by Cedarville Magazine Staff
When Navistar International in Springfield, a manufacturer of trucks, buses, and advanced military vehicles, asked students from Cedarville’s Management-4570 class to evaluate its manufacturing process, the company liked the results so much they asked them back again. And again.
“Outside eyes see things that inside eyes overlook,” observed John LeBlanc, Associate Professor Emeritus of Management, who is in his 21st and final year of teaching the SBA Lean Process Management course.
LeBlanc and his students look at a company’s processes to evaluate waste in terms of time, material, or movement, with the goal of helping that company work more efficiently and profitably.
In the case of Navistar, the Lean Process students have offered recommendations that resulted in at least $1 million in savings for each of three consultations.
“For one of those, we noticed that when people who worked on the assembly line dropped any kind of part, they were not allowed by contract to pick it up,” LeBlanc said. “They were dropping $5 bushings and brass fittings and all kinds of stuff, and at the end of the week, they’d sweep it up and throw it in the scrap pile.
“They were losing $100,000 a week, and they were down to 345 employees,” he continued. “Today, employees on the line are able to pick up parts because of a change in the contract with the union. And they are up to 1,400 employees.”
“The objective of lean process management is not to eliminate people but to grow people’s abilities to observe how they can save themselves time and money,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc’s students have saved Miami Valley businesses and corporations millions and millions of dollars over the years, with his guidance and feedback. Just last year, Cascade Corporation of Springfield, which produces the front end of forklifts, moved a new paint line 6 feet closer to the existing manufacturing process, based on the recommendation of the Lean Processing students. That savings in movement resulted in a projected savings in revenues of $2.2 million per year.
“Companies will ask my students, ‘Will you come work for us,’ but they already have jobs lined up,” LeBlanc explained. “When they go into an interview and show a recruiter what they’ve done in saving a company money, they have no problem finding work.”
The Lean Process Management class is time intensive and, also, just plain intense. Between multiple site visits to the company and time spent on the project back on campus, the 10 students who worked on the Cascade consultation last year tallied 185 hours.
“I give them 11 periods to work on the project, but they aren’t able to finish it just during class time,” LeBlanc said. “At the end, we review the project and tie up loose ends. They’ll make a preliminary presentation to me to make sure it’s right. Then they’ll go to the company where they stand up before upper management, present this whole program, and sell them on what they found. They’ll be asked questions, and they’ll spend an hour to an hour and a half making that presentation.”
In the end, area businesses benefit, which means the regional workforce benefits. And LeBlanc’s students are transformed. “Almost every student says this class made a difference in their whole thinking process,” he noted. And, they might add, in their futures.