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Company's Lean Approach Leads to Success

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SALEM, Ore., September 23, 2012 — American Easel owners Tammy Focier and Kyle Sacre have a small Salem, Ore., manufacturing business making artist easels, display easels and cradled panels, which are replacing artists’ stretched canvasses. The business is experiencing record sales, and it has added an employee. In an economy in which one of every three manufacturing jobs disappeared from the Salem area since the recession began in December of 2007, theirs is a success story. How are they doing it?

Late last winter, American Easel’s owners knew they needed help as product orders grew and inefficiencies grew as well. They found out about the High Performance consortium of businesses sponsored by Job Growers Inc., the local workforce investment board. They discovered they could get help with the techniques of “lean” manufacturing through the consortium.

The owners of American Easel decided to take a chance on lean. They invited Oregon lean expert Gary Conner and a team of 15 experts, all volunteers, some from out of state, to conduct a “kaizen event” in their shop. Conner spent a week leading the owners and team members through hands-on problem-solving exercises on the shop’s floor.

The team cleaned up the shop, using 5S. Part of “setting in order” was revamping the entire inventory system. Truckloads of unneeded material were hauled away or recycled. Every operation in the manufacturing process was timed and analyzed, and the team looked for every possible kind of waste in the process, and eliminated it. The result at the end of the week was a streamlined and efficient production process that transformed the business.

American Easel joins many Salem area companies which have enlisted the principles of lean to bring more efficiency and less waste to their production processes. These include Modern Building Systems in Aumsville, Universal Forest Products in Woodburn, AM Equipment in Jefferson, Cabinet Door in Salem and Oregon Bath and Kitchen in Brooks. Lean is not just for manufacturers ¾ Silverton Hospital has a lean coordinator whose job it is to find and correct inefficient practices within control of the hospital. Lean experts are also applying lean principles to offices and other service-type work environments.

Conner isn’t timid about the ultimate effect of lean techniques. They’re saving American jobs, he says. Many of the companies that have used lean will say as much. Want to know more? Watch a 10-minute video on the American Easel kaizen event or email Job Growers at the address below for more information.

Source:, © 2012. All rights reserved.


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