Lawton uses EBI Lites for quick and easy kaizen

By C.A. Lawton | February 10, 2021
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Lawton’s EBI Lite program carries on the tradition of quick and easy kaizen, empowering our workers to seek out and make incremental improvements to their work areas.

According to Barry Adamski, EBI Lite may be the most critical path to a better future for the five-generation, family-owned foundry:

“We believe each person has unlimited creative potential to improve every aspect of the company,” he explains. “We give each of them the freedom to look at their work every day and ask themselves, ‘How can I make it easier, better, or just more interesting?’ As soon as they identify simple improvements, they are empowered to make them. The compounding effect of this approach is enormous. By everybody improving a little bit every day, we can overcome great obstacles.”

The humble roots of EBI Lite

Employee Built Ideas – or EBIs – didn’t start out to be a game-changer for Lawton. Roughly a decade ago, it was a program that the company ran from time to time, focused on specific, short-term objectives.

“For example, the company would target something like cost savings. It would solicit ideas from employees, evaluate them and choose one to implement,” recalls Alex Lawton. “The person or team who submitted the winning idea would get a reward or recognition, and the idea would become a project. Progress and outcomes were measured and communicated to all.”

But there were two limitations to this early employee idea program: It wasn’t continuous, and it didn’t empower employees to make small improvements to their work areas on their own. Today, if it costs $50 or less and can be implemented in two hours or less per week, they can do so.

Lawton takes great care to hire people who are comfortable using both their hands and their minds at work. “Eighty percent of the people in the world today would not be a fit here at Lawton. We are fast-paced yet easygoing – if you’re dedicated to getting your work done. We need your hands to do the work, but we also want people who are willing to bring their best thinking to improve that work. We are easy on the people but relentless on improving our processes,” he emphasizes.

The vital role of supervisors

Lawton expects all its employees to participate in the EBI Lite program, but supervisors have a special role: It’s their responsibility to help those who have difficulty participating. The supervisor encourages, challenges, suggests, and teaches the employee how to implement their ideas.

Adamski says Lawton’s continuous improvement program helps its employees feel good about a change, not threatened by it. “Everyone participates and has a stake in the company’s long-term success. That cultivates unbelievable engagement from our people.”

Building a world-class foundry around continuous improvement

During his long career in manufacturing, Adamski has watched U.S. companies move hundreds of thousands of engineering and manufacturing jobs to other countries to cut costs. “By focusing on these incremental improvements in our operations and fostering a keen hatred of waste, I’m convinced we can level the playing field and compete with any foundry around the world,” he emphasizes.

When it comes to competing with domestic foundries and machine shops, Adamski believes the compounding effect of quick and easy kaizen gives Lawton an unassailable advantage. “If our competitors aren’t constantly improving and harnessing the power of each of their workers, I don’t think they will be able to keep up with us.”

The formula for success, he insists, is simple: “Keep the ideas coming for making your job easier, better, faster or more interesting. You’ll enjoy your work more, you’ll be contributing to transforming our workplace, and you’ll be helping to ensure Lawton’s continued growth for many years to come!”