If you Google “lean visual management,” a video from Hayes Manufacturing in Fife Lake is the top search result. That is exactly what Slobadon Djukic, Vice President of Markel Food Group Business Systems, did while sitting at his desk at the company’s Richmond, Virginia headquarters. One month later, five members of his AMF Bakery leadership team, a division of Markel, were on a plane to Traverse City to see “what good looks like” firsthand.

AMF Bakery Systems is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-speed bakery equipment. AMF provides complete automated bakery solutions including dough mixing, dividing, make-up, proofing, baking, cooling, packaging, basket/case loading, and product distribution. AMF has developed a worldwide presence with offices and manufacturing facilities in the USA, Canada, Central/South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

During their two-day visit to Traverse City, the group visited Hayes Manufacturing focusing on visual and inventory management. Owners Penny Challender, Mike Lawson, Marie McDougall, Holly Miller and Sam Runkel, along with one of their lean champions Emily Challender did an incredible job describing in detail why and how the company began its lean transformation and provided examples on how to get there. “It was great to see the various types of visual management … planning, KPIs, inventory and idea management,” said John Segan, Director – North American Lead at AMF. “One can easily see if Hayes is ahead or behind at a glance. Truly a best practice.”

After Hayes, the group headed to TentCraft to see “what good looks like” when managing several different departments, such as incoming sales versus capacity, R&D and engineering. The tour was given by TentCraft President Matt Bulloch. His energy, passion for his people and lean is incredible. It shows in the growth the company has recorded and by the improvements team members have made in every department. Segan added, “Building a lean culture is fundamental to lean manufacturing. TentCraft has built a culture where everyone makes improvements and has fun doing it.”

After the tours were complete, the team had the rest of the evening to enjoy Traverse City before meeting the following morning at NMC Training Services. Richard Wolin, Director of Training Services and the northern office of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, gave an overview of the region, covered various services and went into detail about how to sustain a lean journey. “A critical success factor in progressing and sustaining lean is a willingness to learn from others, especially those outside your organization and industry,” said Wolin. “For over ten years, our monthly Lean Learning Consortium events have benefited companies through networking, learning and sharing of ideas. The regional economy has benefited by strengthening these organizations, to the extent that others from outside the region take notice.”

From a quick two-day visit by a global company, one can see how fortunate the local manufacturing community is—living and working in such a great place. “It is always fun to see the various approaches companies take during their lean journey,” said Segan. “I would recommend a trip to Hayes and TentCraft to anyone who wants to see what good looks like.”

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