Lean Manufacturing Student spotlight: Justin Handlin
October 17, 2023
by Britney Rivers
Justin Handlin participated in the 2-week Lean Manufacturing certificate course in June 2023. He currently works at Magna Electronics as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. We interviewed Justin in the second week of the program. He shares his first impressions of the course and how he will implement the strategies he learned in his organization.
DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
Justin: My responsibilities at Magna Electronics include improving the processes and efficiencies in the company. I also focus on making the experience more fluid and enjoyable for everyone on board. Whether it’s reducing waste or standardizing operation processes, I help the company perform at a world-class tier.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE LEAN MANUFACTURING COURSE?
Justin: I completed a skills test when I joined the Magna team. I discovered that my biggest weakness in my field is my lack of official training with the Lean principles.
I had been part of a myriad of teams, so I was very familiar with Lean. However, that’s a different experience than actually going through a course that touches on all the nuances of the methodology. Taking this course was a great way to round out my tool belt to better serve Magna and the employees there.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST TAKEAWAY FROM THE COURSE SO FAR?
Justin: There are so many takeaways, but the versatility of the tools is fantastic. All the instructors come from a myriad of backgrounds, such as healthcare and automotive. No matter the industry, the instructors found ways to leverage Lean tools to improve business processes.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE PARTICIPATING IN THE INTERACTIVE SIMULATIONS?
Justin: The simulations were fun because all the instructors had different backgrounds. We were able to practice the tools we learned in the lectures. We discussed the best practices at our companies and how we can combine the Lean principles in a powerful way to get the best result.
I learned very quickly that people won’t always agree in a situation like that. In addition to gaining knowledge, it allowed me to expand my social skills and work creatively with my team to solve problems. The examples were well-structured and engaging, which is hard to do in a classroom setting.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE VISITING ZINGERMAN’S MAIL ORDER?
Justin: The Zingerman’s tour was unexpected. I come from an industry of technology where there’s a lot of complexity. I think, ‘What piece of technology can I use to help implement this tool or better serve the employees?’ However, I was able to walk through Zingerman’s and see that they applied Lean tools using very simple methods.
I learned that they used duct tape to draw arrows on the floor instead of layers of paint and used cardboard and drawings with Sharpies to show the best practices for packing a box of food. It proved to be just as effective as a tablet or computer to streamline processes.
I think one of the reasons Zingerman’s is considered world-class is because the employees are very engaged and familiar with the Lean principles. I learned that I don’t need to overcomplicate things. If we want to try something new, we can grab some duct tape, cardboard, and markers, and the outcome will be just as successful.
HAVE YOU IMPLEMENTED ANY STRATEGIES THAT YOU LEARNED IN WEEK ONE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
Justin: Absolutely. After the first week, we decided to build a model cell to represent the ideal Lean situation. Because of that, we were able to start applying the tools—most notably the value stream map. We didn’t have a value stream map beforehand, so we formed a team and started building one quickly.
For one of the improvements that we made, we weren’t exactly sure how to quantify it. Now I’m taking Week Two and it focuses on accounting, value-added, and how to leverage that. I’m going to be able to answer that question by the end of the course, which is a huge win for our organization.
With the delay between the first and second week, I was able to take some of those tools and start applying them right away. The gap in the program allowed for an opportunity to play with the tools and return with specific questions and feedback.
HOW WILL YOU IMPLEMENT THE TOOLS YOU LEARNED IN THE COURSE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
Justin: The versatility of the course will be one of the greatest assets to our company. Our department is in a transitional period. We combined three different factories under one roof. Therefore, our processes needed to be redefined. I believe the Lean principles I learned in this course will benefit us.
One of the tools that I’ve learned thus far that will help in the future is using cell design to optimize the flow of employees. Also, I will use the value stream map to better understand the expectations of customers and how our products flow to meet consumer demand.
Building electronics can be challenging. I think all the Lean strategies we covered in the course can be applied from the ground up to create a more seamless process. I predict it’s going to benefit us financially as well as improve the comfort and productivity of the team. I intend to apply as many of those tools as I can to reach our corporate goals.
IF SOMEONE WERE TO CONSIDER ATTENDING THE LEAN MANUFACTURING, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT THEM TO KNOW?
Justin: I would make sure that you are open-minded. There is some content in the course you may think is not relevant or valuable to your specific niche, but that is far from the truth. Although Lean doesn’t apply to every aspect of a process, I guarantee you there are opportunities that will benefit your company. I would also recommend you bring a lot of paper and more than one pen. There are lots of notes and takeaways that will be value-added after the course.
Regardless of what industry you are a part of, there is a Lean tool out there to make your business better. This course is well-designed and well-taught. They’re not just teachers but experts in their respective fields. If you are looking for an opportunity to better understand your suppliers and customers or improve your business processes and teamwork, I’m certain that you will find an expert here to share some of that knowledge with you.
Overall, I had a great experience with the Lean Manufacturing course. I would recommend this professional development opportunity.