My 'Lean, Reliable and Lubed' conference experience

Mike Wroblewski, Batesville Casket Company

On May 20-22, I attended Noria Corporation’s “Lean, Reliable & Lubed” 2008 conference in beautiful downtown Nashville, Tenn. My hat is off to the staff at Noria Corporation for a simply outstanding job delivering a world-class event. Special thanks to Paul Arnold, the editor of Reliable Plant magazine for hosting the Lean Manufacturing program and inviting me to speak about our lean journey at Batesville Casket Company. And I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Drew Troyer, CEO of Noria Corporation, for taking time to personally help me find the right location (after a room change) for my scheduled interview even though this occurred just barely 20 minutes before he gave his keynote address. What an outstanding example of customer focus and unselfish service to others! 


Although the majority of the over 1,500 in attendance were primarily drawn to the Reliable World and Lubrication Excellence segments of the conference, I was excited to see an overall interest in lean manufacturing from many of the participants. More and more companies are exploring the lean approach, and judging from the representatives in attendance at the conference, it appears that they are making an effort to learn as much as possible based on all their excellent questions and participation.

It was a great conference to hear and discuss many lean topics from well-known lean presenters and a few new ones like myself. The best way I judge a conference is if in the middle of several of the presentations, I have this insanely strong urge to jump out of my seat to improve our processes based on what I was learning. This happened several times to me during this conference and I wanted to rush back to Batesville Casket to try some new ideas ASAP. I can’t wait for our next kaizen event.

For me personally, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet face-to-face for the first time with my friend, Karen Wilhelm, writer extraordinaire for AME/Target and her lean blog, Lean Reflections. Karen has some wonderful insights on the world of lean and I truly look forward to reading more from her in the future. I also had the great pleasure of meeting two new friends, Ross Robson, the former executive director of the Shingo Prize, and Mike Thelen, the lean facilitator for Hub City. Both gave great presentations filled with wisdom and passion for continuous improvement along with many points adding to my lean knowledge. Mike has led some great improvement efforts and sustained some excellent lean practices like their daily gemba walk at Hub City. And thanks Ross for the cash for winning your quote challenge. As seen in the picture above, (from L to R: Ross Robson, Mike Thelen, Karen Wilhelm, and me-Mike Wroblewski), we had just finished a great lean discussion over lunch.



As an added bonus, I had the opportunity to meet the great racing legend and past Indianapolis 500 race winner Mario Andretti. What an unexpected pleasure to meet such a legendary race car driver, fierce competitor and true gentleman.

About the author:
Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently the lean sensei at Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Ind. He also writes a blog called “Got Boondoggle?” featuring lean and Six Sigma topics. Check it out at http://gotboondoggle.blogspot.com/.

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Toyota Material Handling

Mike Wroblewski started his lean journey with instruction in quick die change from Shigeo Shingo. Mike is currently a ...