Lean Motto: Try, Fail Forward, Learn and Try Again

  • Paul Montgomery  |
  • 2016-03-30

Since Celestica’s introduction of its World Class Manufacturing program in 1999 to promote and implement Lean manufacturing techniques to its operational network, deployment of Lean and SixSigma activities have accelerated throughout the company. 

In 2012, over 3,200 Kaizens were delivered across our operations network, involving over 7,000 participants.  By the end of 2015, these numbers grew to over 14,000 Kaizens involving nearly 17,000 participants.  Participation rates in continuous improvement activities grew from 35% to nearly 85%.  

Our initial formula was quite straight-forward. Attract and develop the skills, and apply Kaizen.  Start with value stream mapping, seek opportunities to collaborate with partners such as suppliers and customers. Learn from these experiences, and apply the learning to ongoing improvement efforts.  Employees not only see the improvements, they feel it – and it becomes contagious. 

Our site team in Oradea recently pursued Lean recognition from a major customer. The criteria was rigorous, and the gap between their baseline state to that required for the recognition was significant.  

Throughout the 18-month journey, the motto supported by local leadership was to “try – fail forward, learn, and try again.”  The Oradea team worked tirelessly and relentlessly to problem solve.  They achieved the customer recognition for this transformation through Lean facilitators and Sensei working with teams to drive local improvements, backed by executive management support for the investments in growing Lean and Six Sigma certified skills. 

No supplier had yet achieved this recognition from this customer – and in the fall of last year, the Celestica Oradea site became the first.  When the team achieved the customer Lean recognition, I was asked to attend the banner ceremony. To my delight, not one team member involved in the improvement effort said “we are done.”  Our Operations Manager referenced the before and after pictures and said “I’m proud, but I can’t wait for our next phase, when the ‘after’ pictures we see now become the next ‘before’ pictures.”  This is one of the most profound testimonials for embracing the Lean journey I have heard. 

Although the work of implementing world class 5S, visual management, flow, pull, standard work and other well known methods are not trivial, and the accomplishments along the way are worth reflection and celebration; at Celestica, we are constantly asking ‘what is next’ for our Lean journey.

Select link to view a video on Lean at Celestica. 

Paul Montgomery
Global Operations, Continuous Improvement