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Lean Resource Centers

An important step in fostering lean learning in a company is to support continuous lean training. Employees must stay up to date with the latest aspects of lean. In order to transfer lean principles across the supply chain, suppliers must also be taught aspects of lean manufacturing. An effective way for a company to transfer lean knowledge is to support or open a lean resource center. A lean resource center is a form of a library that possesses resources and employees that can educate internal and external customers on lean learning. The Ford Motor Company has a very well developed lean resource center. Other companies that also have aspects of a lean resource center are Freudenberg – NOK and Delphi Corporation.

Ford Motor Company’s Lean Resource Center (1)
Ford’s Lean Resource Center (LRC) was started in 1998 as a one-stop shop for education resources on lean management. The goal of the center is to “establish a practical lean knowledge sharing environment that is a center of excellence in the manufacturing world (1).” In order to do this, Ford hired three people to staff the center. The center has a lean resource manager, a lean information specialist, and a lean analyst. These people are responsible for managing the center, obtaining the latest lean information, marketing the center to internal and external customers, setting up lean workshops, and assisting others with lean research. The center has been successful in these endeavors due to large funding and support from upper management. Upper management also has the trust and awareness of the center and encourages others to use the center as much as possible. Without strong upper management support, the center would not be nearly as successful.

The center has several different services it provides to its customers. First, the center obtains the most up-to-date lean knowledge and research. The lean material is obtained in books, magazines, videos, research services, and electronic sources. In order to advertise the new material, the center publishes a newsletter compiling reviews of new books, case studies, and videos. The newsletter is distributed both through electronic mail and regular mail to Ford employees as well as to Ford suppliers. With the newsletter, the center is using the lean concept of “pulling” patrons into the center to utilize its important services (1).

Second, the center offers lean manufacturing seminars and training. Lean manufacturing educators, industry experts, and Ford lean experts are used to teach training classes and lean seminars. The LRC has developed a strong network of lean experts around the world to consult with when challenges arise or expert knowledge is required.

Third, the LRC maintains an intranet site for its internal customers and suppliers. The newsletters are posted on this site and are also published to be posted on supplier’s intranet sites. Search capabilities allow patrons to search lean resources and request to borrow the material. The LRC has partnered with to extend its literature offerings to allow people to buy materials through the site. Ford employees are encouraged to borrow literature first; however, if they wish to buy a copy for themselves, the partnership allows purchasing lean materials.

Ford’s lean resource center is contributing dollars to the bottom line. The more internal customers use the center, the more lean principles are used within Ford’s operations. The more the suppliers use the center, the more lean principles are transferred across the entire supply chain. Ford has developed an LRC with good lean librarians that are able to transfer lean knowledge throughout the entire corporation. Not only having the best lean material, but marketing the center to internal customers and suppliers is just as important so the center will be utilized. The Ford LRC has become an excellent source for everything lean.

Delphi’s Lean Supplier Development College (2)
Delphi has not set up a lean resource center as Ford has, but is taking its message of lean throughout its entire organization and to its supplier base. Delphi has developed a Lean Supplier Development College to assist in educating its supply base on the importance of lean. Key suppliers must closely work with Delphi on lean manufacturing to save time and costs. Delphi wished to help suppliers remove waste and increase quality and productivity.

Delphi is taking the lean philosophy into its supplier relationships. Delphi is currently in a lean enterprise campaign. The methods are to conduct workshops with supplier executives, preach the lean gospel internally and externally, and train engineers in lean principles. The goals of this initiative are to make important supplier relationships and reduce the supplier count, develop “should cost” standards to target waste reduction, and to train suppliers in lean manufacturing. In the past few years, over 70 Delphi engineers have traveled to supplier sites to train engineers in lean manufacturing. Delphi also hosts a lean supplier conference every year to share success stories and encourage additional suppliers to begin the process of lean.

Since the lean enterprise campaign has begun, internally, Delphi has seen great results. A 20 to 50 percent reduction in people costs has been realized. A 30 to 60 percent increase in productivity and a 10 to 45 percent increase in first time quality have been seen. Delphi has reduced its premium freight costs by 51 percent and has seen a 13 percent reduction in worldwide complaints. Delphi’s delivery performance is just under 100 percent. At the supplier level, suppliers undergoing lean initiatives have improved dramatically. Delphi has seen a 34 percent improvement in supplier quality and 82 percent of all suppliers now deliver at 0 defective parts per million.

Freudenberg – NOK’s ‘The Lean Center’ (3)
Freudenberg – NOK, an automotive supplier, has opened ‘The Lean Center’ to teach lean principles to others in the industry. Freudenberg believes that the industry needs to be more proactive in spreading lean techniques across the entire supply chain. With the Lean Center, Freudenberg plans to utilize 65 of its own employees to teach lean principles to other Tier I and Tier II automotive suppliers. In return, Freudenberg expects preferential treatment in the form of new business from automakers. If Freudenberg can teach others lean principles, it is expected that Freudenberg displays these lean principles in its own facilities.

Lean Resource Centers can be formed within a company in different ways. Ford has developed a library of lean resources. The library filters lean information to all levels of the Ford organization and to suppliers. Delphi has developed a supplier lean college to spread lean principles to its suppliers. Freudenberg has opened up a lean training center to help other automotive suppliers with lean principles. These are three different ways that a version of a lean resource center can be utilized by a corporation to spread the concepts of lean throughout the supply chain.


(1) Mickey, Bill. Small Library, Big Service. ONLINE. July/August 2000.

(2) Smith, David. The Lean Gospel. Ward’s Auto World. February 2005.

(3) Kachadourian, Gail. Freudenberg opens center to teach lean production. Automotive News. October 1, 2001.