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Manufacturing / R&D

Create More Effective Processes Using Lean

Douglas Krauss

Douglas Krauss

VP of Global Manufacturing and Sourcing at MiTek

Douglas Krauss MiTek

Lean is a tool that can be used to improve any process. 

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Douglas Krauss, VP of Global Manufacturing and Sourcing for MiTek to discuss the benefits and challenges of implementing Lean across a variety of locations and cultures.  

Douglas shares insight into: 

  • True stories from implementing Lean processes across a variety of diverse companies 
  • The benefits of Lean manufacturing  
  • Overcoming challenges different companies may encounter  

Quartz Network: Can you share a bit about yourself and your career? 

Douglas Krauss: My career started about 25 years ago after I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering. Started out as an Industrial Engineer. Lean was part of my life from day one, and always has been, but worked my way from an Industrial Engineer into Production Management into Plant Management. I’ve been a Director of Operations, I’ve been a Director of Global Lean, and now I’ve landed a role here at MiTek as the Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Sourcing. It’s a construction based business. There’s about 35 plus sites around the globe in about 10 different countries. I own the entire Indian value stream from the time that orders received until the time we’re shipping it to the customers. So, Lean is a very important aspect of my daily life. 

Quartz Network: What are some of the places and cultures you have implemented Lean? 

Douglas Krauss: Lean is a is a unique tool. It’s been around a long time. Every culture and every process is a little bit different, but it works everywhere. I’ve implemented it, and started out a family owned private company. I’ve worked at a German based company that we made at home appliances, and then worked my way to a Fortune 500 company, and did it there for years and years in a variety of different high volume, low mix to low volume, very high mix. Now, I’m at MiTek, which is a global company in the construction industry, as I mentioned, that has very high volume stamping operations, and then it has very low volume project based businesses. 

Quartz Network: What various types of Lean have you implemented? 

Douglas Krauss: Lean is one of those things that everybody thinks is manufacturing based, and it truly is. But there’s a lot of benefits that come from the extending beyond the four walls and looking at the entire order to cash cycle in the value stream. I’ve done a lot Manufacturing, but I’ve also done warehousing, distribution, logistics, even finance, human resources, helping with onboarding processes, certainly engineering as well. So, it’s a tool that can be used to improve any process, whether it’s transactional business process, or factory-based manufacturing. 

Quartz Network: What are the major benefits of implementing Lean? 

Douglas Krauss: Lean really brings communication of the have a single goal in mind of just making any individual metric or group of metrics better. It causes improved communication across functional to really drive those results to the next level. Everything else is really monthly bet metrics based or project based, or very P&L driven. With that, sometimes we lose sight of what’s really important taking care of the customer and or taking care of our employees. 

Quartz Network: Have you faced challenges? 

Douglas Krauss: Challenges are always going to be the case with any sort of change. I think when it comes to Lean Manufacturing, that’s all it is, is change. You’re constantly looking at processes and always working to develop better and improve methods, even after you’ve improved it. You want to do it again and again. It’s really, as people say, the only thing constant is change itself. So when you enter a new culture that Lean is not part of the culture yet, as MiTek, it’s very new here, it causes a lot of change. Change is uncomfortable, no matter who you rea, even if you do it every day, it’s still uncomfortable. 

Quartz Network: For companies starting out on Lean, like MiTek, what are the key areas of focus to get this process started? 

Douglas Krauss: For me, I always focus on two key areas to get some early wins and some excitement around it, and so people see the benefits. I always start with safety. Nobody can really argue if you want to talk about safety every day, and you have actions driven around safety, and you want to make safety better, people can’t really push back against that route versus starting and maybe quality or on time delivery.  

The other thing to keep in mind that I always try to bring forth is the customer. I mean, at the end of the day, businesses don’t exist without customers. No matter what business you’re in, you must have customers. So if the customers aren’t happy, then we should be changing what we’re doing to do something about it. Those are really the two bookends that really drive the change in the conversation forward to help with that change management challenge, 

Quartz Network: Can you share some examples of lean implementations, both successful and challenging? 

Douglas Krauss: Yeah, I’ve been in a couple of situations. Whether it was in the recent past or even with previous employers, where you’re asked to go into an organization that may be struggling, not delivering their their results that you need, and I always go to that base, we don’t need to bring the entire Lean toolkit to the company, we need to keep it simple. So put in a daily accountability process, have metrics, those metrics have goals, and every day that you’re not meeting those goals, you’re having a discussion about what do we need to do as a team and holding each other accountable to drive that. That’s extremely easy to say, and you can build the chart all the accountability boards very quickly, but it is very difficult to implement because not a lot of people are used to having their name up on the board with a due date and being held accountable and being asked difficult questions.  

There’s a few times where I would say, I think we’ve launched with the wrong metrics, and that’s a big challenge. Having like metrics that will drive the business forward, and the right goals within those metrics. In the past, there’s been some mistakes where maybe we weren’t measuring the right metrics, and thus the results weren’t getting any better. You really have to challenge yourself on the team to think back, what are we missing? What are we doing wrong? Because the numbers aren’t getting better, whether it’s delivery or its quality or it’s the the gross margin at the end of the day. Whatever the metric is, if it’s not getting better, then the leading metrics are wrong, and they need to be addressed.  

I think the other challenge that I’ve run into, the only other one that’s really keen in my mind as you asked that question is, it’s having the right metrics, but the wrong goals. If you have a business that’s at 65% on time delivery, you want to get it 95, don’t set the goal of 95, because you’re not going to get there, you’re not going to get there for a long time. You really need to have a step function mind set that, “Hey, for the next month, let’s get to 70.” Then, you can sell wins, and then set the goal to 75, and so on, and so forth. Be realistic. Some things need to change quickly, and other things, it’s going to take a little longer. It’s all about getting the right metrics, the right goals, so that you can get the right mindset. 

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