||January 1, 2006
In the current economic climate, many companies have lowered prices in response to their customers’ demands and competition while incurring higher costs for labor, benefits, and raw materials. The Lord Corporation relies on productivity improvement from its lean-manufacturing program to mitigate the resulting squeeze on profit. Lean-manufacturing programs have, in fact, become a pervasive tactic to improve productivity for companies in all industries. Kaizen projects are a common component of lean-manufacturing programs whereby process performance is substantially improved by the concentrated effort of a work team over several days. The students of the semester-in-manufacturing course at Cornell University’s Johnson School were able to learn about kaizen projects by participating hands-on with the Lord Corporation in 2002 and 2003. They learned about continuous-improvement processes in a real-world manufacturing plant and gleaned general insights into organizational issues. The Lord Corporation benefited from the students’ fresh perspective and the opportunity to highlight the kaizen projects and its lean-manufacturing program with its employees. The Lord-SiM alliance provides a model for an educational program that bridges the classroom world of education and theory and the real world where that theory must be applied. The alliance also revealed tactics for successfully managing kaizen projects.