Lawton’s continuous transformation

By C.A. Lawton | February 17, 2021
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An organization that is committed to continuous improvement needs a visual plan that gets and keeps everyone going in the same direction. At The C.A. Lawton Co., that plan is the transformation calendar.  It’s a key tool the company uses to manage its commitment to continuous improvement and strategy deployment.

The first step is to understand the current state of some key aspects of the business and set some worthy goals for it. That is accomplished via current and future state value stream mapping as well as other assessment and planning efforts. Then we determine what initiatives are required to “transform” us from current state to the desired future state. Finally, one of three approaches is chosen to drive the change:

  • Kaizens are improvement events that require a medium to large size team to implement and are from 2 to 5 days long.
  • Projects are larger undertakings that take longer to implement by a temporary team that meets once or twice a week.
  • Just do its (JDIs) are assigned to an individual or small team which has the permission and access to funding to quickly make small improvements within their work areas.

The origins of the transformation calendar

The transformation calendar is implicated by Lawton to help its factory floor employees visualize their scheduled initiatives and their status. “We’ve been working very closely with this customer, embedding employees in each other’s operations and events to learn how to implement LEAN or operational excellence more effectively,” explains Tricia Berg, Manufacturing Process Engineer. “They suggested that we adopt the transformation calendar to make our continuous improvement progress more visible.”

This wall-sized paper calendar contains columns for each month of the year. The cards attached to it describe each of the company’s initiatives and approaches (mostly kaizens) scheduled for that year. All employees have been trained to understand how to read the calendar and interpret the project data contained on the cards. They are encouraged to use it to identify projects and teams they’d like to volunteer to work on.

The cards are updated based on the outcomes of each team’s weekly meetings. When initiatives are completed, their cards are not removed from the board, but remain there as a way to acknowledge progress.

“We also keep them on the calendar to review for 30 to 60 days after completion to ensure that the improvements we’ve implemented continue to stick,” Berg emphasizes. “It also gives us time to finish documenting our processes and to audit that the changes we made have indeed been successful.”