importance of cash flow and inventory management
  • The amazing power of productivity
  • What we can all do to make a difference in the company’s finance
  • An exercise on maximizing profit using Theory of Constraints

In another session we had a well-known industry expert (John Kravonthka) give a presentation on the basics of TPM. He also led a discussion on best practices based on what he has seen other companies successfully implement. His session led to us initiating a Kaizen at Aero Gear in our maintenance department to improve our machine spare parts inventory and ordering system.

We even had a session where our sales department gave an overview of the aerospace market and a presentation to understand our customer base and where our parts are assembled in the aircraft.

At first it can seem like these meetings are not really necessary and in fact take time away from production, but if you are truly interested in Continuous Improvement shouldn’t you also be interested in general knowledge in your field? Of course, and we have found that the discussions generated from these meetings have been beneficial in both a direct and indirect way. People learn about other people’s functions in the company and industry. They learn about the bigger picture and where their efforts fit in the scheme of things in the industry. It instills a sense of pride and the understanding of how important they are in the whole process.

Our “Lunch & Learn” meetings are another example of how we at Aero Gear, continue to “Insist on Excellence” in every aspect of our company.