This past week, Lean Solutions was a proud sponsor for the AME international Conference in Dallas. Craig Johnson and I were there to attend, exhibit, network, and record some great interviews for the podcast. During this episode, I was able to catch up with the Conference Chair, Dan McDonnell, as well as many other attendees and speakers of the conference. We discussed learnings, takeaway’s, and tour/workshop ahha moments.
The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1985 dedicated to helping companies with continuous improvement and their pursuit of excellence. Whether looking to learn about lean manufacturing or one of the continuous improvement tools like value stream mapping, kaizen, lean supply chain, lean new product development, lean accounting, or leadership of lean transformation you’ve come to the right place. AME is practitioner based which means our events and workshops are hands-on and taught by others who have “been there” and want to share their experiences. Visit our site to obtain more information on all of our educational opportunities or join AME and start receiving the many benefits of membership.
Patrick Adams 00:01
Welcome to the Lean solutions podcast where we discuss business solutions to help listeners develop and implement action plans for true Lean process improvement. I am your host, Patrick Adams. So everybody I am here with Dan McDonnell. He is the conference committee chair, and also opened up the conference. Today we are at the AME 2022. International Conference, embrace disruption. It’s been two years since we’ve been together in person. And Dan, what do you think so far? How how’s the conference going? So far?
Dan McDonnell 00:31
I think it’s going great. It’s been two and a half years of planning to pull all this together. We kicked off this morning. And, you know, behind the scenes, we’re monitoring for defects, abnormalities and stuff like that. But so far, things are running smooth. Talking to a lot of people in the hallways and stuff, there’s a lot of energy here coming back together, people are passionate, excited. And we’re getting a lot of positive feedback. So we’ve got a great show planned for the whole week, and I hope people are gonna get a lot of learning. Well, Dan,
Patrick Adams 01:00
I was able to sit in just on the opening here. And I I’m crazy excited. I’m looking through the schedule. And there you guys have done an amazing job at choosing the speakers, the workshops, the tours. I mean, there’s so much to do. I’m almost overwhelmed, but I don’t know which one to go to. Any suggestions on like your what do you think like best speakers or your favorite speakers with any anything at all that you think is something that should be highlighted this week?
Dan McDonnell 01:28
Well, look, personally, I think that we probably have the best keynote lineup we’ve had in 38 years. We always every year, and I’ve done a number of these things over the years have tried to get, you know, the big C suite leaders and industry. They’re very hard to get to talk into taking their time. They’re busy people. We’ve had some successes over the years. But for Dallas, we had a couple of things. One is, you know, some real budget issues in terms of the ability and we normally sort of tap the speaker circuit and we’ve always had some very good keynoters but this year, we’ve got most of our keynotes are all they’re not speaking circuit people. These are business leaders, some very, very senior people that we’ve maybe locked out and managing but I think it’s going to be phenomenal. You know Larry Culp is running. One of the biggest manufacturing companies in the United States, as the Chairman and CEO is coming to talk to us a big Danaher guy, you know, led to a lot of the big rise in Danaher is this afternoon, Michael Omak, who I worked for, for a number of years and observed the 11 years at train technologies, he drove his I think he’s gonna have some great stories and lessons. And we just got a super lineup. So I but we think overall, we’ve got we’ve got some really strong tours, the presenters are great. I heard I got a lot of feedback yesterday on the workshops we did, and we’re pretty positive. Yeah. So look, for me, one of the secrets of this thing early on when they asked me to do this was to pick a great team. And I think that’s probably the secret to anything in business. And so we took our time, thought it but a lot of people did a lot of arm twisting, this is all volunteer work. And we built a great team. And you know, people had different responsibilities. We had a keynote chair and you know, presenter chair, all of them did a great job. And so I think every aspect of the conference has got some real meat in it. But I would say the keynote lineup probably stands out flower. Alice is second to none. Yeah. Powerful. Looking forward to it.
Patrick Adams 03:44
What’s so what is your How do you guys choose locations as you go forward? Like Dallas that I mean, this is an amazing conference center, lots of room to move around the exhibit areas great. I mean, what do you what’s your kind of your, the way that you pick where you’re going? And then we’re also Where are you going next? What’s the next style evolve?
Dan McDonnell 04:04
It’s a great question. There’s a planning team that, you know, goes into cities that we want to go to and looks at various venues and studies ahead of time we fell a bit behind with the pandemic, like many associations, we had sort of a cadence, but a lot of times we were three to four years out negotiating contracts with a place we’re trying again to reach out a little broader as an experiment, but we got into a cadence where we found for whatever we’ve done 38 years of these, we found there was a number of hubs cities, in fact that for whatever reason, you know, we had the data and like that ame lien conferences just did a lot better. Dallas was one of them. We came here in oh six it was very well received. The facility is wonderful for this. We came back again and we’re here for the third time. So we for a long time we had Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Dallas and Northern Kentucky, we’re sort of five. And we were on a rotating circuit. And I think part of the value is that, because we’re a manufacturing conference, although we have a lot of healthcare people hear, so we have a lot of people from the military, you have a huge lien program that state and local government to we have public sector people come, but the core is still manufacturing and industrial type companies, right? Well, tours have always been one of the most popular parts of our conferences, and so we try to not go more than an hour by bus it starts to get, so you kind of got a circumference. And so there’s a lot of cities that might be good conference cities for like at the hotel, but the access to, you know, really great manufacturing tours is somewhat limited. So some of the cities, we people like to go there for whatever, like Toronto, Boston have always been huge. And Dallas, like I said, has been very good. And so that’s what next year is in Cleveland. So we’re starting to we’re gonna go to Cleveland, and we’re going to, I don’t think we’ve done a conference in Cleveland before. So the teams, you know, gonna have a challenge to figure out, you know, how to attract the people to come in to can show how to find tour sites, but Amy’s got a lot of great volunteers. And they’ll and we also are structured in regions. So each region, you know, has a board and they are more local and stuff like that. So, you know, the area around Cleveland will do very well. So we’re excited. Dallas, as you met was the first time back in three years. Yeah. And we’re hoping that there’s, there’s a lot of success here, the people really get a lot of value out of it, and helps us rebuild back to a lot of strength and live confidence. Hopefully, Cleveland is going to really rock it in there.
Patrick Adams 07:01
That’d be a big one. So over the years, last question I have for you, over the years, there’s probably been a lot of learning that has happened. And as continuous improvement practitioners, what are a couple of things that you would say that you’ve learned over the years, and you guys have been able to make improvement. So I heard you say tours, you know, so probably you’ve you know, elevated that in, in your planning process and what’s available to people, but anything else that you would say would be a continuous improvement item that you’ve done as a as a conference chair.
Dan McDonnell 07:33
Um, I’d say a couple of things. One is we try very hard with, apart from workshops to be practitioner based. So the presenters we bring in and stuff like that, are people actually doing work, they’re in the trenches with all of us in whatever role or level they’re at. We think it’s very important that people come to me conferences, come because they’re hearing from practitioners. Now, we love consultants, we’ve got a lot of them as volunteers and ame, we will sometimes have a consultant who’s got a great story in lesson to impart like in a presentation on a key topic. Sure. But we insist that if we do that, they have to bring one of their practitioner partners, that has to be a cold presentation. So the one lesson learned, I think, is a big one is that practitioner driven learning love and sharing is, is something that audience responds to, and I think it makes sense. So that’s, that’s a part of it.
Patrick Adams 08:36
I think it’s real, it’s real life, it’s what’s actually happening with the you know, they’re sharing experiences and learnings that they’re actually having as they’re deploying lean into their organization. So it makes sense why that would be popular.
Dan McDonnell 08:47
And maybe just one other learning. We’ve had, you know, we tried to practice continuous improvement, just like we, you know, teach in our day job. But we really work hard with and we’ve built some standard work around it with the presenters that come in to help shape how they tell their story, how they’re doing. So one of them is we want them to tell a story, right? So we’re not big. This isn’t like a technical conference where people are putting up you know, spreadsheets and stuff like that. We want it to be personal, we want it meaning meaningful. So telling the story is important in the presentations. Secondly, this is very important. We want the presenters whoever they are, we’re going to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. So often, when you go to any kind of learning event like this, presented they rose colored glasses, they everything’s wonderful now all of us, we know that real world is like that, right? We’re out in it and we know even the greatest things don’t go smoothly. They’re not easy. There’s barriers and boundaries. So we work really hard to help. We don’t tell the presenters You know what to present necessarily, but just the thematic parts. And they’re all very receptive to it. So we want them to share, you know, what worked, what didn’t work, right. You know, what did you learn? What did you do differently? What would you do differently if you could go back and do it all over again, right, and maybe spare some of the folks in the room, the pain that you went through when you were trying to do it? So I think the the way we try to coach the presenters in the way that they share their lessons with people is what differentiates ame conferences, maybe for some others and I, that’s, again, another improvement that I’ve done over the years.
Patrick Adams 10:38
That’s amazing. If anyone’s interested to get information on ame conference for next year at Cleveland, where would they go? Where would they find that information?
Dan McDonnell 10:48
Yeah, so it’s still fairly early. But ame.org is you can get into the main website, and within there, they’ll have Dallas is still up, you haven’t read lots of stuff. But Cleveland will start you’ll start to see more information as they as they build the conference and populate it. They’ll update the website. So going into the conference, part of the ame.org website is the probably for now the best way to get information.
Patrick Adams 11:14
Yeah, and we’ll add that into the show notes. So if anyone’s interested, ignore the show notes. Click on that again. It’ll probably have Dallas up there for now. But eventually, the Cleveland stuff will pop up and then love for you to register there. Perfect. Alright. Thanks again. mazing conference. Thank you. All right, appreciate it. So I am here talking with Matt Rapp from vendor Inc. He’s the head of operations there, Matt, what has been your experience so far of the AME conference,
me has been a great conference came in early we had two sessions. Monday came in we did a leadership conference in the afternoon had a Kata discussion was very good, interactive experience where we broke out into teams, we worked through the kata questions and really got us hands on experience. Today, we had a great tour of a rock, it’s big mining company, they make big drilling and surface mining equipment. And they really had a good visual examples of a new mes, they had to drive really nice shopfloor interaction with issues they’re experiencing, and quickly relaying them to engineering. Many times we’re walking the floor as managers and employee brings an issue to us. And we forget about it, because we’ve got 10 Other things on our mind, right, this is a live way for them to see the virtual work instructions. And as they’re working with the bill of materials, quickly to signal an issue, and it gets right back to the engineer on the project, we’re able to go right to that person on the shop floor and work right through him. Wow, that’s
Patrick Adams 12:37
amazing. Very cool. So the tours have definitely been valuable in the different workshops and speakers that you’ve listened to any aha moments or anything that sticks out that you say this was one moment that I really have enjoyed so far.
I think the automation discussions have been Aha, you think industry 4.0 It’s a it’s a one size fits all solution. And the keynote speaker today really kind of highlighted that there are different aspects you can use, even the top performing companies are not fully automated there. And there’s always different points to consider. So really makes you kind of reflect and understand that not every company is fully automated. And there’s a lot of steps that have to be working coinciding with lean, and automation to get you to your proven journey and your objectives that you’re looking for. No, I love that.
Patrick Adams 13:24
So what is Bender do?
Bender, we are experts in electrical safety equipment, we provide a ground fault protection and line isolation monitoring equipment that is going into medical, medical, industrial and electrical vehicle applications. Really, were looking for faults downstream and making sure we’re protecting people and equipment from
Patrick Adams 13:45
electrical hazards. Nice. So we’ll we’ll throw a link to vendor into the show notes. So listeners can go out there and check you guys out. But I’m glad you’re enjoying the conference. And I appreciate you stopping by the booth.
Great. Thank you so much.
Patrick Adams 13:57
All right, I am here with Dr. Anya Slaughter from the VA Long Beach healthcare system. And Anya and I were just talking about the keynote for this morning. And she was amazing. What What were you what was your takeaway? What do you think
Dr. Anya Slaughter 14:09
there’s so much to take away from her talk really made me reflect on what we’re doing in our organization, even though we’ve been doing Lean for a while and whether we’ve been been effective and communicating the why, why we’re doing it and making sure that everybody understands that purpose. I think that was really key. We have a lot of the elements. We have to huddles, we have a process improvement, but I think really to get that buy in and empower the employees, we have to be better at communicating that purpose.
Patrick Adams 14:40
That’s right, because otherwise, like Like she said, it just becomes an exercise in applying tools or pushing people to apply the tools. But when they’re aligned to something bigger than themselves a purpose than they actually want to do it. They get excited about it and they’re engaged in it right and that makes the difference. Yeah.
Dr. Anya Slaughter 14:57
And then it’s not just the mandate and it also read maybe reflect that we have a lot of committees and councils and we have them report out things. But then we’re not consistent with why are we not using a three report outs for these councils and committees because they’re also improving our work better? Oh, it shouldn’t be continuous improvement in this silo and our committee work in this silo, everything should be aligned. Yeah.
Patrick Adams 15:18
And she even talked about how we sometimes as lead practitioners, we suggest that other people do an a three. But are we actually using, you know, our own advice and doing a threes for the some of the work that we do to?
Dr. Anya Slaughter 15:32
Absolutely, yeah. And it made me think about the last picture that she shot up, it looked like a biomed engineering team and working on process improvement and look like a blank a three on the wall. And I said, That’s so smart. Why don’t we just have a simple tool on the wall without making it so complicated? Saying we have to have somebody from our process improvement team, walk them through the a three, just make it simple? And even if they don’t get it? 100%? Right, they’re gonna get pretty close.
Patrick Adams 15:54
That’s right, absolutely. So tell me just a little bit about what you do at the VA.
Dr. Anya Slaughter 15:59
So my role at the VA is the high reliability organization officers. So my charge is to take our health care system through the hrl journey to becoming a more highly reliable organization and zero harm for our patients and staff. Oh, that’s amazing.
Patrick Adams 16:12
And have you been at the conference? Have you found value this week in the conference itself?
Dr. Anya Slaughter 16:18
Patrick Adams 16:20
Good. Good. Well, thanks so much for stopping by the booth. All right, thank you. I am here with Justin stearic. From Raymond Corp, he’s the continuous improvement manager, Justin, what’s been your experience so far with the AME conference,
it’s really great, so invaluable to, you know, to come to a conference, be able to network with people here, you know, what they’re both successes and their challenges. And then just to, you know, see the different applications within different industries. It’s really, it’s really great to hear, you know, things that are currently going on a lot of different challenges and the dynamic world that we live in. Right. And, you know, the tours is great benchmarking. And it just helps kind of level set where you’re at and take things back that are best practices.
Patrick Adams 17:04
Yeah, I don’t think people, I think a lot of people underestimate the value of doing tours, and actually going out and seeing what other people are doing, whether they’re, you know, way far along on their Lean journey, or just starting their Lean journey. Everyone has something to share, right. And so it’s always nice to get out and see what other companies are doing. Would you agree?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s about the learning, it’s about the journey. So when you go on a tour, you’re gonna think, see things that otherwise you may not have seen. So you can take some of those best practices back to your own place. But the most, to me, the most important thing is, what problem were they trying to solve? And then take that back, and understand how they did that problem solving to your corporation? Because everything’s different, right? Different cultures, different environments, but it’s about the problem that they’re trying to solve, how they go about it, that methodology, and then bring it back and then adapt it to your own environment and culture.
Patrick Adams 17:56
Absolutely. So right before we hit record, we were having a discussion about some of the work that’s going on at Raymond Corp, can you just tell us kind of where you guys are at on your Lean journey and some really great things to share?
Yeah, as I said, you know, we’re tale two cities, the manufacturing side has been doing this for 15 plus years, we had were owned by Toyota industries, and we’re held to to Sensei, that’s been with us for quite some time, gave us lots of invaluable lessons, and really helped us leverage, you know, the ability to build the more stuff out of the operations, and take out a lot of waste. In the office side, we started a little bit further behind. And I’ll say officially, we started about six years ago, we have lots of different lessons, learn. They’re really trying to change the dynamics and the culture and the expectations and accountability within that, just applying it to a different environment. And using the same principles that we use in the operation side, as they are applicable. Yeah.
Patrick Adams 18:52
What do you think what’s been your greatest challenge, as you’ve seen, lean kind of shifting over into the office.
A lot of people think, you know, when they say to a production system that is traditionally in the manufacturing operations, but we’re really trying to get people to understand that everything that they do is related around processes. And that when you have processes that we can start making improvements to that but making visualization getting people involved to be problem solvers, so that they can start creating more value for our customers, is probably one of the biggest thing is trying to get them to understand that they can create more value and rather than just being busy, more efficient,
Patrick Adams 19:27
yeah, absolutely. So as far as the speaking sessions here at ame, any anyone that you’re looking forward to seeing or any specific topics that you’re looking for while you’re here
a lot, you know, leadership buy in, gain it, how do you build it, trying to understand some of the cultural aspects of it, because again, a lot of this continuous improvement is all centered around the magic pill of, you know, buy in and leadership development, but also, how do you get people to become good problem solvers and changing that cultural mindset? Uh, so just hearing from others and what some of the best practices are and challenges and what they’ve done to overcome it. Yeah.
Patrick Adams 20:05
And then obviously, you’re gonna take that back and continue to work on some of those challenges that that you haven’t raised and just to continue to develop and build the culture there and
right, yeah, and some of our team is here from there. So you know, we’re gonna try to take what we learned from here, bring it back, we will talk about it, figure out some of the things that we can do, whether there’s small things we can do right away, or things that will start integrating into our process. But it’s just again, it’s about all about the learning and the sharing and growing is kind of the end model. Right. And it’s really great that there’s a forum here to kind of share what’s going on across the world.
Patrick Adams 20:39
Yeah, absolutely. So would you say, is there one thing so far that you’ve said, you know, I heard this and I feel like it’s applicable. We’re definitely bringing this back. And we’re applying it right away? This one thing? Is there anything yet? Are you still looking for that one nugget? No,
I don’t think that there’s that one nugget. Again, I think, you know, trying to understand some of the cultural pieces. Yeah. What’s been applied? And what’s worked in those different environments. There’s, there’s a lot of great ideas from the different keynote speakers down the practitioner presentations. And just trying to understand how we can actually start developing this and make it more sustainable for the future versus just trying to have one one idea in to start making a small improvement. Yeah, but really trying to just build sustainability into her own process,
Patrick Adams 21:29
rather than love it. Well, we’ll we’ll drop a link to to Raymond Corp into the show notes. So anyone that’s listening can go out and check you guys out. And, obviously, appreciate you stopping by the booth here and having a really great conversation about some of the work that you guys are doing that right.
I appreciate it very much. All right. Thanks. All right. Thanks.
Patrick Adams 21:47
All right. I am here with John Dyer from John Dyer and Associates. John, you’ve been on the podcast before as a as a guest on the with our with your own full episode on the lien solutions podcast. But I saw you walking by we’ve had some good conversations here at the AME conference. And you also are a speaker here, and you’ve led one of the workshops. So I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the conference as a whole. And then let’s talk a little bit about your workshop.
John Dyer 22:14
So the conference has been terrific. So far. This is actually my first ame conference. You know, I’ve written many, many articles for industry magazine, and they have their own lean conference. In fact, it’s the same week. And so normally, I’ve been attending those. So this is my first ame one, and it’s been terrific so far. Really enjoyed it. And then the workshop that we did yesterday, it basically follows the same script that’s in the book that I published a couple of years ago or got published a couple years ago called the facade of excellence. Yes. defining a new normal of leadership. Yes, amazing book, by the way. Thank you. Yeah, it’s starting to get some traction, starting to get some momentum, I’m getting some really good reviews. And I’ve had several people come up to me and tell me that they’ve actually used it to open dialogue with their bosses, they actually sit down and go through the story in the book, and they’re able to talk about some really tough subjects without any blaming or finger pointing. And, and so far, you know, I’ve heard that bosses have been pretty receptive to that. So yeah, I’m hoping that it’s having an impact. Yeah,
Patrick Adams 23:32
I think it is. And yesterday for the workshop, you actually led a couple of different activities that kind of tie back into some of the topics you talked about in the book. Right,
John Dyer 23:41
right. Absolutely. You know, most people know I’m a huge Dr. Deming fan. So we started the workshop with the red bead experiment. Yeah, I actually got to see Dr. Deming do that twice. And the second time I wrote down every word he said, because I knew I was going to want to do that in my training. Yes. So we had a good time with that. And then I’ve actually built an activity that supports some of the key learnings from the book on leadership. You know, in the book, I talked about four different leadership styles, that progress from the crisis leader, all the way to the empowerment leader. And so over the years, I’ve developed an activity that really demonstrates the pros and cons of each of those two leadership styles. So it’s a great, great activity. You know, I actually call it the leadership experiment. Yeah. Yeah. to kind of pay homage to Dr. Deming with the red bead experiment. Very nice. And yeah, it’s it’s a great activity. Someone volunteers to be a leader. We have eight volunteer workers. In the in the first round, the workers are blind. bolded they don’t know what’s going on. And basically, the leader has to tell him what to do, how to do it, when to do it. And if they’re working on a task, that’s pretty complex. And what’s fascinating is, is when they complete the task, the audience always erupts in applause. That’s first round. Second round is we shift to the empowerment side of the spectrum, where I asked the leader to describe to the workers what they’re trying to accomplish, because they’re blindfolded, right? They don’t know anything about what’s happening, right. So they describe what’s going on and then take the blindfolds off, and then empower the workers to do the task. Well, in the first round, it usually takes about five minutes to get the task done. In the second round with all the workers engaged, it usually takes about 25 seconds. Right. So the huge difference, and then, and when they complete the task, the audience erupts in applause course, again. Yeah. So the way I then debrief the exercise is I asked the audience, you know, in the first round, when they completed the task, who were you applauding for? And it’s always the leader, the leader, because they were doing all the work. Yeah. Then I asked the workers, how did you feel when the audience applauded in that first round? And they’re like, we didn’t even know what we had done. We didn’t know what the task was. And it felt really hollow. In fact, it was demoralizing. That was one of the words that was. So then I asked the audience, who did you clap for in that second round? And they said, We were clapping for the whole team. And then I turned to the team, I said, How did you all feel in that second round, and they were like, Oh, we felt great, we felt affirmed a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment. And then the real kicker, the real kicker question is my last one. And I turn to the audience and say, of the two leaders that you just saw demonstrated here, which one today would typically get promoted in your organization? And it’s usually stunned silence. And then someone will say, I hate to say this, but the first person, that’s right, and then everybody jumps in and says, yeah, they’re right. Yep. 100% 100% agreement from the audience, that it would have been the first person because they look the busiest they look the most in control. That’s right, even though it took five minutes versus 25 seconds, and the team felt demoralized. But that’s who normally would get the recognition, right, that leads to a promotion. And I talked about this in the book that the root cause of why so many lean initiatives fail to be sustainable, is because we have not redefined what a promotable leader needs to be how they need to act, how they need to be measured, we still promote those leaders that are the best firefighters, the most in control, the most intimidating, versus the leader, who is a coach, mentor, treats people with kindness with empathy, and helps lift people up, right, and lift the whole team up. Right, that’s where we need to get to.
Patrick Adams 28:29
Absolutely. And that’s where you’re gonna get the sustainable gains versus the quick, you know, drastic cost reductions and beginning which, again, that’s tough, because, you know, you have so many executive leaders that are, you know, unfortunately, that’s what they’re being pushed for, you know, but at the end of the day, the long term sustainable growth is going to is what’s what companies need. Right. Right. So
John Dyer 28:54
well, that’s, and I truly do believe that because, you know, COVID has pushed a lot of organizations to go back to that crisis leader in control type mode, right. And I think that’s leading to a lot of frustration for folks who remember prior to COVID, having progressed to more of that team based interaction, and they, you know, it’s been two and a half years, and a lot of these leaders are still in that command and control crisis mode. And I think a lot of employees are getting frustrated with that and I think that’s why you hear about quiet quitting and you know, the great resignation, migration and all that kind of thing, right? Because people are tired of the working for the leader and that’s in the crisis, man.
Patrick Adams 29:48
Yeah, so true. Well, I know I know people found a ton of value in your workshop and I appreciate you being here and and being able to pour out into the attendees here at the AME conferences. It’s been great to chat with you and I just appreciate you stopping by the booth and filling in our listeners on some of the things that you talked about during your workshop.
John Dyer 30:07
So thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Patrick Adams 30:10
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