General Cable uses Lean manufacturing to stay ahead of the peak

Gregory Kenny, CEO of Kentucky-based General Cable, asserts that his industry is a tough one to stay competitive in. If his company isn't running at peak capacity, there is a very real chance that someone else in the sector could easily surpass General Cable, IndustryWeek reports.

Kenny's company produces and manufactures copper, aluminum and fiber-optic wire that can be used in a variety of products spanning a multitude of industries. In particular, the cable sector is the third-largest consumer of copper in the world. This makes General Cable very price-sensitive to the market, and it needs to be able to respond to changing conditions.

To ensure his company's competitiveness, Kenny has employed Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma philosophies to help the business stay active during difficult economic times. General Cable has expanded to 20 different countries over the past few years, enjoying significant success after applying Lean and Six Sigma mindsets.

Company-wide understanding

One of the reasons General Cable has been so successful integrating Kaizen and various other principles is because everyone throughout the company has been educated on the philosophies. Approximately 500 employees have been trained in Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, each through a consistent training program that puts everyone on the same level of understanding.

“That’s a lot of firepower, and it really is a common way of speaking to ourselves and our customers,” Kenny said at a recent manufacturing convention, as quoted by the news source. “[Even unsupervised operators are] empowered and they’re doing it. It’s a very, very powerful idea for us.”

For other companies looking to employ Lean practices, Kenny was quick to note the importance of applying these principles in a meaningful way. Many businesses do so only on the surface, meaning they say they are going Lean but actually only do so in a way that doesn't actually address problems or concerns.

“People … thought they needed to [go Lean] to show they were change agents, as opposed to really linking the whole process together,” he added. “It wasn't pervasive, but it was a temptation.”

Lean manufacturing was originally applied by Toyota and has since been adopted by other manufacturing companies throughout the world. It can help companies reduce wasteful processes while also enabling them to create better products for consumers to experience.