Managing for Daily Improvement

By C.A. Lawton | May 27, 2020
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In the past few years, The C.A. Lawton Co. has placed a great deal of importance on its Lean journey. Over summer 2018, Lawton took the next step by implementing the use of MDI boards. MDI stands for Managing for Daily Improvement. Lawton’s goal is continuous improvement, and a great way to reach that goal, and visually track our daily progress toward it, is through MDI boards.

Lawton employees began MDI board training summer of 2018. Since this training, we have implemented over a dozen boards. Each board is categorized into one of four tiers. Tier one boards depict information for a specified area of the company. Tiers three and two summarize the operational data of subsequent boards. Tier four is the highest tier. It reflects big picture data that is based on the strategic summary of information from lower-level boards.

Though each MDI board is customized to fit the company area and tier that it serves, all of the boards share some important items. At the top of each MDI board, the area that it serves and the time of the next board review are displayed. Also, the information each MDI board contains is organized under three sections: People, Performance, and Continuous Improvement.

The People section of the board always includes safety, good catches, and a list of the personnel that refers to the given board. Safety is always the first topic of every board review because, at The C.A. Lawton Co., safety takes priority over all else.

Next, the Performance section tracks weekly performance and progress toward goals.

Lastly, the Continuous Improvement section contains area improvements, which are documented through Lawton LEAN programs such as: EBI Lites, 3C status sheets, Kaizen information, 6S Audit information, and Waterfall, which is our Lawton newsletter.

Over time, each team of Lawton employees has made adjustments to their section’s MDI boards so that their board better serves their needs. How do teams determine what data to track? They’re always focused on the most important metrics that pertain to the performance of their area. This approach enables all employees to play a role in Lawton’s continuous improvement journey.

As a result of everyone’s efforts on our MDI boards, they were recently recognized by Optima Now. This consulting firm helps companies implement the Lean business model, and teaches a class on using MDI boards to facilitate the Lean journey.

When Christian Wolcott, an instructor from Optima Now, saw Lawton’s MDI boards, he said they were some of the best he had ever seen. He asked if his MDI board class could take a tour of Lawton to see our boards. We’re very proud to be an example of Lean and continuous improvement in the manufacturing industry. Although we are still learning and improving, we are glad to share what we have discovered.

After the tour, we received reviews from the tour participants. They were impressed by how detailed Lawton’s MDI boards are, and how each department and team has personalized their boards to meet their needs while still mainlining a consistent appearance with other Lawton MDI boards.

Lastly, they really appreciated how enthusiastic and knowledgeable each presenter was about their area’s MDI board. Their enthusiasm demonstrated that Lawton employees see the value in the MDI boards, which gave the tour group faith that their employees would see the value in them, too.

Lawton is proud to be an example of continuous improvement in action. We are still improving our MDI boards every day. In fact, some Lawton leaders even attended the Optima tour in order to learn more about how to improve their respective boards.

This action epitomizes the meaning of continuous improvement: Even when you’re doing things well, you must always ask the question: How can we do it better? The continuous improvement journey never ends. If your company is trying to figure out where to begin, look to The C.A. Lawton Co. We would be glad to give you a hand.