Handling Culture Challenges While Implementing Lean

Douglas Krauss

VP, Global Manufacturing & Sourcing at MiTek

Learning Objectives

Join us for an Executive Interview with Douglas Krauss, the Vice President of Global Manufacturing and Sourcing at MiTek as he discusses various types of lean he has implemented in cultural challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tell us about your background and experience

  •  At a high level, let's talk about the various places, cultures, you have implemented lean

  • Tell us about the various types of lean you have implemented

"I think when it comes to Lean, one of the biggest challenges is you got to have a daily accountability process to really consider that everybody's talking and holding people accountable to drive the business."

Douglas Krauss

VP, Global Manufacturing & Sourcing at MiTek


Hello, everyone. Welcome to the IMPACT Smart Manufacturing and R&D Virtual Summit hosted on Quartz Network. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. Thank you for joining us. I would like to welcome our Executive Speaker Douglas Krauss, VP of Global Manufacturing and Sourcing for MiTek. Welcome, Douglas.

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Pleasure to have you here. Today, we’ll be discussing how to handle cultural challenges while implementing lean into a company’s manufacturing practices. Before we do so, Douglas, talk to me a little bit about yourself and what all you’re responsible for.

Sure. 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 streamfrom 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.

Fantastic. Talk to me a little bit about, at a high level, various places and cultures where you have implemented Lean.

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.

Talk to me about the various types of Lean that you’ve implemented.

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. From my perspective, in my history, I’ve done a lot Manufacturing, for sure, 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.

Based on your experience and what you’ve seen at all the other companies that you’ve been with, what are the major benefits of implementing Lean?

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.

Absolutely. Have you experienced a lot of challenges in this area, especially with the company right now?

Yeah, 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.

Right. So for companies like MiTek where implementing Lean is fairly new, what do you believe are the key areas to focus on to make sure that you get this process started?

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,

Of course. Now, Manufacturing itself, I personally believe, after talking with a lot of executives, was one of the industries that got hit the hardest due to the pandemic and COVID. Being a global company, is this something that, not that you could have planned for, but did you have strategies in place to at least to help deal with it and move the company forward?

Honestly, no. COVID certainly was not something that was in any sort of our business, incident name versus some of the other things that can happen in business. We would have with either a major fire or some sort of event that would occur like a hurricane, but I would say the [inaudible] very well. Construction is deemed a critical, essential activity. So none of our plants in the US shut down for any period of time. We’ve implemented a lot of protocols to help, to keep everybody safe.

I think when it comes to Lean, one of the biggest challenges is you got to have a daily accountability process to really consider that everybody’s talking and holding people accountable to drive the business. As a team, those have gone virtual, which I would say unique in my 20 plus years of working in manufacturing and around the globe. That was new, and I think it’s taken on. I think that methodology using the technology that we have with the various systems that are out there that we have available to us, we’ve been able to do that well. I think what that does is opens the door for when even if we go back to whatever the new normal is, those that maybe are traveling or working remote or whatever, will still be able to be a part of those daily accountability meetings, which is, I think, extremely unique that came out of this pandemic.

Yeah, it’s interesting. A lot of other people that I’ve talked with in the Manufacturing industry, sometimes a lot of practices are ancient, very set in stone, but the silver lining of this pandemic was that it forced the industry to evolve and adapt into this more virtual and technical space. It’s really interesting that I think we’ll always have this hybrid option to move forward with all these different industries. Very fascinating indeed.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind giving the audience a couple of real world examples and experiences that you had implementing Lean? Things that may have gone wrong or things that you’ve seen being done well.

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.

Now, when you’re developing these metrics in these goals, are you using a benchmark to actually create them throughout the year based on what you see competitors doing or is it more your own personal company goals?

I’d say it’s definitely a balance of both. I mean, if we’re getting a voice of the customers coming back through our customer service team saying, our delivery is terrible, then we would ask, what exactly does the customer want? Well, they want it within three days. Well, then that’s that’s the benchmark. Certainly also competitive nature to any business. We know what competitors may or may not be doing, and you can set goals based on that. Internally, that would be set would be more driven around productivity and cost and gross margins. But I would say safety and quality and delivery are really driven by by the customer or the industry.

Sure, absolutely. Now being a global company, I think one of the biggest struggles is making sure that your strategies, your goals align across all of your departments in all of your teams. Based on your experience, what do you believe is the best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page?

To me, it’s always got to be a top down approach. I mean, if you’re working for an organization, and you’re middle management, or even upper management, and you’re not getting goals and strategies flow down from the top, then it’s going to be fragmented no matter what you do.

MiTek, with our CEO Mark Tom, does a phenomenal job. He’s developed eight strategies that really drive our business for the next 10 years. Then, it’s our job as executives to align our teams to pieces of those eight. Certainly not everybody’s responsible for all eight, but my team has a big play in a couple of them, and that we make sure we’re aligned to those. Our performance management system is aligned, where we spend time to talk, we spend time to write goals, and then we spend time to review those goals to make sure to like that everybody’s aligned back to that original. You’re not working on one of those eight strategies that we need to rethink is really an important goal to do.

Definitely. Now you say these strategies are se t10 years in advance. Are there certain trends that you foresee happening within the Manufacturing industry?

Yeah, in the Manufacturing industry, things are moving more off site and advanced components COVID, and the pandemic globally has certainly accelerated that. Having more and more people working on site and just lots of trades, being all able to crawl around all over is just a thing of the past. More and more, we’re going to see I think things move to more of an advanced component. That’s really key strategies is to move and help advance that with our construction capabilities.

Rather than delivering pieces to a job site, let’s deliver kits or or completed assemblies of some sort anything that would help. There’s still the same amount of labor that’s going to be needed, the same skilled labor, it’s just moving some of it a little bit earlier in the value chain, maybe bringing it with four walls of a factory, and having a very good logistics and distribution network to deliver to the site. So definitely, advanced components is coming strong.

Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely something I’ve heard across the board as well. Now, from your experience, a lot of people’s roles have changed recently. They’ve expanded. New teams are coming on board. Based on what you’ve seen and what you’ve experienced in all of your years in this field, what advice do you have for leaders to help make them through this time?

I think one of the biggest challenges that leaders lack is the ability to properly sponsor project management and think everything that you do outside of a daily accountability processes, which is really driven at the plant level. Once you get above that, it’s really project based goals, project based things, and initiatives that are happening. A lot of businesses spend a lot of times training program managers, training project management software, spending millions of dollars on on all those tools. But we miss out on the case of just having really good project sponsorship and what that really means.

I think, as an executive, it’s our job to really own that project, along with the Senior Manager who’s overseeing it, the Project Manager, the Project Team. As an executive, I think there’s just a tremendous amount of things missing when we when we miss out on that ability to truly sponsor a team to make sure that we’re there to help clear roadblocks. I see that, as executive, I’ve had that mistake in my past, where you kind of say, “Hey, this is something we want to work on,” and you just let it go. Then, they got regularly engaged with that team as a sponsor, it’s just not shown as much as importance, and things tend to fall apart.

Absolutely. Any final pieces of advice that you have for other leaders on how to best manage a team?

I think managing a team is all about trust and communication. I use the management operating system as kind of a key tool that I use so that the team knows this is how I’m going to communicate, this is my expectation on how you communicate. It’s not just, “Hey, we’re going to have a one on one every once a while.” It’s a very structured cadence of, “I’m going to have a team meeting, then we’re going to have our structured one on ones” Some of them are coaching sessions, some of them are project based reviews, but everybody knows that works for me how I communicate and how I expect to communicate.

I think, as a leader, communication is really that’s all we do. Our job is to mentor, to coach, to lead, to guide, all that comes down to communication, and with that, trust. If I’m saying I’m going to do something, and we’re going to do it, if you’re going to have a bi weekly one on one, don’t cancel. You just keep that cadence very structured. Every week, every day, every month. I think that’s the key trust communication.

I completely agree with you. I think trust communication and that collaboration aspect is so crucial right now to make sure that the company as a whole is always moving forward.

Thank you, Douglas. Fantastic insights and advice for leaders not just within the Manufacturing industry, but all other departments across the board. Thank you to everyone who has joined us today. If you have any further questions for Douglas, there will be a discussion forum underneath this executive interview. Please stay safe. Be healthy everyone, and enjoy the rest of the summit.

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