The folks at Anchor Tents in Evansville, Indiana sent this out to their customers a little while back, letting the tent buyers know that their lead times are radically lower. They are currently in the throes of the peak season for selling commercial tents; a time when the industry as a whole sees lead times stretching way out as half the year’s orders pour in during a few short months. Not Anchor, however. They have what they call their “top secret” – “value streams”. In short, they have become a very lean producer and their cycle times are wicked short, changing the way things have always been done in their industry.
When Anchor pretty much put their lean strategy out into the public domain I have to admit I was a bit concerned. What if the competition found out what they have done and raced to do the same? After all, how much Googling do you need to do with ‘Value Stream’ to figure it out?
But then I thought about Steve Brenneman over at ATC who created a fairly in-depth video explaining what he is doing that is setting the trailer business on its ear, and put it out there on YouTube. And I recalled thinking the same thing when Wahl Clipper rolled into several Lean Accounting Summits and put their whole lean management process out into the public domain. Both ATC and Wahl are driving their businesses to almost absurd heights on the strength of their lean management strategies, and don’t seem to care who knows exactly how they are doing it.
It has finally dawned on me that Anchor and the rest are unconcerned about keeping their lean strategies under wraps because the folks in charge think a lot like the legendary, old Packer’s coach Vince Lombardi who often said that it didn’t really matter if the other team knew exactly what play the Packers were going to run. He believed – knew – that if the Packers were able to block and tackle better than the other guys they could tell them what they were going to do, and succeed regardless. Success comes from superior execution – not from secrets and tricks.
Of course, the folks running Anchor, ATC and Wahl also know that the folks running their competitors aren’t liable to attend Lean Accounting Summits or do any searches on Google or YouTube for lean topics, let alone value streams. Those folks undoubtedly think they are great managers, and that they are losing ground to Anchor, ATC and Wahl because of products. They are probably spending every waking moment worrying about cost reduction and innovation, never even considering the possibility that they are actually losing ground because they are being out-managed, pure and simple. It’s not unlike Lombardi’s competitors who probably thought they were losing to him because he had superior players, and spent a lot of time dreaming up deceptive plays to fool the Lombardi defense. Never considered the reality that they were simply being out-coached in the fundamentals of the game.
I love the name Anchor gave their lean strategy – “Customer Focused Manufacturing”. That, in a nutshell, spells out exactly what they are doing that their competitors aren’t … making stuff to the pace and requirements of customers with a lot less waste. No telling what the competitors of the lean companies are focused on, but it’s probably not customers; more likely it’s ‘Profit Focused Manufacturing’, or ‘Low Headcount Focused Manufacturing’, or ‘Maximizing Shareholder Value Focused Manufacturing’.
In any event, you have to admire the hutzpah of Pete Mogavero, Steve Brenneman and Greg Wahl, along with all of the other CEO’s of lean companies who basically put it all out there right in front of the competition and as much as dare them to do better.